Trump, Theresa, and the special relationship

Since his inauguration there has been a criticism from the Left about Theresa May’s closeness to Donald Trump and more recently her refusal explicitly and directly to condemn Trump’s weasel words about the terrorist violence by the white nationalists in Charlottesville. This seems to me like misdirected ire. It would be remarkable indeed in a British Prime Minister directly condemned an action or declaration by a US president. The entire political context of the relationship between the two Premiers acts against it. Continue reading “Trump, Theresa, and the special relationship”

The far-right and the political aesthetics of public violence

The extreme right are always on the margins but always at the heart of Western electoral democracy. For large periods of time, they dwindle in small factious and conspiratorial groupuscules. But, in specific moments, they seize the mainstream political agenda, generate major political crises, and get pervasive media attention in ways that often give the appearance that a major far-right insurgency or ‘revolution’ is imminent.

How is this possible and what does it mean for an anti-fascist agenda? Continue reading “The far-right and the political aesthetics of public violence”

Africa’s developed politics, the West’s underdeveloped interventions

* Spoiler alert: in the interests of brevity and clarity, I am going to make lots of huge generalisations throughout this blog *


West is best?

In Britain and the West more generally, there is a long-standing, entrenched, and powerful assumption that African politics is broken. One constantly comes across statements and arguments about African politics in which the core image is that it is fundamentally characterised as some combination of dysfunctional and lacking the right properties. Continue reading “Africa’s developed politics, the West’s underdeveloped interventions”

Africa and Development in the age of the SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals encourage more and better aid. They also sustain a long-standing succession of big picture global aid visions which connect and conflate aid and development. This blog, taken from a keynote presentation, questions the merits of this conflation and offers some new and old pointers for development research outside of the aid-development nexus.

Continue reading “Africa and Development in the age of the SDGs”

It’s not just about us

Europe endures a sporadic but constant stream of terrorist attacks in its cities. These are carried out by individuals or small groups. Larger attacks in London, Madrid and Paris involve bombings and mass shootings. Smaller attacks by individuals involve assaults and the running down of civilians.

It is extremely easy to exaggerate these events, to draw them together and in a sense reach upwards for a grand narrative about a new kind of war or a global siege. For racists, there is a fatuous fallacy of composition in which these despicable acts serve as evidence of what Islam is generally. But, the plain fact is that Europe is a large, powerful and resilient region which, in a sober and historicised reckoning, has been troubled by far greater disturbances, most of these emerging from within its own borders throughout its troubled negotiations of difference, sameness, and rivalry. Terrorism challenges our sense of proportion, a balance between a recognition of horrifying acts of violence and a sense that they tell do not come anywhere near to an ‘existential threat’ for European societies which remain resilient, diverse, and socially-energised. Far less do these terrorist acts tell us anything essential about Islam, although it is in a full consideration of modern Islam that one might find a different sense of perspective.

Continue reading “It’s not just about us”

Endgame politics

This is a bad time to indulge in futurology. The presence of ‘shock’ political events encourages all kinds of hyperbolae. The historiography of predictive political analysis is an embarrassment of errors. Looking at a recent set of changes and announcing a ‘new’ something or other distracts from deeper continuities or similarities with times passed.

Nevertheless. It seems to me that there is a bundle of political practices that – whilst I make no claim to their novelty – have become increasingly prominent and can be understood collectively as a repertoire, that is, a mutually-reinforcing set of political practices. They also reflect some of the broader changes taking place. So, this futurology is less prediction punditry than sense seeking with a view to understanding possible futures. It is also, in part, a warning. Continue reading “Endgame politics”

Populism is the new panic

Populism is the new panic-word for the broad centre of liberal-democratic politics. This is in large part because of its association with the Right and even fascism. The populism of UKIP or Trump aims to create a homogenised constituency of ‘the people’, racialised and hostile to those outside their categorical borders. This is not to say that this ‘people’ actually exist. I will go on to argue that they do not. But, the term ‘populism’ does tend to raise the spectre of this political force, either as an actually-existing political community or as one emerging from the left-behind zones, fertilised by the venal and bombastic politicians who call them to the ballot box. Continue reading “Populism is the new panic”