Monsters and Morals

Silva, Elizabeth B. ed. (2002). Monsters and Morals. Soundings, Themed Spe (21). London: Lawrence and Whishart.



From the editorial:
We are being urged, it seems, to imagine ourselves as living in a world and in an age of monsters. For George W. Bush they are everywhere: in Iraq, in an axis of evil, in the 'terrorists' lurking under every bed, in al-Qaida (and what makes this last one worse is that it is everywhere, yet seemingly hard to find).
It is appropriate, then, that this issue of Soundings addresses the question of 'monsters'. The theme of this issue, 'Monsters and Morals', explores one way of interpreting the production of these figures, through construction of 'the other'. It points, too, to the operation of such structures in so many, less planetary, milder and more quotidian, parts of our lives. It is not just within George W's imagining of the world that the language of monsters is spoken: it can be found within the housing estate, as a means of identifying oneself as part of a more desirable in-group; and in our daily press it helps to fuel the every-day demonisation of asylum-seekers and other migrants. One contributor explores the intricate links between the public operation of 'race' - one of the most powerful current means of categorising the other - and its effects on people's personal and emotional lives. Today's rhetorics of terror and evil, then, draw on modes of differentiation which are very deeply embedded.

Other contributors in this section draw attention to the crucial importance of the question of the place from which we stand and look at the world, in reflecting on different memories of 11 September in Chile and the USA. There is also discussion of the ethical and philosophical resources which might help us to respond to a dangerous world.

The feature articles also make reference to monsters, sometimes old ones, as when from Serbia Richard Minns asks 'what now?', after 'humanitarian bombing'. (A question which echoes too around the blasted mountains of Afghanistan.) From Palestine, Tom Kay's diaries vividly describe the violence of Israel's attempt to annihilate the 'enemy within'.

We also offer two very different pieces looking at left political writing, one on the contribution of David Widgery to a left poetics, and one on the legacy of the WEA's Highway in the 1930s. Our opening article, in contrast, was prompted by the publication of Charlie Leadbeater's recent book Up the Down Escalator, and analyses the economic and technological determinism of so many New Labour thinkers. This technocratic/administrative approach to politics stifles conflict almost as effectively as Bush's moral crusade in the US: neither approach leaves much room for adversarial politics. Our aim is that Soundings will continue to maintain a modest critical space for a different political trajectory.

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