Category Archives: Press

One Question 1968 in “State of Nature”

Along with an impressive list of others scholars, I was asked to participate in State of Nature‘s one question interview on the remembrance of 1968. Please find my response below, and click here to read all of the replies.

Internationale-Vietnam-Konferenz-1968How Should We Remember 1968?

1968 was a year of global insurrections that arose like a tidal wave out of the vast and profound historical ocean that is anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist politics. Far from being circumscribed in a delimited period of time or cordoned off in specific spaces, it is thus best understood as a symbolic high water mark for insurgent revolutionary politics in the post-war era.

The remembrance of 1968 should be first and foremost a rejuvenation and radicalization. Rather than indulging in the time-honoured burial rituals of commemoration, by which an event only takes on its full meaning by endlessly restaging its public inhumation, we should recognize that 1968 is only what it will have become in its future perfect iterations. By rejuvenating and radicalizing what it stands for, its history can literally come back to life by being rewritten as a preliminary step in a global insurrection in the name of an egalitarian politics of liberation. We can thereby honour the past by radically transforming its very meaning and place in history.

Such active historical resuscitation, in which it is recognized that the past is only truly alive in the future that it will have become, can also serve as an antidote to the rampant mythologisation surrounding 1968. For, in engaging with this historical legacy and learning from its material struggles, we can also pry it loose from its rote interpretations.

To take but one example that is particularly philosophically salient, the myth of the ‘thinkers of 68’ is in dire need of correction. On the one hand, many of the intellectuals who were actually directly involved in preparing or acting in it – including Henri Lefebvre, Cornelius Castoriadis and Guy Debord – have been side-lined or excluded from the transnational, blockbuster phenomenon known as ‘French theory.’ On the other hand, those who were not involved or openly critical of it – such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan – are frequently marketed under its banner. This signals the need for not only a rejuvenation and radicalization of the politics of ‘68, but also of the traditions of truly radical critique that directly contributed to it.

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Recension de “Contre-histoire du temps présent”

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« Le propos de l’ouvrage est ambitieux. Au vu de l’ampleur des sujets et des références qu’il brasse, ce livre apporte une contribution remarquable à la pensée critique contemporaine […la suite] ».

– Giovanni Camarilla dans sa recension de Contre-histoire du temps présent: interrogations intempestives sur la mondialisation, la technologie, la démocratie dans la Revue française de science politique.

Re-Airing of Democracy Interview

KPFA’s “Against the Grain” re-aired C.S. Soong’s interview with me regarding my most recent book, and in particular the final chapter on the value-concept of democracy. Click here to either listen to the interview online or download it.  Here is the description of the discussion:

51GyEIiJWHL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_“Is ‘Democracy’ a Distraction?”
In the face of the contemporary infatuation with democracy in the West, what should the left do with a term and a concept often used to mask injustices and inequities? Gabriel Rockhill discusses some of the key conjunctures in the history of democracy; he also asserts that a focus on democracy may actually distract us from the task of building a just society.

Gabriel Rockhill, Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy Duke University Press, 2017.

France 24 Debate on “La Francophonie”

I participated in a France 24 debate entitled “Le français…and the world: Can Macron’s plan boost French influence?” (3/20/18). I argued that instead of continuing to push an imperial language on the world à la Macron, crushing innumerable local languages along the way, France should start teaching Arabic and African languages in schools as a way of addressing its colonial past and present.

Traduction française de mon article sur la “démocratie” américaine

Réseau international a publié une traduction française de mon article, “The U.S. Is Not a Democracy; It Never Was” (CounterPunch, le 13 décembre, 2017). Cliquez ici pour la lire.

Extrait de “Les États-Unis ne sont pas une démocratie, ils ne l’ont jamais été“:

56ccda82c46188b8098b4601-1728x800_cL’une des croyances les plus fermes en ce qui concerne les États-Unis est qu’il s’agit d’une démocratie. Chaque fois que cette conviction fait l’objet d’un léger fléchissement, c’est presque toujours pour signaler des exceptions préjudiciables aux valeurs ou aux principes fondamentaux américains. Par exemple, les détracteurs en herbe déplorent souvent une « perte de démocratie » due à l’élection de clowns autocrates, à des mesures draconiennes de l’État, à la révélation d’incroyables malversations ou corruption, à des interventions étrangères meurtrières ou à d’autres activités considérées comme des exceptions antidémocratiques. Il en va de même pour ceux dont la démarche critique consiste à toujours juxtaposer les actions du gouvernement américain avec ses principes fondateurs, à mettre en évidence la contradiction entre les deux et à placer clairement un espoir dans sa possible résolution.  Continue reading

Review of “Counter-History of the Present”

Jason Edwards published a detailed review of Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy. It appeared in Contemporary Political Theory and can be read here.

51GyEIiJWHL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Excerpt: “Rockhill has written a provocative and highly readable book (indeed, it is even something of a page-turner). […] What is arresting about the book is the aplomb with which Rockhill goes about this task of disclosing the contingency of the present political imaginary. A review of this length cannot do justice to the political force of this critique. But that force, in general terms, lies in the relentless exposure of neoliberalism’s flattening out of ‘time, space, and society.’ If the force of political critique is not to be found in the revelation of a single reality marked out by being ‘now’ – which would be simply to recapitulate the homogenizing and destructive disposition of neoliberal practices of government – it may be located in the recognition of the multiple and contingently related realities of time, space, and social relations. A political theory that is sensitive to the way in which political imaginaries are constituted in and can be challenged through the practices connected across these realities, is likely to have a greater impact on those practices than one that busies itself with the fruitless search for a universal ideal of a democracy whose time can never come, precisely because its place lies outside of time, space, and society. […read more]”