Article of the month: Show the poor!

At the latest since Occupy! and the slogan "we are the 99 per cent", inequality has been at the forefront of the American political discourse, while comparison with the Great Depression lurks menacingly in the background. In terms of cultural policy, at least, the comparison with the 1930s is telling, writes Alice Béja in an article first published in Esprit. Obama, she suggests, should take a leaf out the book of his social democratic forefather Franklin Roosevelt, who encouraged writers, photographers and artists to go out and "show America to Americans" -- thus laying the foundations for a stock of iconic images and narratives that redefined the national identity.

Culture during the Great Depression, says Béja, "became a political tool aimed at creating nationwide awareness of the gravity of the crisis, at the same time encouraging a sense of national solidarity that would make the necessary responses more palatable." Funding was given to plays, concerts and mural paintings, while professional writers, photographers, artists and musicians were enlisted to "give suffering a face". Newspapers also contributed to the documentary drive: it was for the San Francisco News, Béja recalls, that John Steinbeck began to write about the migrant sharecroppers forced to try their luck in California.

"It was those emaciated bodies, those hollow faces with their sunken eyes, the ragged overalls of the sharecroppers, that recurred throughout the works of Dorothea Lange, Margaret Bourke-White, Walker Evans, John Steinbeck, Erskine Caldwell and James Agee. It is their decrepit shacks, the wagons on which they stacked their whole world, their shyly smiling children, whom we meet, returned to life by every sentence in the novels and through every photograph. Why? Because they are the anti-American dream. They represent the alternative history, the story no one wanted to tell, one that for years was being written between the lines of the national narrative, which until then could only harp on about progress."

Alice Béja
Show the poor!
Returning to the art of the Great Depression

This article is now available in English and French

New Eurozine partner: Krytyka Polityczna

Polish journal Krytyka Polityczna (Political Critique) has joined the Eurozine network. First published in 2002, Krytyka Polityczna has become a major voice on the Polish Left. The magazine publishes journalism, political philosophy, sociology, literature and literary criticism, contemporary art, film and theatre. Each issue is devoted to a single core topic, combining contributions by international and Polish authors.

Krytyka Polityczna also runs a publishing house, website, think-tank and network of clubs throughout Poland; it employs 120 staff members and is supported by 2000 activists, with branches in Ukraine and London. Writing in New Republic in June 2012, Michael Kazin credited Krytyka Polityczna with having "accomplished something their American counterparts have been unable to achieve since the heyday of the feminist movement in the 1970s: They have begun to make cultural and political radicalism seem a pleasurable, intellectually exciting, even moral way to live."

More about Krytyka Polityczna, including the current table of contents

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New articles

Alice Béja
Show the poor!
Returning to the art of the Great Depression
When Roosevelt insisted that photographers and writers document the Great Depression, they produced iconic work that allowed America to doubt its myths but also to get back on track. So where are today's Dorothea Langes and John Steinbecks?

This article is now available in English and French

Claudia Ciobanu
Rio+20: We're on our own
Paralysed by stand-offs between developing nations and the West, the Rio+20 summit produced nothing but vague commitments. Instead, governments and corporations opted for a go-it-alone approach. Reporting from Rio, Claudia Ciobanu discerns opportunities nonetheless.

This article is available in English

Pauline van Mourik Broekman
Ten ways to survive an art crazy nation
Notes on critical publishing in a UK context
In order to obtain public funding, cultural organizations in the UK must comply with indicators such as impact, effectiveness and financial viability. The publisher of "Mute" magazine discusses the implications of this purely instrumental view of culture in policy making.

This article is available in English
Timothy Snyder
Holocaust: The ignored reality
Auschwitz and the Gulag are generally taken to be adequate or even final symbols of the evil of mass slaughter. But they are only the beginning of knowledge, a hint of the true reckoning with the past still to come, writes Timothy Snyder.

This article is now available in German, English, Estonian, French, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, and Turkish

Wolfgang Knöbl
Imperial rule and violence
Colonial rule was stable only where it could rely on local cooperation. Frequently, the massive use of violence was the only possibility of demonstrating imperial claims to power. Given the fragility of colonial structures, then, can one speak of "domination"?

This article is available in German
Rein Müllerson
Towards a multipolar and diverse world?
"Not only simplistic, but also extremely dangerous." Rein Müllerson critiques the progressivist faith of both classical Marxism and free-market capitalism, at the same time asking how far universal claims for social justice are reconcilable with the multipolar global system.

This article is available in English
Michael R. Krätke
Europe at the crossroads?
The revolt in the eurozone against austerity has begun, writes Michael Krätke. To explain the global financial crisis as a "crisis of national debt" is to confuse cause and effect, he argues. By now even IMF economists make fun of this quirk of the German mainstream.

This article is available in German

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Ieva Lesinska
The proud Estonian
An interview with Toomas Hendrik Ilves
A psychology degree from Columbia, a career at Radio Liberty and a penchant for "alternative rock", Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves is the image of the modern statesman. In interview, he enthuses about online healthcare systems, data rights and NATO military bases.

This article is available in English, Latvian and Russian

Bob Massie, Almantas Samalavicius
Economics, sustainability and the legacy of E.F. Schumacher
An interview with Bob Massie
American priest, politician and social activist Bob Massie talks about how the ideas of Ernst Friedrich Schumacher can inform a transition to an alternative economy and why the author of "Small is Beautiful" still has something to say to a secularized, European audience.

This article is available in English and Lithuanian

Roland Benedikter
Austerity plus growth: Europe's winning combination?
The revival of the parliamentary Left in France, Italy and Greece brings hope for an egalitarian turn in European crisis management. Yet many citizens also fear that the zig zag course will nullify their previous sacrifices in the name of austerity, warns Roland Benedikter.

This article is available in English

Ulrich Beck, Ulrich Bielefeld, Nikola Tietze
More justice through more Europe
An interview with Ulrich Beck
While discrepancies between EU member states can be overlooked during win-win periods of growth, recession triggers xenophobic and anti-European reactions in both rich and poor countries. In interview, Ulrich Beck explains how inequality leaves the Union susceptible to decay.

This article is now available in German, English and Hungarian

Tom Van Imschoot
Literary perspectives: Flanders
In the last decade, Flemish fiction has stepped out of the shadow of its Dutch older sister, writes Tom Van Imschoot. One discernable trend is the turn from metafiction towards various forms of realism, be it the regional, the semi-autobiographical or the "virtual". 12.06.2012

This article is now available in Catalan, Czech, English and Lithuanian

Jonas Thente
Literary perspectives: Sweden
Beyond crime fiction, handbags and designer suits
Recent literary debates in Sweden have dwelled, among things, on authors' love lives and penchant for designer handbags. Yet there is more out there if one looks: Hans Koppel's satire of suburban manners, for example, or Magnus Hedlund's explorations of human perception.

This article is now available in Czech, German, English, Estonian, Hungarian, Lithuanian and Swedish

Sverker Sörlin
The new boundaries of mankind
Modernist humanism, in which individual rights and freedoms are won at the expense of the natural world, is entering into ever greater tension with the new emphasis on interconnectedness. Sverker Sörlin on the scientific renegotiation of concepts of humanity and nature.

This article is now available in English, Hungarian and Swedish

Göran Rosenberg
A pluralist democracy
The democracies of today can remain democracies only if they are able to negotiate pluralism and communality, conflict and justice, rationality and identity. Federation is a possible response to this challenge, writes Göran Rosenberg.

This article is now available in English, French, Hungarian, Norwegian and Swedish
Ida Börjel
European waistlines
Swedish poet Ida Börjel confronts us with our favourite and most insulting national prejudices about ourselves and our European neighbours. But does she confirm them?

This article is now available in English, Estonian, Hungarian and Swedish

Steve Sem-Sandberg
Even nameless horrors must be named
It is high time to lift the aesthetic state of emergency that has surrounded witness literature for so long, writes Steve Sem-Sandberg. It is not important who writes, nor even what their motives are. What counts is the "literary efficiency".

This article is now available in Czech, German, English and Swedish

Stelios Kouloglu, Victor Tsilonis
"The bubble has burst in our faces"
An interview with journalist Stelios Kouloglou
The Greek media "failed completely" to predict the consequences of debt-fuelled reality loss, says journalist Stelios Kouloglou in interview. The very sector whose job it was to burst the bubble played a major role in creating and preserving it, he argues.

This article is available in English

Remi Nilsen
The power of debt
The creditor-debtor relationship has today become the dominant force in society. Yet, as David Graeber has demonstrated, debt as an instrument of power has been around since time immemorial. Remi Nilsen draws conclusions for a post-crisis order.

This article is available in English

Andri Snær Magnason
How to get into and out of an economic crisis
From Scandinavian democracy to target of British anti-terror laws: the whole world knows about the Icelandic crash, but how did the country get itself into such a mess? Andri Snær Magnason tells a saga of privatizations, overreaching and astronomical pay checks.

This article is available in English and Hungarian

Eurozine Review
The invisible guillotine
"Magyar Lettre" says the moral of the Icelandic economic saga is...; "Free Speech Debate" thinks less data protection is good for privacy; "Res Publica Nowa" calls football culture a symptom of festive post-tribalism; "Ny Tid" wants Finland to talk about its concentration camps; "Merkur" warns against physiognomic literalism; "Sodobnost" speculates on art's role beyond Hegelian finality; "Multitudes" conceptualizes the transmigrant; "Arena" sticks up for relativism; "Dziejaslou" has no time for conceptual art and all that nonsense; "La Revue Nouvelle" finds the seeds of change in the regions.

This article is available in English

Benoît Lévesque
Crises and social innovation
Surveying the cyclical relationship between crisis and innovation, Belgian sociologist Benoît Lévesque says the current situation is unique in precluding a return to old ways. Transformation must come through community based experiments and economic devolution.

This article is available in French

Maryam Omidi
A day in the life of a climate scientist
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, says "climate change sceptics" also enjoy the right to free speech yet advises the media to take more care in identifying the credentials of "experts".

This article is available in English

David Erdos
Data protection vs. freedom of speech
A new EU data regulation directive fails to relax unduly tight restrictions on collecting and distributing data, writes David Erdos. Despite exemptions for use of private data in journalistic, artistic and research contexts, freedom of expression is still downgraded in European legislation.

This article is available in English

Thomas Hettche
Enemy contact
On the forgotten art of soldiership
A memorial to Germany's dead soldiers prompts Thomas Hettche to ask why society today knows no appropriate way to deal with war and violence. The answer requires a return to Carl Schmitt's theory of enmity and Ernst Jünger's WW1 memoir "In Stahlgewittern".

This article is available in German

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Eurozine Newsletter: 07/2012