Monday, February 20, 2017

"Sabsay invokes Wendy Brown’s understanding of liberal rights as that which we cannot not want. In her most recent book, Brown persuasively argues that neoliberalism undermines the very bases of liberal democracy, which, however, she insists, should remain the point of departure for those who oppose neoliberalism in order to bring about what liberalism promises but never delivers. I find this an inadequate framework, let alone an ideal political agenda to resist neoliberalism. Brown is not blind to the horrific record of liberal democracy on the question of race, gender, class, and governance more generally, but she still believes that liberal democracy carries “the language and promise of shared political equality, freedom, and popular sovereignty,” to which we must strive. I have always been wary of this dominant academic and intellectual preference for the language and promise of liberalism. For example, would Brown or any American liberal ever be able to overcome their internalization of American Cold War propaganda against the Soviet Union and agree to posit Soviet socialism as our point of departure to resist neoliberalism based on the language and promise of Soviet socialism? After all, Soviet socialism provided so much more than liberalism even promised to deliver on the questions of race, gender, and class. Soviet socialism guaranteed the Soviet peoples the right to work, the right to housing, to free education, free healthcare, free daycare, among other social benefits. While the Soviet system was highly restrictive of political and cultural rights and was run by a Eurocentric managerial class of party apparatchiks who had disproportionate benefits, often captured by the term “state capitalism,” why could the socialist and social democratic promises of the USSR and its 1936 Constitution which promised a future democratic communist society not be chosen as a point of departure to combat neoliberalism, let alone liberalism and its false promises, in the hope of striving and fighting for what Soviet socialism promised but did not and could not deliver? Here, I believe that Sara Farris’s insistence in her comments on my book on the importance of the much-ignored economic, a point with which Islam in Liberalism is in full agreement, as the central question to be asked when it comes to Europe’s relationship to “Islam,” Muslim refugees, and Muslim women, offers a more promising approach on which to base our resistance to liberalism and neoliberalism. Abandoning the discourse of rights and the governmentality it enshrines globally is not therefore an abandonment of the horizon of “freedom, justice, or equality,” but rather of the liberal onto-epistemology that makes them intelligible, as Sabsay fully recognizes. Here, my sense is that it is socialism that we cannot not want—not liberalism.

— Joseph Massad

No comments: