domingo, 5 de outubro de 2014

Nitzan Lebovic on nihilism and Israel

LEBOVIC, Nitzan. The history of nihilism and the limits of political critique (Rethinking History, 2014)

This article by Nitzan Lebovic in the forthcoming edition of Rethinking History discusses the history of the concept of nihilism, later on taking Israel as a case study of its uses. Here are two quotes, the first indicating a general conclusion, the second a more specific one:

“The evolution of the concept of nihilism up until today demonstrates that the concept of nihilism is situated in the crowded crossroad between nothingness, the undermining of authority, the negation of the I, the inherent ambivalence of meaning, the suspension of time, the Death of God, and the end of metaphysics. The revival of nihilism in our own time shows that after ‘the end of time,’ the end of a historical era, the death – literal or metaphorical – of a sovereign, when only a shade of legitimate power is left, a nihilist revolutionary project often represents a desperate confrontation with the frozen time, by striving for an absolute new beginning and assuming the inevitability of a substantial destructive act. When change is stalled, nihilism builds on the stasis of the period and has no problem accelerating its end, with violent means if needed.”

“If nihilism signified during the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries, the ‘annihilation’ of sovereign power, nihilism in the present is nothing more than a critical tactics of undermining legitimacy, used by both the ruler and the ruled. Still, as such, it is a sharp mirror that reflects where the ‘common–exceptional’ or ‘normal–abnormal’ distinctions end. In Israel, the open space for legitimate democratic critique in the public sphere has shrunk dramatically and the ‘abnormal’ is now fully eclipsing the ‘normal’: the continuous refusal of the Israeli government, since 2001, to discuss attainable solutions to a century-long conflict, and the ongoing effort to win larger territory under the guise of weakness and victimhood, signified to this group not only a false argument, but a cynical tactic meant to silence any opposition and critical discourse by labeling it ‘nihilist.’”

Further reading

Catastrophes: The History and Theory of an Operative Concept, edited by Nitzan Lebovic and Andreas Killen

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