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      Repeating Fundamentalism and the Politics of the Commons: The Charlie Hebdo Tragedy and the Contradictions of Global Capitalism

      Islamophobia Studies Journal
      Pluto Journals


            I argue that the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and the issue of fundamentalist terrorism in general, should be examined in relation to the contradictions of living in a neoliberal global capitalist system. These contradictions are played out at the political, cultural, and ideological levels in a way that obscures the fundamental antagonism, making any radical solution to the problem of fundamentalist terrorism beyond our reach. I examine these contradictions in four different themes around which the issue of fundamentalist terrorism is staged within the hegemonic neoliberal global capitalist order: the clash of civilizations; colonial and postcolonial politics; leftist solidarity; and the failure of all practical solutions in the fight against fundamentalist terrorism. I end the piece with a call for rethinking the issue of fundamentalist terrorism within the politics of the commons.

            When the tragic news of the most recent terrorist attack in Paris broke out, the Western media coverage of the massacre sounded all too familiar. From the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the signs of the Islamophobic narrative about Islamist (not Islamic) terrorism have become too easily recognizable. Nonetheless, the issue of Islamist terrorism in mainstream media is still framed within a neoliberal ideology that fails to look into the root causes of fundamentalist terrorism, Islamist, or otherwise, around the world in relation to the intensification of predatory forms of capitalist development and its corollary apartheid politics and practices of enclosure. Similarly, any analysis of the coverage of fundamentalist terrorism as symptomatic of the racist, Islamophobic public and official discourses in the US get it half right. Politically speaking, global capitalism is turning larger segments of people in the global South into an uncounted and discardable excess who exist outside state power, the market, and the international political order, making them easily vulnerable to reactionary, extremist movements. However, the neoliberal framework makes the struggle, today, between groups that are anchored in their exclusivist, identitarian thinking, rather than between the global capitalist system itself and the “radical universality” of the dispossessed and disposable surplus of the world population.

            In this paper, I argue that the issue of fundamentalist terrorism, as it has been framed in the media representation of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, should be understood in the context of the contradictions of living in the shadow of the neoliberal global capitalist system. These contradictions are played out in four different themes that obscure the fundamental antagonism within the hegemonic neoliberal global capitalist order: the clash of civilizations master-narrative; colonial/postcolonial politics in the new age of empire; leftist solidarity politics; and the failure of all practical solutions in the fight against fundamentalist terrorism. Any radical solution to the problem of fundamentalist terrorism, it is suggested, can be reconfigured only within the politics of the commons.


            Author and article information

            Islamophobia Studies Journal
            Pluto Journals
            Fall 2015
            : 3
            : 1
            : 12-28
            Bethlehem University
            © Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, Center for Race and Gender, University of California, Berkeley

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            Social & Behavioral Sciences


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