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Liberalism in Russia is one of the most complex, multifaced and, indeed, controversial phenomena in the history of political thought. Values and practices traditionally associated with Western liberalism—such as individual freedom, property rights, or the rule of law—have often emerged ambiguously in the Russian historical experience through different dimensions and combinations. Economic and political liberalism have often appeared disjointed, and liberal projects have been shaped by local circumstances, evolved in response to secular challenges and developed within often rapidly-changing institutional and international settings.
This third volume of the Reset DOC “Russia Workshop” collects a selection of the Dimensions and Challenges of Russian Liberalism conference proceedings, providing a broad set of insights into the Russian liberal experience through a dialogue between past and present, and intellectual and empirical contextualization, involving historians, jurists, political scientists and theorists.
The first part focuses on the Imperial period, analyzing the political philosophy and peculiarities of pre-revolutionary Russian liberalism, its relations with the rule of law (Pravovoe Gosudarstvo), and its institutionalization within the Constitutional Democratic Party (Kadets). The second part focuses on Soviet times, when liberal undercurrents emerged under the surface of the official Marxist-Leninist ideology. After Stalin’s death, the “thaw intelligentsia” of Soviet dissidents and human rights defenders represented a new liberal dimension in late Soviet history, while the reforms of Gorbachev’s “New Thinking” became a substitute for liberalism in the final decade of the USSR.
The third part focuses on the “time of troubles” under the Yeltsin presidency, and assesses the impact of liberal values and ethics, the bureaucratic difficulties in adapting to change, and the paradoxes of liberal reforms during the transition to post-Soviet Russia. Despite Russian liberals having begun to draw lessons from previous failures, their project was severely challenged by the rise of Vladimir Putin. Hence, the fourth part focuses on the 2000s, when the liberal alternative in Russian politics confronted the ascendance of Putin, surviving in parts of Russian culture and in the mindset of technocrats and “system liberals”. Today, however, the Russian liberal project faces the limits of reform cycles of public administration, suffers from a lack of federalist attitude in politics and is externally challenged from an illiberal world order. All this asks us to consider: what is the likelihood of a “reboot” of Russian liberalism?
This article is about the conception of the tyranny in the European Political Thought of the Middle Ages. The author begins with the traditional distinction between a good and a bad governor. Within this dichotomy, the king is a good and fair ruler, whose thoughts are about a commonweal and a public good; in turn, the tyrant is a governor whose thoughts and acts are towards his personal good and interests. But - the author stresses this point - this conception in effect appeared late enough, at 12th or 13th cent.
The author analyses this fact, stressing that within the European Political thought of the Middle Ages it seems possible to define two principal modes of speaking on the Political: the theological and the juridical one. In turn, within the theological mode, we find two main branches, which are the political Augustinism and the political Thomism. The first one is a direct successor of the Roman Republican tradition developed by Cicero and, later, by the Roman jurists. Within this tradition, the main hero of the political theory is a people, which is considered as an autonomous subject, able to legislate and to define his proper public good. The other, Thomistic paradigm, interprets a people as a multitude united by a common area, laws and mode of life, a pure object of the political action, exercised by kings and other rulers. The author stresses, including on the ground of the Siete Partidas, that the real theory of the tyranny is possible only within the frames of the Thomistic paradigm.
This text begins by applying the critique of phrenology to contemporary neuro-science in order to raise, once again, the question of consciousness. I then argue that consciousness is a process and product of the body, driven by history; like the work (and a work) of art. This becomes clearer with Hegel’s differentiation between human and animal consciousness, that is, in how our language and thought can tolerate contradiction, even grasp it as true. Thus, as Aristotle knew: consciousness is to the body as the sign is to the referent—and this has implications for our very survival.
Although largely neglected in Schelling scholarship, the concept of bliss (Seligkeit) assumes central importance throughout Schelling's oeuvre. Focusing on his 1810-11 texts, the Stuttgart Seminars and the beginning of the Ages of the World, this paper traces the logic of bliss, in its connection with other key concepts such as indifference, the world or the system, at a crucial point in Schelling’s thinking. Bliss is shown, at once, to mark the zero-point of the developmental narrative that Schelling constructs here (from God before creation, via the natural, historical, and spiritual world, to the fully actualized, "true pantheism") and to interrupt it at every step. As a result, bliss emerges here in its real utopian force but also its all-too-real ambivalence, indifference, and even violence, despite Schelling's best efforts to theorize it as "love"; and Schelling himself emerges, in these texts, as one of modernity's foremost thinkers not just of nature or freedom, but also of bliss in its modern afterlives. At stake in Schelling's conception of bliss, I argue, is the very relationship between history and eternity, the not-yet and the already-here, the present and the eschatological – as well as between Spinozian immanence and the Christian temporality of salvation, so important for modernity (with what is often called its process of "secularization") – not to mention the complex entanglement of indifference, violence, and love or the ideas of totality, nonproductivity, and nonrelation that Schellingian bliss involves.
The question of what is time, is asked by Augustine: “I know what it is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I want to explain it to an enquirer, I do not know.” Aristotle, however, explains: time is not the cause of generation and corruption, coming to presence and going out into absence, becoming as a whole. Rather, bodies decay, change happens, things move (more or less), physis becomes—and time counts the ways.2 Or, as Elizabeth Barrett Browning put it poetically: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”—that is time, not the loving, but the counting of how so.
In this paper, I argue that Husserl’s phenomenological understanding of the unity of the world can be traced back to the Aristotelian principle of unity in the Metaphysics. This explains how the world is one: accidentally and necessarily, as true and false, potentially and actually, and categorically. But if these four ways of being one may be traced back to presence and absence, it is because they are modifications of implication.
This article offers a reading of the trail and death of Socrates and explore the importance of death, dialogue, and doubt for human understanding.
In this paper, I would like to examine the meaning of and relationship between ‘practice’ and ‘ideology’ in Boris Hessen’s “The Social and Economic Roots of Newton’s Principia”. I propose that for Hessen, practice can be defined as the transformation of things in-themselves into things for-us, as well as the transformation of things in-themselves into things for-themselves. Ideology, for him, refers to the specific difference between practice and theory, when the practical roots of theory are concealed. In section 1, I explain the Hessen theses and identify means and relations of production as the two kinds of practice presented in the Newton paper. In section 2, I trace the history of the composition and reception of the Hessen theses, showing that any attempt to understand practice and ideology in Hessen’s work requires incorporating his not only Marxist, but Deborinite background. In section 3, I explain conceptions of practice and ideology from previous Marxist thinkers and how Hessen, as a Deborinite, may have integrated aspects of these conceptions into his own view. In section 4, I show that Nikolai Bukharin’s “Theory and Practice from the Standpoint of Dialectical Materialism” provides the proper complement for understanding the remaining elements of Hessen’s account.
This paper aims to rethink the peculiar conception of nothingness at work in Chaadaev’s key writings, the Philosophical Letters and the 1837 Apologia of a Madman, in which this nothingness, unbound by tradition, turns into a total, even revolutionary, ungrounding of the world-whole. This paper works with and through Chaadaev’s texts to expose his conception of immanent nothingness or the void of the Real that completely annihilates or empties out the mechanisms of history and tradition, thereby radically imploding the machinery of modernity. It is our hope that, as a result, Chaadaev’s position appears not only as a neglected genealogical element to contemporary critiques of modernity and its logic of reproduction through tradition and futurity, but also as a contribution to the ongoing critical rethinking of this logic in contemporary theory. Our aim in what follows is less to dwell with the fact that the non-historical void is, in Chaadaev, named “Russia” than it is to traverse the problematic of this terra nullius in order to make visible its aporias and ambivalences, as well as its real utopian force.
This is my review of Pavel Otdelnov's "Industiral Zone" exhibition at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.
Ever since the interlaced exchanges between Walter Benjamin, Carl Schmitt, and Jacob Taubes, the discourse of “political theology” has been a space structured by a set of positions – and oppositions – around a set of concepts: nomos and anomia, justice and katechon, order and nothingness, sovereignty and exception. For Schmitt, it was famously the modern sovereign who decided on the state of exception (to the law) so that a lawful order could be (re-)established. More recently, from Roberto Esposito and Giorgio Agamben to recent work in decolonial and Black studies, many have diagnosed and explored the structure of the constitutive exception at the heart of Western modernity – the way the law (of progress, providence, salvation, universal history, etc.) depends for its workings on that which it excludes, represses, exploits, and covers up. From this perspective, sovereignty becomes the decision on such exclusions and serves to uphold the very power to exclude. If we recall also the discourse of the sovereign subject as specifically modern – grasped, for example, by Hans Blumenberg in the figure of the subject’s “self-assertion” as the foundation of modern scientific worldview and the modern idea of progress – we can appreciate how fundamentally modernity depends on the conjunction of sovereignty, law, and exception. The question of modernity itself – the modern world as a structure of power and exclusion that we have inherited – thus stands at the heart of the political-theological discourse. Given that across the various inflections of political theology, sovereignty has been repeatedly seen as upholding order at the expense of the anomia indexed by the exception, an accompanying interest has emerged across contemporary theory: how to think the nonplace of exception without sovereignty, as ungrounding or fully disinvested from the work of the law (of history, humanity, or the world).
This paper speculatively reconstructs a unique intervention into this ongoing debate from within an early 19th-century Russian context – an intervention that likewise attempts to think the exception immanently, from within, affirming its full nonrelation to, and even nullity vis-à-vis, the Western, Christian-modern (world-historical) regime. However, instead of positioning exception and sovereignty against each other – whether by way of the latter deciding on and repressing the former, or the former absolutely refusing the latter – this intervention re-configures the logic of sovereignty itself, so that the sovereign act becomes an act of uncovering and affirming the void of exception as such (as the void – without tradition, history, or law). Nothingness itself, thought of as totally ungrounding the historical-whole, here becomes operative through and as the sovereign act and the figure of the sovereign.
This paper addresses Ludwig Wittgenstein’s claim that “there can never be surprises in logic” (Tractatus 6.1251) from a perspective of the distinction between substantial and dynamic models of formality. It attempts to provide an interpretation of this claim as stressing the dynamic formality of logic. Focusing on interactive interpretation of
compositionality as dynamic formality, it argues for the advantages of dynamic, i.e., gametheoretical approach to some binary semantical phenomena. Firstly, model-theoretical and game-theoretical interpretations of binary quantifiers are compared. Secondly, the paper offers an analysis of Wittgenstein’s idea that binary colours (e.g., bluish green, reddish green, etc.) possess logical structures. To answer some experimental challenges, it provides a game-theoretical interpretation of the colours opponency in Payoff Independence (PI) logic. Comparing Nikolay Vasiliev’s logical principles and Wittgenstein’s internal properties and relations, Wittgenstein’s approach is argued for as an attempt of modelling a balance between logic and the empirical.
Malevich has usually perceived as revolutionist and iconoclast, and completely not as divine worshiper. Meanwhile, those are two interconnected sides of his intellectual activity, and probably his way of glorification of God demanded revolutionary form at his time. In this article, I would like to show Malevich not only as art theorist, as it ordinarily applied, but as metaphysician, and even religious metaphysician. Still it can be said, that Malevich’s theoretical legacy haven’t been understood properly. The situation is this because only ten years has passed since the most complete collected edition of his works by the editorship of Alexandra Shatskikh have seen the light of the day.
Hans Blumenberg’s Legitimacy of the Modern Age makes a powerful case for the autonomy of modernity with regard to the preceding Christian epoch – but it also emphasizes at least one continuity between the two, which can be framed via what Blumenberg casts as their common enemy: Gnosticism. Far from being external or secondary, this opposition to Gnosticism structurally defines both of these epochs as their task. What is, however, at stake in this common task? Reading with and against Blumenberg – and following his own account of the epochal shift to modernity – we will shed light, first, on the genealogy and, secondly, the political theology of Blumenbergian modernity, its structure of sovereignty, and key related concepts, such as the world, position, possibility, legitimation, theodicy, immanence, and self-assertion.
The paper examines in some detail Ficino's relation to concept of λόγοι σπερματικοί, literally ‘seminal reasons’, discussed in his Platonic and Scholastic sources. For instance, Ficino uses such terms as semina rerum, semina formarum, rationes seminales, seminarium mundi, ratio seminaria mundi to indicate the links between species in matter and ideas in mind. Ficino supposes that the World-Soul, producing specific forms and powers of lower things, makes them through her own seminal reasons, which remain in touch with celestial and supercelestial entities. Probably, it is Plotinus who legitimates Ficino’s use of the concept of seminal reasons although, historically, it is the concept of Stoicism. Employing ‘seeds’ as a metaphor for ideas, Plotinus criticizes strongly the Stoic concept of seminal reasons, according to which seminal formative principles are corporeal and immanent to the things. Ficino’s use of embryological metaphors and direct analogies between the action of generating force in the human body and in the ‘body’ of the world serves to explain how a purely intelligible essence (the World-Soul) produces material things. In the paper, I argue that the ‘seminal reasons’ as metaphysical intermediaries should be related to other well-known metaphysical intermediaries in Ficino’s philosophy (spiritus, daemones)
P. Bourdieu borrows a number of ideas and conceptions of G.-V. Leibniz and uses them in his theory of the social space in systematic fashion. The Leibnizean theories of the relation physical space, of the real definition, of the pre-established harmony become the interrelated reflective means of empirical sociology. This article attempts to interpret epistemic significance of the fact that the conceptions of Leibniz have appeared to be fruitful in sociology of Bourdieu. The real definition of the social space is neither direct reflection of social structures nor such purely formal operations of indirect mathematic construction of the social space which could be jettisoned after achievement of the result. The construction of the real definition is included in its result. The objectivity of this definition consists not in achieving the reality of “the things themselves” but in expressing genesis of purely transcendent, not accessible to simple reflection social relations in gradual construction of a system of purely immanent, sensual signs, in numeric dependencies and terms.