A Neurophilosophy of Divisive Politics, Inequality and Disempowerment

If journalists, pundits, academics, and commentators of all stripes can agree on anything, it is that our current times are characterized by extraordinarily divisive politics. In the public domain, an entire vocabulary has been developed and elaborated in the service of making this point: people read, watch, and amplify selective information within their respective “echo chambers;” political discussions are “silo-ed” off from outside opinions dissonant from the insider point of view. These characterizations can be exaggerated, particularly given the force of repetition; as Barry Eichengreen reminds us in his concise new book, periods of dramatic partisanship and attendant mudslinging are not new to neither Europe nor the United States. Yet the manifestations of this political divisiveness are remarkable in their abruptness, magnitude, and simultaneity across differing political contexts. Collectively they represent a phenomenon that is dangerous and destabilizing, one which policymakers must struggle to better understand and confront.

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A Neuro-Philosophy of Dignity-Based Governance

 

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Individual Self, Relational Self, and Collective Self

This volume is based on the premise that the self-concept consists of three fundamental self-representations: the individual self, the relational self, and the collective self. Stated otherwise, persons seek to achieve self-definition and self-interpretation (i.e., identity) in three fundamental ways: (a) in terms of their unique traits, (b) in terms of dyadic rela tionships, and (c) in terms of group membership (Brewer & Gardner, 1996).

The individual self is achieved by differentiating from others (i.e., the individual self contains those aspects of the self-concept that differentiate the person from other persons as a unique constellation of traits and characteristics that distinguishes the individual within his or her social context). This form of self-representation relies on interpersonal comparison processes and is associated with the motive of protecting or enhancing the person psychologically (Brewer & Gardner, 1996; see also Markus, 1977; Sedikides, 1993).

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The relational self: An interpersonal social-cognitive theory

The authors propose an interpersonal social–cognitive theory of the self and personality, the relational self, in which knowledge about the self is linked with knowledge about significant others, and each linkage embodies a self–other relationship. Mental representations of significant others are activated and used in interpersonal encounters in the social–cognitive phenomenon of transference (S. M. Andersen & N. S. Glassman, 1996), and this evokes the relational self. Variability in relational selves depends on interpersonal contextual cues, whereas stability derives from the chronic accessibility of significant-other representations. Relational selves function in if–then terms (W. Mischel & Y. Shoda, 1995), in which ifs are situations triggering transference, and thens are relational selves. An individual’s repertoire of relational selves is a source of interpersonal patterns involving affect, motivation, self-evaluation, and self-regulation.

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The Relational Self: Basic Forms of Self-Awareness

Self-awareness, the feeling that our experiences are bound to the self—as a unitary entity distinct from others and the rest of the world—is a key aspect of the human mind. But how do we become aware of ourselves in a constantly changing and complex physical and social environment? How do we relate to others while keeping in touch with one’s self, with the fundamental feeling that there is an ‘I’ at the core of all our experiences and exchanges with the world and others? How is it possible to navigate such a dynamic environment without losing track of one’s self? What are the mechanisms underlying typical and atypical self-awareness and how can we spell them out within a coherent conceptual and empirical framework? What are the most basic or minimal forms of self-awareness? Is the minimal self relational or is it preferable to conceptualise it in an individualistic manner, as a fundamentally subjective sense of mineness? Is there is a ‘sense of we’, and if yes, what is its relationship with the minimal ‘individualistic’ self?

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Marxism, structuralism and post-structuralism

In Considerations on Western Marxism (1976), Perry Anderson proposed a number of theses which have since passed into the general wisdom of the Marxist left. Western Marxism, he argued, sprang essentially from proletarian defeat in the post-Bolshevik era; the predominantly aesthetic and philosophical biases of its thought, in marked contrast to the political and economic preoccupations of classical Marxist theory, reflected a damaging dislocation of historical materialism from a blocked and thwarted working-class movement. For all its undoubted theoretical fertility, Western Marxism remained a largely academic phenomenon, drawing deeply upon idealist philosophical sources and marked by a most untraditional pessimism and melancholia. At the turn of the 1970s, Anderson claimed, this ambivalently creative and crippled heritage was on the wane, as renewed socialist militancy in the advanced capitalist societies appeared to herald the possibility of a Marxism less aloof from political practice.

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In the Tracks of Historical Materialism

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Structuralism, post-structuralism, neo-liberalism: assessing Foucault’s legacy

This article traces Foucault’s distinctive commitment to ‘post-structuralism’ through tracing the affinities and departures from structuralism. It is argued that under the infuence of Nietzsche, Foucault’s approach marks a distinct break with structuralism in several crucial respects. What results is a materialist post-structuralism which is also distinctively different from the post-structuralism of writers such as Derrida, Lyotard and Baudrilliard. Foucault’s account of neo-liberalism as an historically formed discourse is presented as an example of materialist post-structuralist analysis.

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Post-structuralism and Marxism: education as knowledge capitalism

This paper argues for ‘post-structural Marxisms’ as the pedagogical practice of reading and rereading Marx in a critical manner. It is less concerned to give an account of social class or of the changing historical relevance of this concept in relation to education than to argue for the continued relevance of Marx and Marxism, especially in relation to what shall be called ‘knowledge capitalism’. First, the paper briefly discusses the concept of the social in the post-modern condition before reviewing the relations between post-structuralism and Marxism, and giving responses to the crisis of Marxism. Post-structuralism, it is argued, is neither anti-structuralist nor anti-Marxist. Secondly, the paper provides an account of Deleuze’s Marxism (libidinal materialism), using it to analyse education as a form of ‘knowledge capitalism’.

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On Habermas, Marx and the critical theory tradition

It is difficult to overstate the significance of Jürgen Habermas’ work in contemporary intellectual thought. A scholar of unprecedented scope and profundity, he is often referred to as the German intellectual of the post-Second World War era. Given the scale and quality of Habermas’ scholarly repertoire, it is not surprising that his ideas have inspired a rich and growing body of literature in International Relations (IR).1 His thought has been particularly influential in the ‘post-positivist’ turn within the discipline of IR – a body of writing emphasizing the role of inter-subjective meanings, interpretation and linguistic communication in the construction of new and innovative approaches to world politics. Of course, such themes long pre-date Habermas’ own unique contribution to them, as the various other chapters in this volume illustrate. This chapter explores first of all the sources and debates around Habermas’ work and, second, some specific aspects of its significance in IR, including in particular the ways in which the work of Andrew Linklater develops, reflects and refracts his arguments.

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A Comparison of Foucauld’ and Habermas’ Concepts of Discourse

The concept of discourse is of high importance for non-positivist research in information systems. At the same time there are different concepts of discourse that are used simultaneously and often without clear recognition what their choice entails. This paper therefore aims to clarify the conceptual basis of working with discourses in IS research. In order to do this it describes and compares the notions of discourse as we find them in two of the most influential discourse theories, namely  those by Michel Foucault and Jürgen Habermas. A comparison of the two from the point of the IS researcher argues that the most important feature that Foucault’s and Habermas’s discourse theories have in common is their critical intention. From this point of view, both concepts have strengths and can be used to complement each other despite their fundamental differences.

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The Nature of Capital: Marx after Foucault

The Nature of Capital: Marx After Foucault overturns the received wisdom on the incompatibility of the thought of Marx and Foucault to develop an original synthesis based on a critical realist re-reading of their work, and to understanding the postmodern condition. It does so by re-reading Marx and Foucault through the lens of critical realism, overturning the received wisdom that their social theories are fundamentally incompatible. The result is an illuminating synthesis between Marx’s ‘social relations of production’ and Foucault’s ‘disciplinary power’, from which the author constructs a model of the material cause of our capacity to act: capital, society’s genetic code. The book places Foucault’s concept of power at the heart of Marx’s analytic. The logic of power and the law of value, the widening and ascending spirals of disciplinary technologies and capital accumulation, interweave and adulterate each other. Foucault explains the ‘how’ of power, Marx explains the ‘why’. Together, the book argues, they define the operative logic of production relations at work shaping the condition of postmodernity.

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Power, labour power and productive force in Foucault’s reading of Capital

 

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