Written by: Terry Link
Primary Source: Possibilitator
The trip to the MSU Libraries new book shelf earlier this week brought me in contact with five titles that escorted me home. I picked up a new book from Mary Midgley, a 94 year old British moral philosopher, Are You an Illusion?
“Midgley argues powerfully and persuasively that the rich variety of our imaginative life cannot be contained in the narrow bounds of a highly puritanical materialism that simply equates brain and self.” [from the blurb on the back cover]. After reading the intro, I decided this was more dense than I was ready for at the moment.
Slovenian political scientist Ziga Vodovnik‘s A Living Spirit of Revolt: The Infrapolitics of Anarchism jumped out at me in part from a quote on the cover
from the forward by Howard Zinn, “It is time to breathe some clean, refreshing air into the stale, nonsense-filled discussions of anarchism which have occupied the attention of people on all sides of the political spectrum – right, left and center. This is what Ziga Vodovnik sets out to do in his original and imaginative analysis of anarchism.” This one I will at least read the intro in the coming weeks to see if the author clearly conveys some new insights that I want to chew on. I read in my early college years a fair amount on the development of anarchistic thought, and found much that resonated with me. Will this reignite any of that?
Ward died in 2010 at age 85 after a long career as public intellectual engaged with urban and education issues. Another anarchist thinker it turns out whose name I have run across many times without ever really reading any of his work. I assume I’ll consume a few of these brief essays/talks in the coming weeks.
I’ve read a great deal on this topic over the past 45 years in trying to more deeply appreciate and understand the possibilities of nonviolence. Of particular interest will be his specific analysis of nonviolence in relation to major religions of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism.
But it is the fifth title that has captivated me the past few mornings. Richard Falk’s (Re)Imagining Humane Global Governance.
It was only six weeks ago that I blogged and made reference to an article by Falk that I called A MUST READ. In it Falk’s shares briefly his notion of “citizen pilgrims”, which he delves more into in this book.
“I have favored an orientation toward citizenship that is animated by time as well as space, regarding the primary role of citizen to be working toward and embodying a sustainable and just future, a work in progress specified as ‘humane global governance’. I call this kind of citizen ‘a citizen pilgrim’, conceiving of pilgrimage as a journey to a desired re-creation of global governance that may or may not be attainable within the course of a lifetime. Of course, there is no defining telos for the citizen pilgrim, as each horizon of aspiration reached will generate a new horizon and start from a different point of departure. This commitment to re-creation of governance implies an understanding of ‘the political’ in the sense of deployed by Sheldon Wolin as ‘the commitment to finding the common good’. (p.48)
There is so much to sink one’s teeth into in this book. Falk’s larger vision of international relations and his own self-discovery over many decades of scholarship and activity are inspiring. The 83 year old professor emeritus of international law at Princeton, has been the UN’s Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories. His experience in international relations as well as his sense of long-term possibilities aligns closely with what we think of as ‘sustainability’ thinking. His writing evokes what British educator Richard Barnett discusses in his work about Imagining the University, of which I have blogged about several times in the past year in use of language a round ‘imagining’, ‘feasible’, and a democratic ethos of exploring what might be possible.
This is one of the well footnoted books that has me constantly expanding my reading list. a perfect example is his quote above to a work by Sheldon Wolin , Democracy Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (2008) Princeton University Press.
That scholars like Falk can pull together diverse scholarship, encapsulate it into a coherent whole is such a gift, and there is so much of this good work in so many fields. I doubt if there are any two people alive or dead who have the exact same reading journey. This diversity of intellectual paths stimulates cross-pollination and the idea of what humanity might do together seems therefore to make what seemed impossible, possible.