A war that has killed more than a million Iraqis was a "humanitarian intervention", the US army is a force for liberation, and the main threat to world peace is posed by Islam. These are the arguments of a host of liberal commentators, including such notable names as Christopher Hitchens, Kanan Makiya, Michael Ignatieff, Paul Berman, and Bernard-Henri Lévy.
In this critical intervention, Richard Seymour unearths the history of liberal justifications for empire, showing how savage policies of conquest—including genocide and slavery—have been retailed as charitable missions. From the Cold War to the War on Terror, Seymour argues that colonialist notions of "civilization" and "progress" still shape liberal pro-war discourse, concealing the same bloody realities.
In a new afterword, Seymour revisits the debates on liberal imperialism in the era of Obama and in the light of the Afghan and Iraqi debacles.
Paperback, 384 pages
$24.95 / £12.99 / $31.00CAN
In a post entitled 'Liberals and Reactionaries,' Lenin's Tomb reviews Domenico Losurdo's acclaimed Liberalism: A Counter-History. Richard Seymour, author of The Liberal Defence of Murder, focusses on the relationship between property rights and liberal ideology. Seymour emphasises that, whereas Marxist thinkers generally see private property as the mainstay of liberal ideology, Losurdo seems rather to point to "the logic of exclusion"—that is to say, to those subjects who did not benefit from liberal rights and freedoms.
According to Seymour, Losurdo's approach does not question the revolutionary essence of liberalism itself—it rather underlines the distance between its ideals and practice. The socialist blogger instead stresses the interrelation between capitalism and liberalism:
Property rights have always been structured in such a way as to allow white Europeans to expropriate non-white non-Europeans, from Locke to Vattel onward. After Katrina, the property rights of working class Americans, especially African Americans, were cancelled by fiat—but this didn't disturb the basic politico-legal order of property rights. In fact, I would bet on the idea that the state authorities and companies who carried out this expropriation worked very hard on devising a legal justification for this theft. Moreover, it is the nature of capitalist property relations, to which liberalism is committed, that builds exclusions into liberalism.
Domenico Losurdo's Liberalism: A Counter-History is a thorn in the side of twenty-first century liberals. Losurdo's mordant exposition of the racist, classist ideas put forward by giants of liberalism, such as John Locke, Jeremy Bentham or Alexis De Tocqueville, calls into question the liberal nature itself of their thought. In a long review for the Times Literary Supplement, Jennifer Pitts, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Chicago University, takes Losurdo's counter-history as a starting point to reflect on: "how, and why ... should we tell the history of liberalism today?"
You've probably heard it said a dozen times today: "It's like 28 Days Later out there." Every thirty seconds, there's a new riot zone. I've rarely known the capital to be this wound up. It's kicked off in East Ham, then Whitechapel, then Ealing Broadway (really?), then Waltham Forest... It's kicked off in Croydon, then Birmingham, then (just a rumour so far) Bradford... The banlieues of Britain are erupting in mass civil unrest. (Lenin's Tomb)
Why is it that the same areas always erupt first, whatever the cause? Pure accident? Might it have something to do with race and class and institutionalised poverty and the sheer grimness of everyday life? The coalition politicians (including new New Labour, who might well sign up to a national government if the recession continues apace) with their petrified ideologies can't say that because all three parties are equally responsible for the crisis. They made the mess.