thenextwave

Changing questions suggest different political landscapes

Posted in emerging issues, politics by thenextwavefutures on 22 June, 2007

The current issue of New Left Review has an intriguing introduction from its guest editor Malcolm Bull:

A selection of the most pressing political questions of the moment might include the following: should women wear headscarves? May we buy and sell our bodily organs? How can we control the weather? [My emphasis]

And he continues:

“The questions sound almost frivolous, and they are certainly not matters on which the canonical texts and traditions of political theory give much purchase. (What is a conservative position on the hijab? A socialist view of organ harvesting? A liberal policy on climate change?) That such issues should simultaneously be among the most debated of our time suggests a fundamental transformation in the landscape of politics.”

Bull attempts to address the question by theming his guest issue of NLR about ‘biopolitics’, maybe itself a new category of discourse, where health, the environment and biodiversity meet political economy. But phrased the way he has phrased it, it’s clearly a sign of a shift in public discourse. They aren’t questions which would have been given any time in serious places even five years ago, let alone a decade.

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