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ajnabi ([personal profile] ajnabi) wrote2010-04-12 12:05 pm

Philosophy of Civilizations: assignment 2, notverygood

and i am so behind. and this was not worth the grief it caused me to even begin to write. (yeah yeah yeah yeah i should be better, this isn't such a big deal, blahblahblah) but anyway, here it is:

Response to Borders, Boundaries, and Citizenship, by Seyla Benhabib

Seyla Benhabib argues for a liberalism that translates more to what she refers to as cosmopolitan federalism, in the tradition of Kant (674). According to her, this translation is necessary in the modern context of immigration and movement that occurs across borders and boundaries, ever increasing with the advent of globalization. She does not scrap the nation-state model but rather says that "only within a framework of sub- and transnational modes of cooperation, representation, and collaboration is it possible to protect the fundamental values of liberal and republican liberty, that is of private and public autonomy" (676).

The problem with globalization is that it only serves the interests of the most powerful/privileged nation-states, even though it seems to undermine the legitimacy of state governance and authority. Nevertheless, what is actually happening is that these powerful sovereign states are participants in and transformers of the process of globalization. Globalization makes it possible for multinational corporations, fundamentally benefiting only certain western powers and in particular the US, to exploit cheap labour elsewhere, among other things. Globalization is only a new technique of imperialism; a transition from colonialism to systemic hegemony.

Benhabib attempts to provide a solution to the marginalization and oppression experienced by migrants, "illegal aliens," undocumented residents of democratic states, etc. She praises the European Union's system of transnational citizenship, though she also recognizes ways in which it has not quite lived up to its ideals yet. However, she proposes their system as a model. The problem with reforms to strict citizenship criteria without actually critiquing liberalist ideology, though, is that the very nature of liberal ideology necessitates that people get left out of it. By presupposing that there can be a "universal" charter of human rights, room for difference becomes smaller and tighter. Although with several reforms there can be room for difference, and "concessions" to groups that are marginalized, I would argue, again, that the very fact that various groups are and will be marginalized is woven into the fabric of liberal ideology.

People are different, and have different needs, and some of those needs (rights) will not apply to other people. The construction of democratic nation-states is very much based on universal ideology. The rule of the "majority" will always create dialectics of majority and minority, wherein the "majority" may or may not actually be the majority, but will have privilege in decision-making and creating laws. The very idea of majority rule is problematic because people cannot be simply divided up into majorities and minorities. The idea of the individual, predicated on universal ideas of what it means to be a human being, does not recognize the fact of interdependence or that individuals comprise communities and not only that but communities also comprise individuals. I am not just myself; I am made by my context -- the interpenetration of biology, histories, movements, environments, social interactions, communities, etc. Any attempt at separation is artificial, reductionist and exclusionary.

The ideal of the individual isolates human beings and tries to find something fundamental to them. In this process of finding fundamental characteristics that are universal to all individuals, difference gets excluded or marginalized. In order to truly tackle various political problems, including citizenship, I think the links between liberalism (individualism), western colonialism and imperialism, and oppression must be fully realized.

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