Free World: Why a Crisis of the West Reveals the Opportunity of Our Time

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Contents

  1. Free world : why a crisis of the West reveals the opportunity of our time
  2. Slavoj Žižek reviews ‘Free World’ by Timothy Garton Ash · LRB 2 September
  3. Find a copy in the library
  4. Out from the shadows
  5. RELATED CATEGORIES

In political terms, this triad can be read as German conservatism, French revolutionary radicalism and English liberalism. In terms of the predominance of one sphere of social life, it is German metaphysics and poetry versus French politics and English economics.

Free world : why a crisis of the West reveals the opportunity of our time

The point about toilets is that they enable us not only to discern this triad in the most intimate domain, but also to identify its underlying mechanism in the three different attitudes towards excremental excess: It is easy for an academic at a round table to claim that we live in a post-ideological universe, but the moment he visits the lavatory after the heated discussion, he is again knee-deep in ideology. The Germans worry about the inertia of their economy, as if, in postponing economic reforms indefinitely, they were persisting in an attitude which turns around their own saying: And what if there was a further shift of terms?

We might then see the United Kingdom focused on culture cultural tolerance and lack of pretension could serve as an antidote to French elitism and excessive German seriousness ; France focused on the economy which, against all expectations, has done rather well in recent decades ; and — surprise — Germany focused on politics is the political life of the Bundesrepublik not a triumph of reasoned debate over blind passion? So far so good. In the second half of the book, however, Garton Ash passes to a general diagnosis of the threats to freedom since the end of the Cold War, and the tone becomes dogmatic and simplistic, and the proposed solutions hopelessly naive.

And what is one to say of his tendency to moralistic platitude? We can afford it. This link is self-evident in the case of ecological problems and the poverty gap between North and South.

Slavoj Žižek reviews ‘Free World’ by Timothy Garton Ash · LRB 2 September

Is the rise of Islamism not conditioned by the refusal of Muslim civilisation to accept the social dynamics of capitalism? Is the strange turn in China not to do with the fact that it is a Communist state which has fully endorsed a capitalist economy? The question should therefore be put at a more general level than Garton Ash would like: The only argument for the war against Iraq was repeatedly put by Christopher Hitchens: To this majority, the caution expressed by Western liberals could only appear deeply hypocritical.

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A typical middle-class Western leftist has no right to despise a Cuban who has decided to leave Cuba not only because of political disenchantment, but also because of poverty and hunger. I remember from the early s dozens of Western leftists who proudly proclaimed that Yugoslavia still existed, and reproached me for betraying the opportunity to prolong that existence — to which I answered that I was not yet ready to lead my life to avoid disappointing the dreams of Western leftists. There are few things more worthy of contempt, few attitudes more ideological if this word has any meaning today, it is here than a tenured Western academic leftist patronising an Eastern European from a Communist country who longs for liberal democracy and some consumer goods.


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One should ask the naive question: The post-Cold War situation called for a global power to fill the void. In fact, the US continues to act as a nation-state, ruthlessly pursuing its own interests.

Find a copy in the library

This contradiction is amply illustrated by the twin pressures the US was exerting on Serbia last year: No wonder the Serb reaction was one of perplexed fury. Garton Ash is well aware that the same logic of exception applies to economic relations. In this way, it is easy to circumvent environmental and health legislation: It would have cost little and a bit of serious pressure on the Serb forces would have ended the prolonged spectacle of the encircled Sarajevo, exposed to ridiculous levels of terror.

So why was nothing done? There is only one answer to this: You give them to the poor.

Out from the shadows

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