The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.
The city of Frankfurt is slated to present the prestigious Theodor Adorno Prize, which comes with a 50,000 euro award, to a US professor who advocates a sweeping boycott of ties with Israel’s cultural and academic establishment and has defended Hezbollah and Hamas as progressive organizations.
The prize recipient, Dr. Judith Butler, a professor in the rhetoric and comparative literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley, has courted intense criticism in Germany, Israel and the US ahead of the September 11 ceremony....
Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) was a German Jewish social philosopher who fled the Hitler movement to the US and returned to post-Holocaust Germany to teach at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt. Adorno wrote about modern anti-Semitism and opposed German leftist students who attacked and sought to delegitimize Israel after the Six Day War.
The Adorno award recognizes excellence in the disciplines of philosophy, music, theater and film, and is presented every three years.
In August, the German section of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) slammed the award to Butler because she is against Franz Kafka’s literary estate remaining at the National Library of Israel, and called for a boycott of the library located on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
SPME, which has a global membership of 60,000 members, said Butler’s support of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and for the annual Israeli Apartheid Week means that she “can’t be an Adorno prizewinner.”
In an email to the Post, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, a political scientist at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, wrote, “The boycott campaign is part of the wider NGO-led war targeting Israel and demonizing the right of the Jewish people to self-determination and equality – the modern embodiment of anti-Semitism.”
Steinberg continued, “If Butler were a sincere human rights advocate, she would turn her concerns to the suffering of Syrians, Iranians and millions of others who are victims of real rather than invented war crimes. Instead, Butler is one of a tiny number of token Jews who are used to legitimize the ongoing war against Israel, following a dark practice used for centuries in the Diaspora.
By giving Butler and her campaign of hate a platform, officials of Frankfurt share the responsibility and the shame for this immoral behavior.”
When asked about her statement that Hamas and Hezbollah are “social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left,” and the criticisms leveled against her, Butler wrote the Post by email on Thursday, “I am surprised that those who oppose my receiving the Adorno Prize seek recourse to scurrilous and unfounded charges to make their point.”
She continued, “My remarks on Hamas and Hezbollah have been taken out of context and misrepresent my established and continuing views."
A student asked her the following question: “I’d like you to comment on the importance of Hamas and Hezbollah. And I think since the beginning of this year—and especially when Hamas was democratically elected by the Palestinian people and Hezbollah by the Lebanese—people are now supporting these violent resistance movements. But even within leftist and anti-war activists and intellectuals there is always this kind of condemnation and hesitation in supporting these two groups just because of the violent components of their resistance movements. Doesn’t our inability or hesitation in supporting these groups do more harm than good?”
The student got a round of applause from the room at the end of that question.
Here is Judith Butler’s response, with the missing context included.
“Understanding Hamas/Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important. That does not stop us from being critical of certain dimensions of both movements. It doesn’t stop those of us who are interested in non-violent politics from raising the question of whether there are other options besides violence.”
It’s only fair to point out that she says she’s not a supporter of violent resistance. And that’s all fine and good. But Hamas and Hezbollah both explicitly say, in Arabic and in English, that they seek the destruction of Israel. There is no non-violent way to destroy a country....
Hezbollah is notoriously hostile to every social value liberals and progressives hold dear, from women’s rights to gay rights, with one exception. Hezbollah says the United States and Israel are the Great Satan and the Little Satan. That’s it. That, all by itself, is enough to get a socially retrograde totalitarian terrorist organization labeled “progressive” even by a professor who adheres to non-violent politics.
But the city of Frankfurt can give her a prize if it wants, and it can do so on September 11. Supporting European fascism is a crime now in Germany, but supporting the Middle Eastern variety is apparently fine.