Friday, July 21, 2017

The rightwing free speech outrage playbook

The right-wingers have now got a clear playbook for their so-called “free speech” agenda on university campuses. It entails three simple steps:
  1. Invite high profile right-winger for a particular day and time, without consulting with the campus administration in advance about venue availability or security conditions
  2. If the university doesn’t immediately provide a space on that particular date and time, gin up an outrage campaign, claiming that the administration is “blocking” or “disinviting” the speaker and/or coddling/partnering with “radical leftist” elements
  3. Eat popcorn as anonymous commentators call for more Kent States and/or defunding of the university
Whether or not the speech goes forward is largely irrelevant to them, because this scenario is already a win in that it stirs the rightwing resentment machine and thereby (a) generates media attention for themselves; (b) undermines public faith in the integrity of an institution which serves as a model for the kind of critical, inclusive, expertise-respecting society that they hate.

It’s also crucial to underscore that these actions are done in patent bad faith with respect to the right to free speech. Here’s how we know: If the primary objective were to come to the University to get an airing for their ideas, they would first collaborate with the administration on finding a venue and date where the event could unfold smoothly, and only then announce the event once that had been secured. But that’s not their primary objective; what they actually want is for things NOT to go smoothly, but rather to disrupt the operations of the university. If Nicholas de Genova in 2003 infamously called for "a million Mogadishus," these folks are in essence hankering for "a million Milos."

Note also that they have now defined the 1st Amendment as mandating that they have a right to a venue of the size of their choosing, at the time of their choosing, for free, with the university having to pay security costs. Anything short of that, and they claim that the "liberals are suppressing free speech, but we're not going to take it” — which is win! Worst case (that is, if the university accommodates them completely and immediately), they can claim that the university only did so "grudgingly" or that it "backed down" after they "fought back." 

Here's a textbook example of the playbook in action: 


Sunday, June 04, 2017

Is a global history of development possible?

What would a fully integrated “global” history of development entail? It would require
  • Considering all actors in the development process: from the subaltern “objects” of development at one end of the spectrum, to various NGOs and IFIs and transnational corporations in the middle layers, to state elites in the North at the other end – recognizing the politically negotiated nature of each project 
  • Looking across all geographies in which development has been deployed: including not just the entire Global South, but also peripheral areas of the Global North, as well as urban spaces everywhere; 
  • Assessing all the ideological frameworks in which development has been promulgated or used to justify political and other forms of action, including colonialist, liberal, socialist, national socialist, communist, neoliberal, post-growthist, etc.;
  • Writing across all the many decades in which development has mattered, including not just the "high modernist" early cold war years and back into the interwar period, but indeed much further back into the nineteenth and even eighteenth centuries, as well as looking forward to how development practitioners have envisioned various long-term (global and local) futures, some running into the 22nd century and beyond. 
Such a complete global history of development would have be methodologically omnivorous, indeed totalizing – drawing on diplomatic, economic, environmental, political, social, intellectual, and cultural history methods – which, done correctly, would require also pulling techniques and knowledge from geography and anthropology, from political science and economics, from psychology and sociology – using diverse materials as evidence.

Considering the scale of this, we may well ask: could even a Fernand Braudel take on such a synthetic task? Or, instead, is the historiography of development doomed to forever being a patchwork?