Event: Het moderne cynisme

Public talk on cynicism [Dutch]

Felix & Sofie: dinsdag 22 oktober 2019

Full audio available here:

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Elke dag staat de krant vol met alarmerende berichten over klimaatrampen of schade aan de democratie. Wij nemen die berichten tot ons, uiten ons ongeloof of ongenoegen – maar gaan vervolgens rustig verder met ons leven.

Vijfendertig jaar geleden karakteriseerde Peter Sloterdijk dit verschijnsel in zijn Kritiek van de cynische rede als cynisme. Volgens hem gaat de moderne burger gebukt onder een verlicht vals bewustzijn dat, anders dan het door ideologie of dogma verblinde valse bewustzijn van weleer, niet lijdt aan een verkeerde voorstelling van de werkelijkheid. De cynicus weet wat er aan de wereld schort, maar laat na die kennis in praktijk te brengen. Zonder er echt in te geloven schikt het cynische bewustzijn zich naar de bestaande orde – ze past zich tegen beter weten in aan. De cynische geest heerst overal: van kiezers die schouderophalend reageren op corrupte politici, tot iedereen die zijn of haar zorgen over het klimaat uit en ondertussen vlees blijft eten en naar verre oorden vliegt. Dit troosteloze, cynische conformisme vormt volgens Sloterdijk een probleem voor de Verlichting. Van de vrije dialoog waarin het beste argument triomfeert, komt er dankzij de cynicus maar weinig terecht. De verlichte discussie wordt gesaboteerd doordat de cynische rede alle waarheden die de huidige levensstijl bedreigen niet wil horen. De drang tot zelfbehoud wint het van het ondermijnende gepraat over de waarheid, zodat er allerlei geraffineerde vormen van het ‘niet willen weten’ ontstaan, zoals het ontkennen van evidente feiten of het veinzen van naïviteit. Maar als men onhoudbare opinies tegen beter weten in handhaaft en als er niemand nog zin heeft in de vrije dialoog, wat valt er dan nog te verlichten? Is het cynisch bewustzijn eigenlijk wel te bestrijden? Of van haar cynisme af te brengen? Op deze avond duikt Felix & Sofie in het moderne cynisme.

Text taken from: https://www.felix-en-sofie.nl/ookleuk/2384/

Event: Reintroducing politics

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In March 2019, EUC hosted the event Reintroducing Politics: Transnational Intervention on the European and Global Level. Academics from EUC, EUR and other Dutch universities and EUC students and alumni were among those in attendance. The event consisted of two keynote speeches by distinguished political philosophers, with an extensive Q&A-session after each session. EUC’s dr. Julien Kloeg organized the event together with the Erasmus Institute for Public Knowledge and was responsible for moderating during the event itself. In addition, EUC provided generous financial support to make the event possible in the first place. The event followed on Julien’s PhD defense which took place at the end of February (his dissertation is available online). The two keynote speakers had also been part of his doctoral committee. The two keynote speakers were prof. dr. Etienne Balibar, currently affiliated with Université de Paris-Ouest as well as Kingston University in London, and prof. dr. Hauke Brunkhorst, who is emeritus professor at the Institute of Sociology at the Europa-Universität Flensburg.

Seminar Reintroducing Politics: Professor Etienne Balibar

The first speaker was professor Balibar, who is well-known for his critical analysis of the nation-state, his reinterpretation of Spinoza’s political philosophy, and in recent years his work on European politics. Professor Balibar opened his talk with the assurance that he was not speaking as an expert, but rather as a European citizen among other European citizens. He deftly demonstrated a number of problems with the current constellation of nation states wishing to fend for themselves on the one hand, and an overbearing European structure without the active involvement of citizens on the other hand.

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Click the image for a YouTube-video of Professor Balibar’s talk.

The overall atmosphere during this afternoon of hard-hitting political philosophy was very positive and relaxed. Professor Brunkhorst was offered the opportunity to respond first, and simply applauded saying that he agreed with everything that had been said. The questions from the attendees of the event addressed topics ranging from the status of migrants in the context of professor Balibar’s emphasis on citizenship to the potential role of French President Emmanuel Macron in contesting and perhaps assuming European leadership. The conversations continued to flow well into the coffee break.

Seminar Reintroducing Politics: Professor Hauke Brunkhorst

Professor Brunkhorst then assumed the role of speaker himself, and proceeded to weave a historical narrative based on the way political reformism has shifted from progressive to regressive. The breaking point in this overall development was the collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15th, 2008, putting politics firmly back on the agenda. In order to make good on the promise of our ‘objectively revolutionary situation’, our task is now to avoid further catastrophe. Professor Brunkhorst outlined several political proposals that would be needed to move towards a transnationalist mode of democracy.

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Click the image for a YouTube-video of Professor Brunkhorst’s talk.

Professor Brunkhorst has written seminal texts on solidarity, critical theory, and the political position of Europe, and all of these engagements shone through in the way he answered the audience’s questions. These again covered a wide range, involving for instance the apparent success of Nordic welfare states in combining capitalism and democracy and the importance of green growth to the project of solidarity.

Thanks to the speakers and those who attended and participated in the Q&A, Reintroducing Politics: Transnational Intervention on the European and Global Level was a great success.