About the arts and ideas - on my novels and literature, music, and art

A new book about Beethoven gathers together (and completely rewrites and supplements) my blog posts on Beethoven into a short introduction to the composer, Ways of Hearing Beethoven, which I hope to see published. My novel The Fall of the Berlin Wall, completed a year ago, is about musicians and particularly the intense, irrepressible daughter of the legendary pianist featured in my previous novel Hungry Generations, now fifteen years after those events. Five years ago, my 2015 novel, The Ash Tree, was published by West of West Books in conjunction with the April 24, 2015 centenary of the Armenian genocide; it's about an Armenian-American family and the sweep of their history in the twentieth century - particularly from the points of view of two women in the family.
There are three other novels of mine, which I would love to see published. One is Pathological States, about a physician's family in L.A. in 1962. Another is Hungry Generations, about a young composer's friendship in L.A. with the family of a virtuoso pianist, published on demand by iUniverse, which I think would be of value to a conventional publisher. A Burnt Offering - a fable (a full rewriting and expansion of my earlier Acts of Terror and Contrition - a nuclear fable) is my political novella about Israel and its reactions to the possibility of a war with Iran (with the fear that it will be a nuclear war).
[My blog posts are, of course, copyrighted.]

Monday, September 5, 2011

Emergency Powers: Art and Society in a Time of Crisis - i

A characteristic sense of crisis afflicts any society experiencing an attack on its central structures, both physical and symbolic. In a crisis such as the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, the response can be to demonize the ethnic or religious group from which the enemy emerged; in short, an unwitting belligerence can descend on societal relations generally. In some instances, a pugnacious leader is celebrated, and politics can slip further into bullying, xenophobia, and distraction. Ensuing economic crises can set off waves of panic, despite the unprecedented investments made in arms as the reach of an empire expands, and as new technologies are harnessed to make the instruments of war more ruthless, shocking, and efficient.

Against the specter of “global terror” and waves of economic instability, the traditional hierarchy of power may attempt to confirm itself with a regressive declaration of “emergency powers” in various guises. In some instances, protests are treated as treasonous acts, and the government can fine or imprison publishers and writers. Ultimately, it may impose emergency police state measures; even an ostensibly ‘advanced’ democratic society may threaten to suspend habeas corpus. While not all these consequences of crisis are to be noted in the United States during the first decade of the twenty-first century, there are points of similarity, particularly as the fading images of the terrorist assault are refashioned into the spectacle of propaganda projected across the media. A society in the ongoing throes of such a crisis becomes less and less habitable.

How to confront this political and cultural crisis is a central question recently posed by many contemporary thinkers, among them Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Rancière, and Slavoj Zizek. In my next few posts, I’ll explore some answers proposed by one of these writers, Giorgio Agamben. As I do so, I want to note some of the ways that their shared thinking has been influenced by two significant earlier theorists – first, in the next post, Walter Benjamin and then, later, Maurice Blanchot. All of these writers analyze and encourage certain modes of resistance to extreme political measures, as they attempt to reframe how we should observe and engage the potentially decadent and regressive behavior of governments.

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