Wolfgang Suetzl on Thu, 29 Nov 2001 04:12:22 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Habermas on Faith, Knowledge and 9-11

Brian Holmes writes:

> There are then only two alternatives, for those who continue to situate
> themselves in opposition. Either find a politically viable replacement for
> the concept of "global civil society" (with its key reference to universal
> human rights). Or find the political strength to insist on a definition of
> global civil society precisely by its capacity to seriously and
> legitimately critique the dominant judgment (and its technical
> application).
> I am very curious to know which option Wolfgang Suetzl chooses, and why.
> And by the way, there is no hostility whatsoever implied in this question.
> It is a genuine question, which has everything to do with what used to be
> called "socialist strategy."

Let me see if I can answer you in terms of the latter ... To me, the
Habermasian notion of a world civil society is too utopian for the 21st
century. For like all modern utopias, it immediately raises the question
of how to get from here to there, 
from a "lurking state of war among sovereign nations" (Habermas) to a
well-ordered, democratically endorsed and globally effective rule of
law. This question hands political responsibility over to the experts,
i.e. to people whose actions are not legitimated democratically but by
virtue of their correspondence to technical codes presumed to be
exterior to the political domain. But the expert is not informed by the
utopia (or Kant's "regulative idea") it can only draw on existing
knowledge, i.e. knowledge that is legitimate in the "natural state"
among nations. 

Such knowledge therefore classically results in rapid deployment of
high-tech technologies justified by the existing system, combined with
low politics justified by the utopia. The result is the new form of war.
It's what happened in Habermas' argumentation, and this is why I say he
can only put the argument forward because he sticks to an
instrumentalist conception of technology: it is the techno-expert system
that utopia and counter-utopia inseparable. More's "Utopia" was written
before, "1984" after the industrial revolution. 

It might therefore befit a new "socialist strategy" to abandon grand
utopian schemes such as the global civil society, because only then its
socialism will be able to avoid the combined rule of the smart engineer
and the political traditionalist. The first step on this way could be a
deconstruction of the linkage between violent interventions and
universal human rights that has effectively silenced opposition to
violence and managed to fool many among the left into militarist
positions. If its violence, it is not serving human rights. 

I guess this means I am leaning towards your second option, except with
a much weaker, culturally conscious definition of global civil society.
Or am I not? 

Wolfgang Suetzl


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