About Faisal Devji
Faisal Devji is associate professor of history at the New School for Social Research.
Articles by Faisal Devji
Our biggest obstacle was the Left. In its efforts to defend and at most reclaim some of the welfare state’s vanishing benefits, the Left had come to represent the most conservative and, quite literally, reactionary force in modern politics. Unable to imagine a future that was not theological and indeed monotheistic in its linear and redemptive utopianism, the Left’s dead hand had to be lifted before new forms of political thought and action could emerge. But this only happened by accident.
When as a result of the continuing financial crisis, the BRICS countries decided to cut their losses and switch from the US dollar to the Euro as a reserve currency, the immediate consequence was to wrest economic power from the grip of nation states. This made for a geopolitical realignment, where Europe’s newly buoyant currency translated not into the EU’s political dominance, but rather its greater dependence on Asian markets and industry.
Betrayed by Europe’s abandonment of the dollar, and faced with the refusal of Asia and Africa to underwrite her debts, the United States lost economic dominance. This meant that it suddenly became possible to think about human inter-connectedness by way of a more egalitarian politics. Did this mark the victory of capitalism? If so it was a victory for Leninism as well, since what then commenced was the withering away of the state. New kinds of struggles and new forms of political consciousness could now emerge.
If the unprecedented global protests over insulting depictions of the Prophet Mohammed in a book, newspaper or a papal speech tell us anything, it is that Muslims around the world can act in concert without following a leader or sharing an ideology. While such demonstrations might possess a local politics, in other words, they are shaped by global movements that lack traditional political meaning, not least by sidelining leaders and institutions for popular action in the name of a worldwide Muslim community as seen on television. The same holds true for Muslim support of global militancy, whose televised icons are capable of attracting a following without the help of local institutions or leaders.
As the images of planes crashing into the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center were relayed across the world on 11 September 2001, throngs of shoppers stopped to watch this spectacle on the television monitors of Dubai's many malls. Surrounded by American fast-food outlets, and clutching just-bought items of American fashion like the baseball caps that are worn with Arab robes, these spectators cheered as if they were American fans watching a sporting event. What did this celebration mean for the prosperous citizens of the United Arab Emirates, a country that is not only an American ally but in love with American commodities and culture? A country where Twin Towers and World Trade Centers continue to be built, looking now like the growing children of a fallen parent?