Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Susan Buck-Morss: "Sharing is the New Property"

Susan Buck-Morss is a political philosopher whose writings I have started following after I read her book on Islamism and Critical Theory in 2008. This was a collection of her talks given at various locations to various audiences about the common or similar theoretical motivations and reasonings behind Islamism and Critical Theory, and perhaps a possible "alliance" between them against the liberal-capitalist power structures dominating not only the space, but also the minds and the hearts.

When I heard that she was going to visit Istanbul to give a talk at Istanbul Sehir University, I was very excited. Listening to her was going to be a nice experience for me, and it really was like I thought it would be. But there was even more to that. Before her returning back to the USA, I managed to arrange a meeting with her at her hotel lobby. We sat down and talked for about an hour and exchanged thoughts on various issues. She signed a book for me, and we took a photograph together. The photo is not in great quality since we didn't have a good camera with us, but of course it is better than nothing

Feyzullah Yilmaz & Susan Buck-Morss & Alp Eren Topal

Now, I will write here some headlines from her speech:

1) "globalization is a new time, not space"

2) "universal human characteristics"

3) "Sharing is the new property": The nicest part in her speech, I think, was about the things she said about property. She made a distinction between the capitalist property, that is private ownership of things out of which alienation emerges, and socialist property in which there is a common state ownership regarding things. After describing these two forms of property, she argued that in today's globalizing world, sharing is or will be the new property. She said that identities, cultures, ideas, things, etc. are being shared, and this is becoming the new form of property today.

4) "no fault-lines between us and them"

5) "we are all interconnected"

6) "not the end of history as such, but the end of history of a certain kind"

7) The title of her speech was "Democracy Incompleted", and toward the end of her speech, she talked about three paradoxes of democracy which have to be dealt with if democracy is to be "completed".

a) the huge gap between the poor and the rich
b) the gap between democratic egalitarianism versus elitism
c) the gap between nation-state thinking and global thinking

8) "political islam owes much to marxism in its critique of capitalism"

9) "islamism, i.e. zakat or islamic banking, is not (cannot be) the solution to the problems of today's liberal-capitalist world order"

10) During the question and answer section, she was asked whether there was no validity at all about the concepts such as civilization, western civilization, islamic civilization, etc. - the concepts she criticized during her presentation. In her reply, she made a comment about being a theorist, and I liked it. She said. "One of the tasks of the theorist is to shift/change the concepts and conceptual understandings, not to harden them."

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