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Commentary Archive

Dissonances of the Arab Left

by / RP 184 (Mar/Apr 2014) / Commentary

To talk of the secular democratic leftist project in the Arab world is to talk of crisis – a crisis that is manifest in two ways. First, there is the fundamental question of whether such a project even exists in a coherent and comprehensive form, rather than as a mere collection of statements and propositions that contradict one another, and the foundations they allegedly rest upon. The evidence for such […]


‘People not of our concern’

by / RP 184 (Mar/Apr 2014) / Commentary

‘We stay here and we don’t move.’ This is the refrain in the Choucha refugee camp among those who have been stranded there, in the desert, since 2011. ‘Rejected’ and ‘non-resettled refugees’ are the categories through which these migrant stories have been sorted. They are also the terms that determine the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) ‘degree of concern’. According to UNHCR’s commissioners, interviewed last year in Zarzis, rejected refugees ‘are […]


Generative grafting

Reproductive technology and the dilemmas of surrogacy
by / RP 183 (Jan/Feb 2014) / Commentary

In 2013, at the advanced age of 101, Howard W. Jones, a medical pioneer in reproductive technology, published Personhood Revisited: Reproductive Technology, Bioethics, Religion and the Law. Looking back at the development of what came to be called the ARTs (assisted reproductive technologies), Jones chronicles the initial controversies surrounding their emergence and his own participation as a medical professional in the newly formed bioethical committees and agendas that sought to […]


Kleptography

by / RP 183 (Jan/Feb 2014) / Commentary

One must remember that mathematics, like death, never makes mistakes, never plays tricks. If we are unable to see those irrational curves or solids, it means only that they inevitably possess a whole immense world somewhere beneath the surface of our life. – Yevgeny Zamyatin, We The settings alone brush perilously close to fiction: a deserted basement in King’s Cross in which hard drives are destroyed; a small room, containing only […]


Smells like Gezi spirit

Democratic sensibilities and carnivalesque politics in Turkey
by / RP 182 (Nov/Dec 2013) / Commentary

A small protest in Istanbul, which began by aiming to protect the urban greenery, was rapidly turned into a full-blown nationwide resistance. The protests should be regarded as the most important outcry of the Turkish people since the 1980 coup, and herald a new period in the history of Turkey. But it would be a mistake to try to understand their defining features simply with reference to the so-called Arab […]


Corporate open source

Intellectual property and the struggle over value
by / RP 181 (Sept/Oct 2013) / Commentary

I began to worry about open source when the corporate world stopped worrying and learned to love open source. For me the turning point was a drinks party in Paris in 2003, thrown by the wife of an American advertising executive temporarily based in the city. First, a bit of context for the party and its place in the brief story I’m telling here, which is about the capture of […]


Commercial enclosure

Whatever happened to open access?
by / RP 181 (Sept/Oct 2013) / Commentary

The language of openness is powerful and persuasive. Applied to the practices of government, it purports to be about transparency and holding politicians to account. Applied to public services, it purports to be about the evaluation of performance to facilitate decision-making by their users. Applied to publicly funded research in universities, it purports to be about providing access to research that otherwise exists behind the paywalls of high-subscription-cost journals. Applied […]


Aló Presidente

by / RP 180 (July/Aug 2013) / Commentary

If capitalism resists, we are obliged to take up a battle against capitalism and open the way for the salvation of the human species. It’s up to us, raising the banners of Christ, Mohammed, equality, love, justice, humanity, the true and most profound humanism. If we don’t do it, the most wonderful creation of the universe, the human being, will disappear, it will disappear … Let’s listen to Rosa Luxemburg […]


Citizens’ agora

The new urban question
by / RP 179 (May/Jun 2013) / Commentary

What would Rousseau, who penned his classic Discourse on Inequality in 1755, have made of things today? Had he still been around, had he travelled around the globe a bit, he’d have doubtless despaired of how little ‘civilized’ society had ameliorated the ‘artificial’ inequalities that derive from the conventions that govern us. Maybe he’d have also played a cameo role in a new documentary, Inequality for All, directed by Jacob […]


Global carcass balancing

Horsemeat and the agro-food network
by / RP 179 (May/Jun 2013) / Commentary

The discovery by European forensic science laboratories of horse DNA in food labelled as beef meat products has brought renewed public scrutiny and interest to meat supply network activities and associated politics and policies. These have included concerns about food safety, horror from national and religious communities who have been sold food that contained meat from animals that are culturally unacceptable for them to eat, and questions about the nutritional […]


Resisting Resilience

by / RP 178 (Mar/Apr 2013) / Commentary

I’m 24, in a horrible relationship, feeling stuck and alone. I met my boyfriend three years ago while I was struggling to find work after graduating. He was not only charismatic, ambitious and gorgeous, but supportive, too. I became infatuated. By the time I found out about his angry rages and subtle bullying, I had moved in with him and into a job in his town. I’m sad and anxious […]


What the frack?

Combustible water and other late capitalist novelties
by / RP 177 (Jan/Feb 2013) / Commentary

There is a reason why oil gets the lion’s share of attention when it comes to the global game of petrocarbon extraction. Through the multiple products into which oil is refined, most important of which are gasoline and diesel, oil is the blood that animates the body of capitalism. It is a substance necessary for economies to keep operating and profits accruing, which is why access to it fuels so […]


Lines in class

The ongoing attack on mass education in England
by / RP 176 (Nov/Dec 2012) / Commentary

Andrew McGettigan’s analysis of the financial transformations of higher education (‘Who Let the Dogs Out? The Privatization of Higher Education’, RP 174) is important for comprehending the complexity of the changes universities are undergoing and their implications. As he argues, ‘it is mass higher education in England’ that is now under attack and adequately responding to this requires the development of new habits and new forms of thought.1 It is […]


What is Pussy Riot’s ‘Idea’?

What is Pussy Riot’s ‘Idea’?
by / RP 176 (Nov/Dec 2012) / Commentary

  It goes without saying that the Pussy Riot trial was an even more obscene performance of power than the punk prayer in the church itself. But the most ‘avantgarde’ and cynical part of this ‘power performance’ started not today, not a year ago, and probably not just in Russia either. If we refresh our memories, we find that all over the globe the power of the state is producing […]


Euro-Keynesianism?

The financial crisis in Europe
by / RP 175 (Sep/Oct 2012) / Commentary

Financial collapse is haunting Europe. The most immediate fear is that a small European state might default on its government debt, but several large European banks might go bust because of a deflated real-estate bubble in Southern Europe. Brutal austerity policies have been imposed on countries that are already in recession, but in most cases it is difficult to interpret the battle cry of ‘sound fiscal policy’ as anything but […]


Who let the dogs out?

The privatization of higher education
by / RP 174 (Jul/Aug 2012) / Commentary

In April last year, I framed my article on ‘New Providers’ in relation to the delay surrounding the publication of the government’s White Paper for Higher Education (HE). That was caused by a combination of factors, but chiefly the need to fix a hole in the proposals for student loan financing; and additional preparation for the marketization of HE in England. The government is now fully committed to removing the […]


Moving Borders

The Politics of Dirt
by / RP 174 (Jul/Aug 2012) / Commentary

Who can move? Who can speak? Who can act politically? The struggles of refugees and migrants have problematized conventional answers to these questions in a profound manner. Their struggles have demonstrated that, despite the considerable risks and dangers, new political subjects are being formed within securitized sites and border zones. Struggles by refugees and migrants around issues of detention, deportation, regularization and freedom of movement have debunked some of the […]


The poetry and prose of the Russian elections

by / RP 173 (May/Jun 2012) / Commentary

Between 10 December 2011, the day of the first mass protest against fraud in the recently held Russian parliamentary elections, and 4 March 2012, the day of the presidential vote, Moscow was a transformed place. The suffocating atmosphere of Putin’s rule was disturbed as if by a sudden breath of fresh air. People came onto the streets en masse, with demonstrations in Moscow organized by the opposition attracting up to […]


Pirate Radical Philosophy

by / RP 173 (May/Jun 2012) / Commentary

Pirate … from the Latin pirata (-ae; pirate)… transliteration of the Greek piratis (pirate; πειρατής) from the verb pirao (make an attempt, try, test, get experience, endeavour, attack; πειράω). … In modern Greek… piragma: teasing [πείραγμα] …pirazo: tease, give trouble [πειράζω].1 Much has been written about the ‘crisis of capitalism’ and the associated events known, for short, as the ‘Arab Spring’, ‘student protests’, ‘Occupy’ and ‘August riots’. Yet to what extent does our contemporary […]


Class warfare in the USA

Anti-unionism and the legislative agenda of the 1%
by / RP 172 (Mar/Apr 2012) / Commentary

The past year has brought an unprecedented series of attacks on public employee unions in state legislatures across the United States. The most dramatic such assault came in Wisconsin, where newly elected governor Scott Walker pushed through legislation that effectively eliminated the right to collective bargaining for his state’s 175,000 public employees.1 Yet while Wisconsin became the crucible through which much of the population viewed these issues, it was part of […]