SERMONS ON THE PRESENT AGE
Deliverance from Republican rule in 2008 was heralded at home and abroad as the end of America’s darkest hour of reaction. In one respect, the change was undeniable. As the face of us power, it might be hard to imagine a more striking contrast to Bush and his Vulcans than the serene and visionary Obama, personifying in the eyes of many a moral heritage squandered by the outrages of unilateralism. Once again, the city on a hill had adjusted to a new historical situation, earning the credit of a world that had recently been blown off course by the arrogance and greed of ‘the other America’. In Servius et la Fortune, Georges Dumézil claimed that in archaic Rome and Vedic India such reversals were scripted according to a fixed mythological formula in which a barely legitimate ‘regime-changer’ is deposed by a providentially elected outsider, a mediator who magically restores the façades of civic tradition, but otherwise sticks to the course. America, of course, looks elsewhere for its constitutional parables. Liberal pundits were inclined to see the result in nearly providential terms, as a sign of the country’s untapped capacities to ward off imperial decline, financial catastrophe and the inherited racial divisions of the body politic. Naturally, a change of this magnitude would be accompanied by a realignment of policy ideals and precepts, to set the tone for the advent of a more introspective, less strident brand of leadership.
’My institution subscribes to NLR, why can't I access this article?’
By the same author:
In the second part of a sweeping reconstruction of the development of Marx’s thought, the ways in which bourgeois society came to be replaced by capitalism as the cardinal object of investigation after the collapse of the revolutions of 1848, and the political lessons of his passage across that watershed for rebellions in the new century.
Opening salvo of a two-part reconstruction of Marx’s intellectual passage through the Hegelian—then Ricardian—conceptual landscape of his early years, taking him to the threshold of his mature architectonics of capitalism as a mode of production. From a starting-point in the philosophical empyrean of the 1830s to a turning-point with the economic upturn of the early 1850s, the development of one sketch of an historical materialism to the brink of another.
The Geopolitics of Separation
Contra Benno Teschke’s critique of Carl Schmitt in NLR 67, Gopal Balakrishnan argues that bourgeois society’s constitutive separation of the political and economic was a central problematic for the strategist of the intransigent right.
The Coming Contradiction
Reflections on Fredric Jameson’s Valences of the Dialectic and its engagement with questions of historicity, narrative and time. Categories and concepts from Hegel, Marx, Sartre and Ricoeur, used to interrogate the impasses of the present—and to envision what lies beyond.
Speculations on the Stationary State
Will the present crisis issue in a new phase of accumulation, or a growthless ‘stationary state’? Gopal Balakrishnan charts epochal trends in world capitalism, and their imbrication with the debt-fuelled imbalances of the long downturn.
News from Nowheresville
Gopal Balakrishnan on Parag Khanna, The Second World. Globe-trotting account from beyond the OECD, surveying the stakes in a coming battle between ascendant China and a West caught in imperial doldrums.
Role of Force in History
Gopal Balakrishnan takes issue with an ambitious attempt to apply evolutionary paradigms to human history, which would locate the wellsprings of conflict in the combative make-up of the species. Azar Gat’s War in Human Civilization as an instance of neo-social darwinism adapted to the multicultural spirit of the age.
States of War
Reflections on the challenge of Afflicted Powers, from the Retort collective. How is America’s forward policy since 9/11 best explained, and what does it tell us about the nature of the inter-state system today? Has the age of Great Power rivalry passed, and if so, what kind of geopolitical order is replacing it? Capital, spectacle and war in the vortex of the Middle East.
Future Unknown: Machiavelli for the 21st Century
To which thinkers should we turn in a bid to ground a new conceptualization of political agency—or to determine whether such a move has been nullified by the transformations of the last decades? Gopal Balakrishnan on Machiavelli’s parables of innovation and readings of him from Rousseau to Schmitt, Strauss to Gramsci. The Florentine as strategist of beginning anew, in the context of historic defeat.
The Age of Warring States
Gopal Balakrishnan on Benno Teschke, The Myth of 1648. Recasting the origins of the modern state system within the matrix of emerging capitalist relations.