Streit ums Politische 2018/19: »Democracies without majorities?«
Heinz Bude and guests
On 10 September, 29 October, 26 November, 17 December 2018
The formation of political majorities in Western democracies has become precarious. Shaky coalitions, mushrooming single-issue parties, anti-political demagogues and populist post-heroes dominate the scene. The new edition of »Streit ums Politische« (»Arguing Politics«) attempts to identify the causes of these developments. Is it still even possible to represent a fragmented society with a parliamentary majority? Or is it not the case that concepts of a politics of difference are ultimately undermining consensus politics? Is the ignorance of an isolated middle class the reason for the loss of a valid form of expressing a majority? Or do we simply have to get used to changing majorities, conglomerated minorities and event-related majorities? In any case, the question of the future is how our form of societies can still gain the capacity to act as a collective by the formation of temporary political majorities.
Streit ums Politische 2017/18: »Out, on the streets.«
Can politics take place on the screen at home? Is the click, posting uninhibited comments on a blog, uploading a photo to Twitter enough? The classical view of the political is that it operates by making a distinction between the private and the public. Something becomes political when private concerns are turned into a public issue. But this does not merely take place in the head. To achieve it, you have to go outside: to the marketplace of the polis, on the streets of the city or in the public square outside the theatre. Outside, you meet others with whom you, at first sight, share little in common. But when you meet in public, a political happening can ensue. Rather than being a separate event taking place in a specific institutional setting, the political instead becomes mixed with the everyday and thus can become the driving force of a collective. Yet what does that mean today when the marketplace of the polis has become a mall, the streets turned into traffic-free zones and squares are now spaces where town planners show off urban design? The political kicks off when bodies and voices meet, out of which an idea of something communal arises. The political taking place outside mixes the deliberation of the citizens with the mutterings of the masses and out of this sometimes emerges a communal cry: »We are the people«, »We want it all!«, »We’re going on an individual strike«. In this way the political can become collective and concrete. However, today such an understanding of political practice must compete with other forms of public assembly: with the spectacle of sporting competitions and pop concerts, with open-air public screenings and the various actions of temporary events in city spaces. These can also become political, but obviously only if some notion of commonality comes into play. What this means, how to do it and what kind of concept of the public sphere develops out of this are the topics which Heinz Bude is discussing over four evenings with his guests. Whoever wants to be political must venture out into the world.
Streit ums Politische 2016/17: »The End of Europe«
In the medium term, Europe will perhaps hold only six percent of the world’s population. Today the middle-classes are growing in emerging countries like Vietnam, Nigeria and South Korea but no longer in Great Britain, Belgium or Finland. On the contrary: people dread the decline and, resenting the other, are retreating into an identity with phantasmagorical traits. In EU countries the Austrian Freedom Party, the French Front National, the Dutch Freedom Party and the Danish People’s Party, with almost 30 percent of the vote, seem to be expressions of anti-European sentiment. At the point when Europe is becoming more provincial in the context of global society, is the continent in the process of dismembering itself?
The new season in the »Streit ums Politische« series deals with Europe’s social, political and cultural endgames. Why are the Europeans so angry, disheartened and helpless? Is it due to a misperception by people who have fallen in love with failure, or a realistic image of a European population who mistrust their political elites? Perhaps the question of the impossibility of Europe needs to be asked in order to make visible its possibility as a unique project of transnational interconnectedness on the global political stage. This is what Heinz Bude will be discussing with his guests on four evenings in the fall of 2016. Among them is Ulrich Bielefeld, sociologist and author of »Nation and Society« from the Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung as well as Luuk von Middelaar, who has been an advisor and speechwriter for Hermann Van Rumpuy, the first permanent president of the European Council for many years. His Book »The Passage to Europe: A History of a Beginning « was awarded with the European Book Prize in 2012 and he now teaches at the Universities of Leiden and Louvain.
Streit ums Politische 2015/16: Homeless Anticapitalism
Part of the aftershock of the 2008 crisis, when it looked like the global financial system might crash, was a feeling of unease about the capitalism to which we had tied our fate. But since then it has become clear that capitalism and crisis go hand in hand. Even the neoliberal propagandists of this economic system of infinite boom and boundless availability admit as much. Yet the more we are coerced into accepting that there is no alternative, the stronger our doubts grow about how long this can go on. Many people, especially in Germany, feel we are dangerously well off when compared to France, Italy or Greece. An expression of this mood of unease and suspicion is a homeless anti-capitalism. Sometimes based on right-wing thoughts, sometimes on left, people warn that we are on a sinking ship but no-one dares to ready the lifeboats. Where is the rescue going to come from in this danger? The new season in our »Streit ums Politische« series deals with the reasons for the development and forms of expression of this »homeless anti-capitalism« which some people fear and upon which others build their hopes.
Streit ums Politische 2014/15: Fear and Hatred in Democracy
When a society is gripped by an atmosphere of fear, as is shown by the experience of the 20th century, democracy becomes imperilled. Then, rather than an equitable balance of interests, hatred of the rich, freeloaders and foreigners holds sway. Given that Europe can only barely keep itself together, that society’s centre ground is increasingly being divided into an elite and an underclass, and that capitalism – which insists on being without alternative – appears to be living on borrowed time, the new »Streit ums Politische« series investigates the impulses which rule the political landscape. Are we living today in a society of fear in which the politics of hate receive expression? Who is entrenching themselves behind defensiveness and identification of hate figures and which groups are still responsive to a critical analysis of their way of life? Or is everything just drowning in entertainment, fun and games? Political theorists contend that a wider perspective must be taken and questions posed about the logic of impulses in a democracy. Ultimately, political disputes are not only about competing solutions to problems but also battles between different attitudes towards life and visions of existence. Democracy has spawned liberating revolutions, terrible regression and endless boredom. It is not easy to identify which is preferable.