May
14

The Liberal Virus

For additional background on Samir Amin see my posts on Unequal Development (1976) and Capitalism in the Age of Globalization (1997). Some notes from his 2004 book "The Liberal Virus: Permanent War and the Americanization of the World":

"Towards the end of the twentieth century a sickness struck the world. Not everyone died, but all suffered from it. The virus which caused the epidemic was the 'liberal virus.' This virus made its appearance around the sixteenth century within the triangle described by Paris-London-Amsterdam. The symptoms that the disease then manifested appeared harmless. Men (whom the virus struck in preference to women) not only became accustomed to it and developed the necessary antibodies, but were able to benefit from the increased energy that it elicited. But the virus traveled across the Atlantic and found a favorable place among those who, deprived of antibodies, spread it. As a result, the malady took on extreme forms. The virus reappeared in Europe towards the end of the twentieth century, returning from America where it had mutated. Now strengthened, it came to destroy a great number of the antibodies that the Europeans had developed over the course of the three preceding centuries." (p. 7)

"The dominant forces are such because they succeed in imposing their language on their victims. The 'experts' of conventional economics have managed to make believe that their analyses and the conclusions drawn from them are imperative because they are 'scientific,' hence objective, neutral and unavoidable. This is not true." (p. 15-16)

"The very principle of democracy is founded on the possibility of making alternative choices. There is no longer a need for democracy, since ideology made the idea that 'there is no alternative' acceptable. Adherence to a meta-social principle of superior rationality allows for the elimination of the necessity and possibility of choosing." (p. 21)

"...this liberal virus, which pollutes contemporary social thought and eliminates the capacity to understand the world, let alone transform it, has profoundly penetrated the whole of the "historical left" formed in the aftermath of the Second World War. The movements engaged at the present time in social struggles for "another world" (a better one) and an alternative globalization will only be able to produce significant social advances if they get rid of this virus in order to begin an authentic theoretical debate again." (p. 42)

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Mar
11

Secular Translations

A couple of notes from Talal Asad's "Secular Translations: Nation-State, Modern Self and Calculative Reason" (2018):

  • "Today an important failure is our inability to create a form of collective life on this planet radically different from the liberal capitalist states in which we live. The failure seems to be due not to any lack of imagination or will: there are many highly intelligent and determined people who have presented visions of an attractive future. It has in great measure to do with inherited languages that disallow us form understanding our own institutional and psychological blockages and the resolution they call for. Of course we can recognize and describe instances of cruelty and kindness, of betrayal and self-sacrifice, of suffering and happiness. But we don't have a language to speak adequately about the changes occurring in our collective life resulting from where we have gone wrong, and the things of value we may be losing irretrievably." (p. 157)
  • "When I referred in the past to Islamic traditions like amr bi-l-ma'ruf (which implies that mutual responsibility among friends includes persuading one another to do what is right and avoid what is wrong), I did so mainly to try and unthink our language of sovereign power, with its calculative, logical obsessions and the race to progress that that language invites us to join." (p. 158)
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