Saturday, December 17, 2005

Statement of Intent: Draconian Observation #1

[Oct./Dec. '06 Update: Draconian Observations is a reservoir for observations and notable news and a playground or sketchbook for analytical meanderings. And hopefully worth a read. Behind the blog is a young Danish researcher not affiliated with any political party or particular cause. Semi-anonymity is for reasons of convenience. Political tolerance stretches less far in some parts of the world than the obligatory self-image would let you believe. My original statement of intent below - if somewhat pompous - still pretty well captures what I want to participate in. Whether the blog actually does that well is another matter and not for me to judge.]

Eponymous Draco was the first law scribe of Athens. After his codification of the law, breaking it most often meant death. Hence the normal meaning of "draconian". In that sense, "draconian measures" is an oft employed tagline for public outcrys against perceived malicious government.
"Draconian" thus carries three useful connotations here.

First, the construction of democratic politics as a negotiation of power relations between the governed and the governors. Second, the inescapability of politics - or with a word out of fashion: ideology - in whatever discussion we have about society.

But Draco's bad press was unwarranted: without the effort to seek and express society's changing rulesets in any given form there can be no progress. Draco did this through the writing of the law: with a law, even a bad one, the possibility of reform arise, and thus the contest that is politics.

And this is the third element: the promise of reason, that our debates, our attempts at conceiving of tendencies, our judgments of them, from civil society to government, from research to policy, may lead to better ways, over time. Reason is a mediator of politics as power, and of politics as ideology. To quote from the ending of Raymond Aron's memoirs:
"Si les civilisations, toutes ambitieuses et toutes précaires, doivent réaliser en un futur lointain les rêves des prophètes, quelle vocation universelle pourrait les unir en dehors de la Raison ?"
I can be reached on this email: draconianobservations at gmail dot com.

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