And that’s what you get to read when you commit to OK Cupid.
I’d never heard of Seyla Benhabib, who conveniently fits into my current reading direction: feminist theorists from the Middle East with or without an Islamic perspective writing on ethics, human rights, racism, all the hugely important stuff that is decidedly not easy to read. I noticed I’d been reading in this direction without much prompting in the last years, stuff like Ruth Mandel’s Cosmopolitan Anxieties: Turkish Challenges to Citizenship and Belonging in Germany or Katherine Pratt Ewing’s Stolen Honor – Stigmatizing Muslim Men in Berlin, both notably excellent works, and that I felt more of an affinity to writing coming from this direction—a result of living in western Europe with all its inchoate fear of muslims and brown people and its unresolved 20th century—my upcoming reading list is packed with books like this.
This was one of the less expensive works by Benhabib, already ten years old, but all the more relevant as Europe staggers back into nationalism, racism, and colonialist meddling. I didn’t want to commit straight off to the multiple tens of euros stuff. Benhabib loves Hannah Arendt, which is all right by me. Arendt is the philosopher I would give up all the others for, all those ‘big guns’ as my philosophy professor called them, Habermas, Heidegger, even the (old) new wave of Deleuze and his constellation, all of them for Hannah, as thorny as she is. Just read The Life of the Mind.
Benhabib also is fond of Kant, who I can’t really move past after reading all his racist “white people are the best” crap that I think is fundamentally responsible for the direction Europe has been on for the last 250 years). And she spends a lot of time on Rawls. Who I’ve never read. He’s a bit of a tool. He’s a nice, old, white, hetero man of the moral and political philosophy type who never exercised his empathy because he never needed to, and so those kind of questions which at best might be thought experiments to him, which are primary issues of survival and having a liveable life for the rest of us, never make it into his grand ideas.
Thus far, I went to read Benhabib and I’ve read plenty of Rawls. I suppose it’s necessary for her to clear the table—especially when Rawls and Kant left such a mess, though it reminds me of the unfortunate reflexive need of leftists to see the entire world through Marx’s beard. When she gets going though, wow is she sharp, and I’m kinda surprised I’d never heard of her until someone cruising me on OK Cupid said, “yo, read Benhabib!”. For her analysis of the failure of rights for refugees and obligations for nation states alone: a grim condemnation when read alongside the atrocity of refugees in Europe today.
Not easy or light reading here. Oh yeah, and she’s Turkish.