15 November 2010

Article: Postdemocracy, organizational transformation and the (im)possibility of politics

Timon Beyes and Christina Volkmann, "The fantasy of the organizational One: Postdemocracy, organizational transformation and the (im)possibility of politics" ("Journal of Organizational Change Management", 23 [6], 2010: pp. 651-68):


Abstract: "Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to reflect upon the politics of and in organizational transformations in the wake of the fall of the Berlin wall and Germany's reunification. Design/methodology/approach – The paper juxtaposes a political-philosophical perspective informed by Rancière – what we call a dramaturgy of politics – with the findings of an ethnographic study conducted in the Berlin State Library in 2002/2003. Findings – The paper outlines a reading of the event of November 9, 1989[,] and its aftermath as a dissensual event of politics proper, i.e. the emergence of a new political subjectivity, followed by a consensual process of social organization. In the state library, both the consensual 'fantasy of the organizational One' as well [sic] its disruption are causing struggles over what is visible and sayable. A dramaturgy of politics thus encourages us to add our voices to the specific time-spaces in which an excess of words, signs and forms alters the configuration of what is visible and expressible. Research limitations/implications – The usual disclaimers about the limits of ethnographic research apply. The paper calls for further inquiries into the dramaturgy of organizational politics. It also reflects upon the 'Western gaze' and the problematic of 'speaking for' the presumably dominated. Originality/value – It is hoped that the paper contributes to the understanding of the politics of organization (theory) by outlining an alternative conceptual approach and confronting it with ethnographic findings."

I had no access to the full text of the article.

Timon Beyes is Senior Lecturer in Non-Profit Management at the University of St Gallen, Switzerland.

Christina Volkmann is Lecturer in Management at the University of Essex.

13 November 2010

Report on the Anti-Democracy Agenda Symposium 2010: Setting the example for the debate of the future

The first event held by the Geneva-based Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society (SCIS) in conjunction with its "Anti-Democracy Agenda" blog, the Anti-Democracy Agenda Symposium 2010, took place to great acclaim on 8 and 9 November 2010 at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich.

Keynotes to the symposium were contributed by Professor Doh Chull Shin, a native of Korea, director of the Korea Democracy Barometer, and core partner in the Asian Barometer Survey (an ongoing research project monitoring democratization in Asian countries), who is based in the Department of Political Science at the University of Missouri, a leading public research university in the United States, and Professor Kuldip Singh, Head of the Department of Political Science at Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, India.

The Anti-Democracy Agenda Symposium 2010 attracted twelve papers submitted by participants from institutions such as the National University of Singapore, the University of the Philippines, the Technical University of Lisbon (Portugal), Ankara University (Turkey), the University of the Punjab, Quaid-i-Azam University (both Pakistan), the University of Central Oklahoma (USA), and the Islamic Azad University (Iran). Other countries and territories of origin or residence represented include Palestine, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the UK, Switzerland, Nigeria, Korea, and India.

Participants – from doctoral candidates to full professors – came from the disciplines of Political Science, Philosophy, Political Theory, Islamic Studies, Defence and Strategic Studies, Law, and Media Studies, giving theoretical as well as empirical presentations under the titles "Is Confucianism Anti-democratic?", "Islamic Philosophy and Criticizing Democracy", "Against Liberal Democracy", "Anti-Democracy Is Created By Means of Media", "Twenty-First Century Anti-Democracy: Theory and Practice in the World", "A Critique of Western Discourses of Sovereignty and Democracy from Chinese Lenses", "Reflecting on Anti-Democracy Forces in Arab Politics", "'Democracy' in Kazakhstan: Political System Managed from Above", "Pakistan’s Road to Democracy: Islam, Military and Silent Majority", "Democracy: A Form of Government or an Instinct?", "The Role of Ethics in Shaping Democracy: An Examination of Unethical Actions among House of Assembly Members in Nigeria", and "Pekan Anti Otoritarian: Some Observations on Anarchist Gathering at Indonesia".

After a workshop on "Anti-Democratic Thought" in Manchester in 2007, this was the second symposium on anti-democracy organized by the Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society and, once more, it opened up new frontiers for the study of anti-democratic thought and practice. Bringing together scholars from both sides of the debate, advocates of democracy as well as critics and opponents, it set the example for the proper academic conduct of a discussion that does not take place anywhere else, yet. Focusing on twenty-first century anti-democracy, rather than historical expressions and criticisms, it shone the way toward the most important debate of the near future. Asia will play as central a role in that debate as participants from Asia did in our symposium.

The Anti-Democracy Agenda blog and the Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society will continue to be at the forefront of these developments.

12 November 2010

Book: We Are an Image from the Future: The Greek Revolt of December 2008

"We Are an Image from the Future: The Greek Revolt of December 2008", edited by A.G. Schwarz, Tasos Sagris and Void Network (AK Press, February 2010):


Publisher's description: "What causes a city, then a whole country, to explode? How did one neighborhood's outrage over the tragic death of one teenager transform itself into a generalized insurrection against State and capital, paralyzing an entire nation for a month? This is a book about the murder of fifteen-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos, killed by the police in the Exarchia neighborhood of Athens on December 6th, 2008, and of the revolution in the streets that followed, bringing business as usual in Greece to a screeching, burning halt for three marvelous weeks, and putting the fear of history back into the bureaucrats of Fortress Europe and beyond. We Are an Image From the Future delves into the December insurrection and its aftermath through interviews with those who witnessed and participated in it, alongside the communiqués and texts that circulated through the networks of revolt. It provides the on-the-ground facts needed to understand these historic events, and also dispels the myths activists outside of Greece have constructed around them. What emerges is not just the intensity of the riots, but the stories of organizing and solidarity, the questions of strategy and tactics: a desperately needed examination of the fabric of the Greek movements that made December possible."

Endorsement: "This dazzling collection is not a book about the great insurrection of 2008 – it is a living piece of it that can become a part of us, and through us, it opens the prospect of a universe we might never otherwise have imagined possible. Future historians may well conclude that the Revolution finally began in 2008. If they do, this book will have played a crucial role in that realization." (David Graeber, Goldsmiths, University of London)

The book contains texts such as "Their Democracy Murders – The Polytechnic University Occupation" and many writings by the "Ego Te Provoco" counter-information group, including the eponymous "We Are Here / We Are Everywhere / We Are an Image from the Future" (pp. 165-8), "The media as part of the counter-insurgency" (pp. 169-72), and "A Bedouin Anytime! A Citizen Never." (pp. 197-8; translators not named).

Excerpts: "The other thing we put forward was a discourse against democracy, because many people were saying, what kind of democracy kills children, we need more democracy, and we were trying to deconstruct this whole notion of democracy, to claim that this murder is not an exception, it is the rule of democracy, the rule of the nation-state, the rule of capitalism." (p. 170)

"We despise democracy more than anything else in this decadent world. For what is democracy other than a system of discriminations and coercions in the service of property and privacy? [...] The bourgeois, with a voice trembling from piety, promise: rights, justice, equality. And the revolted hear: repression, exploitation, looting. [...] Our contempt for democracy does not derive from some sort of idealism but rather from our very material animosity for a social entity in which value and organizing are centered around the product and the spectacle." (p. 198)

A.G. Schwarz is the assumed name of a North American living in exile abroad.

Tasos Sagris is a member of the Athens-based Void Network, an arts and action collective established in 1990.

Article: Democracy is not everything: A plea for non-democratic enclaves

Jonathan van Tongeren is the author of an article titled "Democracy is not everything: A plea for non-democratic enclaves", published on 8 November 2010 on the "Christians and Politics Portal" website.

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "As we all know, there is no clear cut case for democracy in the Bible. At best some basic principles about government can be derived from scripture. This explains why some Christians are convinced democrats, while others only tactically accept the democratic rules or principally oppose democracy altogether. [...] Engelbert Dollfuss [...] was the leader of the Austrian Christian Social Party. Now, as a Christian Democrat, he was responsible for the end of the democratic system in Austria in the 1930's. [...] [H]e understood quite well that democracy is not a goal in itself, but that the aim of Christian-Democracy is to serve public justice. Democracy can be a means towards this end, but that is not to say there are no other means towards the same goal. Historically, Christian politicians such as the Dutch leader of the Anti-Revolutionary Party Groen van Prinsterer have criticized the basic tenet of democracy, the 'sovereignty of the people'. Groen believed that all sovereignty comes from God, and [...] that this basic tenet of Christian-Democracy is at odds with a basic tenet of modern democracy [...]; sovereignty lies either with God or with the people. [...]

"[N]eoconservatives and radical democrats [...] assume that democracy is everything. [...] Christian-Democracy is not about a blind faith in the workings of democracy. What Christian-Democrats have historically understood is that the usefulness of democracy is limited. Democracy is just a system of regulating the relations between the different spheres of sovereignty but it should not enter into the realm of the spheres itself. Authority in such spheres is naturally non-democratic. Families don't have a vote who will be in charge for the next four years, the children obey the parents[,] and what would be the point of a faith community without a central point of authority (revelation)? [...] For a long time Christian-Democrats have emphasized the rights of the pre-democratic institutions [...], radical democrats are working to undermine those rights. [...] Christians in politics should reconsider their strategy and focus on strengthening the pre-democratic institutions. Only these enclaves on non-democratic authority can save us from an overdose of democracy."

Jonathan van Tongeren, from Groningen in the Netherlands, was Secretary General of the European Christian Political Youth Network (ECPYN) from 2006 to 2010. ECPYN is the youth organization of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM). Both are associations of political parties and organizations from all over Europe.

Article: State crimes against democracy in the war on terror

Lance deHaven-Smith, "State crimes against democracy in the war on terror: applying the Nuremberg principles to the Bush-Cheney Administration" ("Contemporary Politics", 16 [4], December 2010: pp. 403-20):


Abstract: "This article asks whether, in waging war in the Middle East, the Bush-Cheney Administration developed and executed a conspiracy comparable to the one for which Nazi leaders were tried, convicted, and executed at Nuremberg after World War II. To meet the Nuremberg standards, such a conspiracy must include efforts to subvert the constitutional order. Today, scholars refer to these actions as 'state crimes against democracy' (SCADs). After explicating the Nuremberg standards, the article applies them to the Bush-Cheney Administration's 'war on terror'. The conclusion reached is that evidence of a SCAD-driven conspiracy is extensive and certainly adequate by the Nuremberg standards to warrant investigations and trials."

Excerpts: "To the extent the Bush-Cheney actions mirror the crimes of the Nazis, the administration's moral guilt becomes rather clear even if Bush, Cheney, and other responsible persons are for some reason beyond the reach of the national and international legal systems as they are now constituted. In the Nuremberg war crimes trials, the defendants were charged with, among other crimes, conspiring to [...] transform democratic Germany into a police state by contriving and exploiting threats to the nation's stability and security [...]. Hitler and his associates were charged with staging acts of domestic terrorism, issuing false warnings of impending coups, conducting false-flag attacks on the nation's frontiers, and in other ways mobilizing mass support for authoritarian government and aggressive war. [...]

"The IMT [International Military Tribunal] did not use the term 'state crimes' or 'crimes against democracy', but its jurisdiction and judgments prefigured the SCAD construct [....] [S]tatutory and constitutional reforms should be adopted to strengthen democratic governing institutions so that future presidents cannot repeat past abuses. If, as the evidence indicates, the Bush-Cheney Administration succeeded in hijacking American democracy, the political system was and remains quite vulnerable to SCADs by top officials. [...] The high crimes of the Bush-Cheney Administration show that representative democracy is quite vulnerable to antidemocratic conspiracies in high office."

Lance deHaven-Smith is a Professor in the Reubin O'D. Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University.

11 November 2010

Article: Gambia president may become king

On 8 November 2010, the news agency Associated Press released an article by Dakar/Senegal-based staff writer Artis Henderson titled "His majesty? Gambia president may become king".

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "Gambia's president [...] may soon have a new title in this tiny West African nation: His majesty. Tribal chieftains are touring the country to rally support for President Yahya Jammeh's coronation. 'The president has brought development to the country, and for that he deserves to be crowned King of The Gambia,' said Junkung Camara, chief of the western region of Foni Brefet. [...] Like many rulers in this part of Africa, Jammeh, 45, came to power in the wake of a coup. He was elected president two years later, and is currently serving his third elected term in the tiny country surrounded on three sides by Senegal. If he were crowned king, he could dispense with the formality of elections altogether. [...] Abdoulaye Saine, professor of political science at Miami University in Ohio who specializes in Gambian politics [...] says Jammeh's coronation would give him a new title but would not change anything politically. 'Jammeh is already king,' Saine said. 'He practically owns the country of Gambia. He controls the press, the opposition, the clergy, and the coffers of the state.' While sub-Saharan Africa has just one remaining absolute monarchy – in the southern African nation of Swaziland – other leaders have tried to similarly solidify their role."

07 November 2010

Book: The Chinese Communist Party as Organizational Emperor

Zheng Yongnian, "The Chinese Communist Party as Organizational Emperor: Culture, reproduction and transformation" (Routledge, December 2009):


Publisher's description: "The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the largest and one of the most powerful, political organizations in the world today, which has played a crucial role in initiating most of the major reforms of the past three decades in China. China's rapid rise has enabled the CCP to extend its influence throughout the globe, but the West remains uncertain whether the CCP will survive China's ongoing socio-economic transformation and become a democratic country [sic]. With rapid socio-economic transformation, the CCP has itself experienced drastic changes. Zheng Yongnian argues that whilst the concept of political party in China was imported, the CCP is a Chinese cultural product: it is an entirely different breed of political party from those in the West – an organizational emperor, wielding its power in a similar way to Chinese emperors of the past. Using social and political theory, this book examines the CCP's transformation in the reform era, and how it is now struggling to maintain the continuing domination of its imperial power. The author argues that the CCP has managed these changes as a proactive player throughout, and that the nature of the CCP implies that as long as the party is transforming itself in accordance to socio-economic changes, the structure of party dominion over the state and society will not be allowed to change."

Review: "Throughout his book, Zheng makes the case that the CCP's approach to power is contingent on historical continuity and draws from practices implemented back when the country was ruled by emperors. Though this argument could be exploited to make a case against democratization, it nevertheless makes a valid contribution to our understanding of the party's resistance to Western-style democracy and the ostensible lack of widespread calls for such democracy among ordinary Chinese. [...] Ironically, as Zheng points out, historical continuity, i.e., the reproduction of the organizational emperorship, is also the main driver behind the CCP's need to adapt and embrace Marxism's nemeses, such as capitalism and democratic elements, as Chinese history is rife with examples of rigid systems being overthrown by a counter-hegemonic force. As such, to avoid a similar fate, the CCP has no choice but to open up, which in turn empowers other social classes that must be kept in check lest they overturn the system. 'As long as the CCP is able to reproduce itself as an organizational emperor,' Zheng concludes, 'it is unlikely that China will develop into a Western style of democracy.'" (J. Michael Cole, "Taipei Times")

Zheng Yongnian is Professor and Director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore.