Countless people around the world harness the affordances of digital media to enable democratic participation, coordinate disaster relief, campaign for policy change, and strengthen local advocacy groups. The world watched as activists used social media to organize protests during the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution. Many governmental and community organizations changed their mission and function as they adopted new digital tools and practices.
Drones are changing the conduct of war. Deployed at presidential discretion, they can be used in regular war zones or to kill people in such countries as Yemen and Somalia, where the United States is not officially at war. Advocates say that drones are more precise than conventional bombers, allowing warfare with minimal civilian deaths while keeping American pilots out of harm’s way. Critics say that drones are cowardly and that they often kill innocent civilians while terrorizing entire villages on the ground.
In Outlaw Territories, Felicity Scott traces the relation of architecture and urbanism to human unsettlement and territorial insecurity during the 1960s and 1970s. Investigating a set of responses to the growing urban unrest in the developed and developing worlds, Scott revisits an era when the discipline of architecture staked out a role in global environmental governance and the biopolitical management of populations.
Barely a week goes by without a new privacy revelation or scandal. Whether by hackers or spy agencies or social networks, violations of our personal information have shaken entire industries, corroded relations among nations, and bred distrust between democratic governments and their citizens. Polls reflect this concern, and show majorities for more, broader, and stricter regulation—to put more laws “on the books.” But there was scant evidence of how well tighter regulation actually worked “on the ground” in changing corporate (or government) behavior—until now.
Today political protest often takes the form of spontaneous, noninstitutional, mass action. Mass protests during the Arab Spring showed that established systems of power—in that case, the reciprocal support among Arab dictators and Western democracies—can be interrupted, at least for a short moment in history. These new activist movements often use online media to spread their message. Mass demonstrations from Tahrir Square in Cairo to Taksim Square in Istanbul show the power of networked communication to fuel “performative democracy”—at the center of which stands the global citizen.
The Invisible Committee’s The Coming Insurrection was a phenomenon, celebrated in some quarters and inveighed against in others, publicized in media that ranged from campus bulletin boards to Fox News. Seven years later, The Invisible Committee follows up their premonitory manifesto with a new book, To Our Friends.
Illegal immigration continues to roil American politics. The right-wing media stir up panic over “anchor babies,” job stealing, welfare dependence, bilingualism, al-Qaeda terrorists disguised as Latinos, even a conspiracy by Latinos to “retake” the Southwest. State and local governments have passed more than 300 laws that attempt to restrict undocumented immigrants’ access to hospitals, schools, food stamps, and driver’s licenses.
Neoliberal rationality—ubiquitous today in statecraft and the workplace, in jurisprudence, education, and culture—remakes everything and everyone in the image of homo oeconomicus. What happens when this rationality transposes the constituent elements of democracy into an economic register? In Undoing the Demos, Wendy Brown explains how democracy itself is imperiled.