Article of the month: The transparency delusion

It's 1848 and a French engraving of a Parisian worker with a ballot paper in one hand and a rifle in the other circulates as French citizens receive the universal right to vote. Flash forward to 2012. Mother Jones magazine posts online footage shot secretly on a smartphone of Mitt Romney's "47 per cent remarks" at a fundraiser. The use of a smartphone as a recording device significantly alters the public perception of the US presidential candidate. Comparable cases emerge elsewhere, whether with reference to Chinese officials suspected of corruption or to the abuses of the Syrian regime.

Such are the sources that Ivan Krastev uses to frame the questions he explores in "The transparency delusion", an extract from his new book In Mistrust We Trust:

"The question of trust in democracy is a question of power. In order to know how strong a ballot is in a voter’s hand, we should know what the voter has in his other hand. And this begs the critical questions that modern democracies face: Is it realistic to believe that a voter who has a ballot in one hand and a smartphone in the other can revive our democracy? Is it realistic to believe that in the context of waning national loyalties and 'liberated elites' transparency can save democracy?"

While "it is hardly accidental that the recent wave of popular protests around the world coincided with the spread of smartphones," Krastev suspects that "today's popular obsession with transparency", coupled with the use of new technologies, amounts to little more than the "management of mistrust". And a society of spies is unlikely to provide a sound basis for a thriving democracy: "The citizen with the smartphone acts in the world of politics the same way he acts in the sphere of the market. He tries to change society simply by monitoring and leaving. But it is the readiness to stay and change reality that is at the heart of democratic politics."

Ivan Krastev
The transparency delusion

This article is available in English

New in the Eurozine Gallery: Henrihs Vorkals

In cooperation with Studija, the Eurozine Gallery presents Latvian artist Henrihs Vorkals in a new exhibition, entitled Romantic transformations. The selection of works provides insight into the range of Vorkals's ouvre, which incorporates watercolour, oils, screenprinting, textiles, and more.

Two essays accompany the exhibition. Curator Mark Allen Svede reflects on Vorkals's relation to Pop Art by asking: Can Latvia have its own Andy Warhol? In the process, he celebrates Vorkals's "layering of imagery and multiplicity of iconographic registers."

Meanwhile, curator and art historian Laine Kristberga approaches the works from the perspective of "a window on the world". She describes Vorkals as "a conceptually thinking perfectionist", who has always had a contemporary view on art, even during the Soviet era.

Visit the exhibition in the Eurozine Gallery

Prestigious prize to Klaus-Michael Bogdal

The 2013 Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding goes to German literary scholar Klaus-Michael Bogdal for his book Europa erfindet die Zigeuner. The international jury in Leipzig called his work "epoch-making".

Last year, Bogdal contributed a very readable article, "Europe invents the Gypsies", to the Eurozine focal point European histories, where he sums up some of the theses in his book. These are primarily concerned with the dark side of modernity, with social segregation and cultural appropriation. In short, Bogdal perceives the six-hundred-year history of the European Roma, as recorded in literature and art, to represent the underside of the European subject's self-invention as agent of civilizing progress in the world.
Read Klaus-Michael Bogdal's Europe invents the Gypsies

New articles

Ivan Krastev
The transparency delusion
Disillusionment with democracy founded on mistrust of business and political elites has prompted a popular obsession with transparency. But the management of mistrust cannot remedy voters' loss of power and may spell the end for democratic reform.

This article is available in English

Eurozine Review
It's not always the economy, stupid
"Spilne" says it's not the economy, at least not on the radical right; "Kulturos barai" learns to flourish within limits; "Merkur" declares solidarity sovereignty's foe; "Esprit" publishes Ricœur's unpublished piece on God; "Free Speech Debate" won't compromise: we must be able to talk about this; "Dilema veche" compiles a dossier on the dissidents of today; "Osteuropa" pays homage to Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski; "Host" hits the books fairs; "Springerin" enters the archives, and finds life; "Sodobnost" celebrates the symbiosis of law and literature; and "Ord&Bild" tells of an outsourced dissertation.

This article is available in English

Alina Polyakova
Let's stop blaming the economy
Radical right parties in central eastern Europe

Alina Polyakova questions the assumption that the rise of the radical right in central and eastern Europe is rooted in economic conditions. Looking at the consequences of post-socialist civil society for liberal democracy will render a more realistic picture, she writes.

This article is available in English
Dominique Mongin
Cyber attacks
Weapons of war in a time of peace

Dominique Mongin argues that security threats originating in cyberspace should now be treated with the same level of concern as those emanating from the nuclear arms race post-WWII. This means nothing less than the complete redefinition of defence strategies.

This article is available in French

Rainer Hank
Sovereignty, not solidarity
A plea for the sovereignty of Europe's nation-states

As state sovereignty unravels, citizens lose trust in political institutions and the insidious hollowing out of democracy ensues, Rainer Hank rails against the "repressive power that the pressure of solidarity exercises over the parliaments of donor states".

This article is available in German

Laine Kristberga
Henrihs Vorkals: A window on the world

Not only does Henrihs Vorkals play with your consciousness and sense of perception, writes art historian Laine Kristberga. He also makes you think about the formal values of art and the illusory nature of a painting.

This article is available in English

Mark Allen Svede
Can Latvia have its own Andy Warhol?

Curator Mark Allen Svede finds that Henrihs Vorkals' recurring fascination with Andy Warhol is manifested not least in his violation of the aesthetics of a Warhol original. The layering of imagery and multiplicity of iconographic registers that ensues is at once enchanting and troubling.

This article is available in English

Lloyd Newson, Maryam Omidi
Staging free speech

Lloyd Newson tackles issues of free speech, Islam and multiculturalism in his recent verbatim theatre production, which combines text drawn from interviews with movement. This is the point of departure for an interview with Maryam Omidi.

This article is available in English

Béla Nóvé
The Orphans of '56
Hungarian child refugees and their stories

European histories Of the 200,000 Hungarian refugees who fled Hungary following the Soviet invasion in 1956, close to 20,000 were "unaccompanied minors". Shortly after the fifty-sixth anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, historian and former dissident Béla Nóvé traces their life stories.

This article is available in English

Ewa Hess, Hennric Jokeit

The fear of depression, dementia and attention deficit disorder legitimizes the boom in neuro-psychotropic drugs. In a performance-driven society that confronts the self with its own shortcomings, neuroscience serves an expanding market.

This article is now available in Ukrainian, German, English and Lithuanian

Eurozine Review
Making the negligible considerable

"Blätter" foresees the avoidable yet certain end to the crises; "Il Mulino" can't see the nation state making an exit any time soon; "Index on Censorship" surveys the world's digital frontiers; "Dialogi" comes face to face with direct democracy; "New Humanist" takes on the miracle mongers; "Gegenworte" pleads for a universal science; "Mittelweg 36" revisits the interwar period; "Lettera internazionale" dwells upon the threshold between nature and culture; "Revolver Revue" realizes that fame might be more easily won at home than abroad; and "Studija" visits the ruins of postwar avant-garde art.

This article is available in English

Lutz Raphael
Imperial violence and national mobilization

Lutz Raphael advances an interpretative paradigm for European history in the first half of the twentieth century that focuses on Europe's global interdependencies - and will enhance our understanding of the era's world wars, unrestrained violence and ideological confrontation.

This article is available in German

Mathias Gatza
Infinite worlds
Or how I became a universal genius

And then it happened. Mathias Glatza became a universal genius. At first he had a wonderful feeling, as everything began to make sense. Then he started to groan under the burden and was forced to conclude that it is not much fun being a genius after all.

This article is available in German

Claus Offe
Europe in the trap

Claus Offe opts for democracy over "TINA" logic ("there is no alternative"), which only leads to a politics that fails to provide the electorate with choices. And therein lies the trap. Only more solidarity and more democracy, he argues, can rescue the Eurozone from the brink of collapse.

This article is available in German

Jonathan Miller, Laurie Taylor
A conversation with Jonathan Miller

"It's hardly worth having a word to describe not believing in God. I don't believe in witches, but I don't call myself an ahexist." At a Rationalist Association event in London, Laurie Taylor gets up close and personal with Britain's leading public intellectual.

This article is available in English

Jennifer Granick
Damage control

As online freedom comes under attack from big business and governments, Jennifer Granick charts the legal and regulatory landscape surrounding the Internet. And warns against deviating from the Internet's original design as a global open network.

This article is available in English

Sabine Nuss
Contested copyright

Underlying the debate on intellectual property is an ideological faultline between capitalist models and alternatives, writes Sabine Nuss. Although a property approach to intellectual goods has major disadvantages it remains the lesser of many evils.

This article is now available in English and German

Boris Vezjak
Slovenia's uprising

Protests at the end of 2012 in Slovenia caught the attention of international newspapers. Boris Vezjak asks what the goal of this "uprising" - suddenly a universally popular concept - is, and whether it might represent more than merely an isolated incident.

This article is available in English

Molly Scott Cato, Almantas Samalavicius
Flourishing within limits
A conversation with green economist Molly Scott Cato

Molly Scott Cato is willing to acknowledge the extraordinary advances that economic growth has brought. However, she insists that only by learning to flourish within limits can we hope to regain our sense of the good life.

This article is available in English

Rainer Just
Against love
Seeking the literary traces of the Natascha Kampusch affair

"The birth of love out of the spirit of totalitarianism expressed itself in exemplary manner in the Kampusch abduction story. A person is shut in, all the others shut out -- that is the ideological core of romantic love."

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

If you have questions or comments, please write to us:

To unsubscribe, follow this link.

Eurozine Imprint
Phone: +43-1-334 29 80
Fax: +43-1-334 29 80-20
Postal address: Dürergasse 14-16/8, A-1060 Vienna, Austria

Eurozine Newsletter: 02/2013