Graduate Programme in Social & Political Thought's Annual Symposium

Strategies of Critique X: The New Right

April 19-20, 1996

York University


Friday 19 April, 1996

10:00AM - 11:30AM: CUT IT OUT! EXCISING THE LIBERAL STATE (Moderator: Norma Jo Baker, Social and Political Thought, York University)

The New Right and the Attempt to Abolish Income Support in the United States Larry Patriquin, Social and Political Thought, York University

Welfare 'reforms' are currently underway in the United States where Congress has enthusiastically joined forces with President Clinton in implementing his promise to 'end welfare as we know it'. Proposed changes would abolish the citizen's guarantee of assistance and would also place a five-year limit on cash aid. It is the objective of this essay to place these policy recommendations in theoretical and historical perspective. I would suggest that capitalism and social assistance are allied, their emergence and development having proceeded closely along parallel lines. I will argue that the most extreme elements of the new American welfare plan are unprecedented, because they attempt to break this link between capitalism and welfare. These proposals could mark the first instance ever of individuals, who live in a nation of wealth and abundance, being denied access to some of the basic necessities of life.

Dancing Naked: Theorizing the Politics of Claims-making in the Performative State, Lois Harder, Political Science, York University

This paper is a discussion of Anna Yeatman's recent theorization of the post-modern state and the consequences of this emerging state form for democratic practice. The paper draws from the case of the Klein government in Alberta to argue that the economism of new right regimes is used as a means to simultaneously depoliticize the public realm and reassert the authority of the state over its citizens. This contextualization of Yeatman's arguments reveals that the attempt to diffuse politics through economistic discourse has, in fact, resulted in a persistent demand on the part of legislators and various social actors to ensure that the state maintains its position as a central focus and participant in the political process.

The Role of the Media in Capitalist Society: How the Media Manufacture Our Fiscal Crisis, Clarice Kuhling, Sociology, University of Saskatchewan

The portrayal of Canada's fiscal crisis by the Canadian media has ensured that Canadian citizens have been systematically and unremittingly subjected to a decade of incomplete and distorted media representations. The government, the business/investment community, and the media (albeit to a slightly smaller degree) have seemingly joined forces in rigorously espousing the notion that excessive spending on our social programs has caused our fiscal crisis. My paper will therefore discuss the invalidity of such a claim, with reference to the historical origins of the debt and deficit. Furthermore, I will discuss the media's role in propagating this claim in the context of the media's position relative to the state and to the business/ investment community. Ultimately I will argue that fundamental institutional and monetary changes which would essentially alter the structure of economic and political power in Canada are an integral component to any strategy oriented toward making media institutions accountable not to the marketplace, but to the public.

11:45AM - 1:15PM: ICONS AND ICONOCLASTS: MYTH-INTERPRETATIONS OF THE NEW RIGHT (Moderator: Awad Ibrahim, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education)

Erotic Rites, Human Rights, and the Pro-Family Right: Negotiating Intimacy in the Name of the Law Susan Driver, Social and Political Thought, York University

My paper works on problems at an intersection of queer sexualities, lesbian and gay rights activism, homophobic backlash and legislative inertia. By focusing on the discourses circulating around the struggle for, and defeat of, Bill 167, I hope to displace the terms of the debate from an oppositional frame to one of ambiguity. The context of this ambiguity is one in which liberal conformity and moral panic set the parameters for discussing the social recognition of same-sex relationships. As such it seems crucial to question the normative tendencies of "spousal rights," and to open a critical dialogue on familial values inside and outside heterosexual configurations. My argument will underscore the need to articulate nuanced and heterogeneous relational practices which do not gloss over differences in an effort to console conservative fears.

Merging Right: The Information Superhighway and Technological Utopianism Haidee Wasson, Communications, McGill University

The prophesies which accompany new technologies range from the death of currently dominant media forms such as television and film to unhindered universal wealth. Claims are consistently made for the emancipatory power of these technologies to free us from oppressive media institutions, to serve participatory democratic forms, and to foster unfettered pluralism. Promising absolute access to unlimited information, unprecedented interactivity with other users and an unregulated space in which anything is possible, new media pundits tell us the future is now, new and improved. However, debates about new media technologies in general and the Internet/world wide web in particular demonstrate a series of unlikely ideological convergences. Rhetoricians of the new right can be found espousing rhetoric strikingly similar to self-proclaimed anarchists, liberals and progressive intellectuals alike. This paper seeks to clarify and elaborate the uncanny convergence of political perspectives and rhetoric upon the over-hyped information superhighway. Are these seemingly diverse enthusiasts actually agreeing with each other? Or, are there irreconcilable differences between them? What assumptions underlie these utopian claims?
What notions of interaction or "interactivity" support the drive towards greater democracy? Most importantly, what is being overlooked in the race to imagine the technologically induced good society?

Ma and Apple Pie: The Neo-Conservative Fear of Individuality Jeff Noonan, Philosophy, McMaster University

Neo-conservative thought may be traced back to two fundamental sources. The first is the classical liberal critique of collectivism which defined the work of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. The second is the conservative backlash against the democratic struggles of the 1960s, which defines the work of thinkers such as Daniel Bell. This paper will chart this history, explain the grounds on which these two sources converged, and demonstrate how the affirmation of abstract individuality leads to the destruction of the social grounds of real individuality. This contradiction is instantiated by the legislative agenda of neo-conservative governments in Washington and Ontario. The reduction of government interference in the economy entails the growth of the repressive power of the state over anyone who does not share the ruling consensus. Neo-conservative thought undermines the principle of democratic participation in all those areas essential to free individuality.

1:15PM - 2:15PM: LUNCH

2:15PM - 3:45PM: LORD, YOU WON'T BELIEVE THE STATE I'M IN: RELIGION, POLITICS, AND THE PUBLIC SPHERE (Moderator: Mark Blackell, Social and Political Thought, York University)

The Israeli Right: Nationalism, Messianism and Militarism Roni Gechtman, Joint Programme in History and Hebrew Studies, New York University

This paper will outline the general characteristics of, and groups acting in, the contemporary Israeli Right. I will show the extent to which those characteristics are caused by and reflect a wider Israeli political culture as well as tensions inherent to the values on which the very definition of Israel as a state and as a society is grounded: the concepts of a Jewish and democratic country. Israeli reality is in a state of flux and rapid change. I will examine developments beginning with the signing of Oslo Accords, leading to the assassination of Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin and the approaching May 1996 elections. The paper will include an up-to-date presentation of the subject considering current events.

Faith and Firepower: Towards A Phenomenology of Enchanted Politics Joel Schalit, Social and Political Thought, York and Charlie Bertsch, English, UC Berkeley

This paper presents an analysis of the Religious Right in the United States since the end of the Vietnam War. The presupposition of this investigation is the desire to understand why the New Right requires the invocation of religion to sustain its counter-hegemonic politics of anti-liberalism. It is our contention that the new conservatism has unleashed social forces far more dangerous than those the Republican party initially sought to harness in its attempt to seize control of state power. We will conclude that the new religious politics represent a transformation of traditional North American religious ideology into a post-fundamentalist nationalism which seeks to take control of the state apparatus in order to establish a first world theocracy best exemplified by the religious media apparatus, Evangelical cultural associations, populist militia organizations, and anti-statist white supremacist auxiliaries.

Torah Politics: The Haredim and the Public Sphere Jeremy Stolow, Social and Political Thought, York University

Religious fundamentalisms of various stripes are readily invoked as quintessential examples of the sort of reactionism and anti-modernism that is threatening to corrode liberal-democratic ideals of a tolerant, and in principle a universally accessible, public sphere wherein diverse citizens form a public that compels the legitimation of authority before it. But the hermeneutical imperatives which have shaped our understanding of religious fundamentalist movements have exoticised, marginalized, and pathologized them as fanatics, zealots, the disoriented poor, etc: in short as disobedient children grown up in a fragmented, post-modern world order. By examining the particular instance of the ways the haredim (Jewish Ultra-Orthodoxy) emerge as a visible element in public spaces, and constitute what Nancy Fraser calls a "subaltern counter-public sphere," I will attempt to redress some of our more easily formed conclusions about religious fundamentalisms, and at the same time to challenge certain neo-liberal conceptions of the public sphere.

4PM - 6PM: ROUND TABLE: WHAT'S SO NEW ABOUT THE NEW RIGHT? (Moderator: Theresa Kiefer, Social and Political Thought, York University)

Larry Patriquin (SPT, York), George Rigakos (Sociology, York), Nandita Biswas (Theory and Criticism, UWO), Joel Schalit (SPT, York), Henry Farrell (Government, Georgetown), Nadia Habib (SPT, York)



10:30AM - 12:00PM: READING FROM RIGHT TO LEFT: COMMUNITIES, COMMODITIES, AND CHAOS (Moderator: Ellen Travis, Social and Political Thought, York University)

Currency of the Realm: theorizing with/in capitalism Chad Thompson, Social and Political Thought, York University

In the retreat from the stinking corpse of socialism, leftist theory has found itself at an impasse. Faith in the correspondence of theory and practice has waned, and this absence has left confusion in its wake. Coming to terms with this confusion requires a consideration of the theoretical weight of capitalism -- the impact of the logic of capital upon the production of theory. Theory has lost its referent; caught up in an economy of repetition, theoretical work is engaged in a ceaseless circulation, never consumed, but continually marked by mutations. This movement of repetition/mutation demands that theoretical projects open themselves to wider worlds, not to recolonize them, but in order to recognize the potentials and limitations of theory itself. Within the mutant logic of capitalism, the relevance of leftist theory might be reclaimed.

The Hypermodern Revolt and the Smooth Transmitter Alex Ferentzy, Social and Political Thought, York University

Hypermodern chess theory will serve as a strategic-theoretical introduction to changes in the international financial system that allow finance capital to dislodge itself from unprofitable or seemingly risky situations and give it an unprecedented capacity to discipline through flight. The smooth transmitter refers to those social formations which situate themselves amongst the various financial, knowledge, semiotic and aesthetic flows and attempt to transform their internal structure into efficient and profitable re-channelling centres. Insofar as this is an ongoing process, where every attempted approximation generates the possibility of a whole new series of adjustments, the smooth transmitter can only be approximated. It will be exemplified by the emergence of the team concept where the disciplinary mechanisms are dispersed as far as possible throughout workers' intersubjective relations and instead of sequestering them, hastens them toward their productive tasks.

Deus Communitatis and the New Right Nandita Biswas, Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism, University of Western Ontario

This paper intends on exploring the changing nature of the concept of community in contemporary North American politics and political theory (namely Canadian and American). It will be argued that the late twentieth century has been characterized by its definitive lack of regulatory political concepts. It is precisely in this ambiguity, specifically in the ideological relations between the contemporary New Right and New Left, that the notion of community finds its most popular and powerful mediating concept in the notion of race. The nature of this relationship is onto-theological, based on the eucharistic notion of 'communion'. Finally, it will be shown that the New Right vision of a new communal politics - that is, the attempt at mobilizing diverse interests under the rubric of the 'caring community' -- is inadequate. The question of community demands a rethinking of its theoretical matrix based on what Jean-Luc Nancy has termed 'desoevrement', or the 'inoperative'. This paper will argue for the urgency of rethinking the notion of community based on two ontological and conceptual spaces which Nancy calls the 'political' and 'politics'. I will conclude by suggesting that an adequate analysis of community must consider this political-politics dimension.

12:15PM - 1:15PM: UP AGAINST THE WALL: CRIMES OF THE NEW RIGHT (Moderator: Niamh Hennessy, Social and Political Thought, York University)

The New Right in Canada: A Case Study of Discourse Strategy, Interests, and Ideology in the Genesis of a Regressive Drug Law. Joanne Cohen, Social and Political Thought, York University

This study analyses the genesis of and debate on Bill C-7, the proposed Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, to illustrate New Right ideological and political strategies in Canada, and to evaluate critical theories of lawmaking and interest groups. The approach combines aspects of conflict and consensus theories on law, and reflects Weberian and Habermasian perspectives on the role of the bureaucracy and overlapping interests in late capitalism. A regressive criminal bill was falsely promoted as a consensus-based 'health' and 'housekeeping' measure to curtail public debate, and almost became law. Disproportionate legislative influence was exerted by potential beneficiaries: the federal drug bureaucracy and police, and a 'family values' citizens group. Despite protests and expert testimony on declining crime/drug use rates, the originators' interests were supported by a government desperate to address a public relations crisis. This case is instructive for future efforts to address New Right influence and strategies. <br<

Combatting the 'new right' in Canadian criminology and criminal justice: lessons from abroad George Rigakos, Sociology, York University

This presentation is intended as a review of (1) the impact of the 'new right' upon criminological inquiry in the United States and Britain; (2) the strategies of resistance employed by critical criminologists in those two countries; and (3) the lessons that can be gleaned from their struggle by Canadian academics. The expected effect of the new right on the Canadian criminal justice system will be explored in relation to the aftermath of Reaganism and Thatcherism on the American and English criminal justice systems. It is argued that a "crime-prevention-through-social-development" and/or a "left realist" agenda can assist in displacing the new right's monopoly of the crime control issue.

1:15PM - 2:15PM: LUNCH

2:15PM - 3:45PM: SEEING IS BELIEVING: THE RIGHT REPRESENTATION? (Moderator: Laura Suski, Social and Political Thought, York University)

Can't 'forget' Ben: Sports, Racialised Masculinities and Canadian Nationalism. Gamal Abdel-Shehid, Sociology, York University

The paper investigates the media coverage of the one hundred metre victory by Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey in the 1995 Track and Field Championships. This victory was understood as the 'redemption' of the 'tarnished image' of Canadian sprinting after the Ben Johnson 'scandal' of 1988. The paper problematises the absent yet present 'forgetful remembering' of Johnson in narratives of the Bailey victory. By locating the coverage of the Bailey victory in the larger context of the anti-immigrant discourse present in contemporary Canadian nationalist ideology, the paper argues that this mode of representation can be seen in line with the historical practices of this ideology, be it in state practices or in representation, to circumscribe and authorise non-white identities to incorporate them into its hegemonic project.

Ethnographic Palimpsests: Colonial nostalgia in 'North-South' tourism advertising Jenny Burman, Social and Political Thought, York University

This paper/slide show aims to accentuate the links between popular cultural representations of foreign-ness and their colonial lineages. Mass media imaginings of 'Third World' lands and peoples contain discernible traces of Enlightenment taxonomies, colonial justifications for subjugation, and constructions of natural, conquerable landscapes. Images from tourism advertising will exemplify common contemporary marketing strategies, which will be rubbed up against past methods of representing lands and inhabitants. Ideally, a theoretical framework that draws upon critiques of ethnographic practices (e.g. Rosaldo, Clifford, Fabian), feminist theories of space and place (Morris, Massey) and semiotic analyses of the photograph, will be able to frame the roles played by: post-industrial nostalgia for a simpler time; holiday-time suspensions of usual divisions of public and private spheres; disciplinary histories of complicity in colonial practices of representation.

From Sex-Vixens to Senators: Nazi Imagery in Pornography and Political Discourse Henry Farrell and Barbara Serfozo

This paper will examine the relationship between the iconography of Nazism used in porn films and the symbolic language of the American right. Porn films have used Nazi imagery, and especially Nazi uniform as a shorthand for power relationships of submission and domination. Early films in the Nazi porn genre iterated relatively simple heterosexual fantasies in which naked women were ritually humiliated by male, uniformed wielders of power. A second generation of films reflected male anxieties about the rise of feminism and depicted blonde women who wielded power by effectively becoming artificial males, and who castrated the men and symbolically raped the women under their command. These themes have assumed a wider cultural significance and have shaped the way in which the right wing attacks feminism. Terms such as "feminazi" and attacks on Hillary Clinton as a blonde domineering bitch draw upon the imagery of Nazi porn films and translate them into the political realm. Female wielders of power are implicitly attacked as being "unnatural" in terms that derive from the iconic language of pornography.

4PM - 6PM: ROUND TABLE: WHAT'S LEFT: WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE NEW RIGHT? (Moderator: Kathryn Trevenen, Social and Political Thought, York University)

Joanne Cohen (SPT, York), Alex Ferentzy (SPT, York), Clarice Kuhling (Sociology, Saskatchewan), Awad Ibrahim (OISE), Niamh Hennessy (SPT, York), Dennis Soron (SPT, York)


Go to the Strategies main page.

|SPT Programme Information| GRW ~ Graduate Workshops|
Strategies of Critique (SPT conference)|
SPT Social Events|Links|25th Anniversary|
J-SPoT ~ The Journal of Social and Political Thought|
SPT Speakers' Series| SPT Graduate Students' Association|

e-mail us your comments: SPoT@YorkU.Ca, York University
last updated: April 24, 1999

Here SPoT, come home!