Forum: On ‘When One Religious Extremism Unmasks Another’ by Johan van der Walt


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Tim Krieger & Malte Dold, Josef Hien, Charlotte Heath-Kelly, Emmanuel-Pierre Guittet, Filipe dos Reis, Ben Kamis & Johan van der Walt.

In New Perspectives vol. 24 (1), 2016, we published a provocative intervention piece by Johan van der Walt on the parallels between ordoliberalism and Islamic extremism in Europe. Drawing on a concept advanced by Navid Kermani in relation to aspects of Islam, van der Walt argued that ordoliberalism has undergone a ‘de-hermeneutic’ transformation at the hands of some of its adherents to become an uninterpretable fundamentalism. He went on to argue that the pervasive influence of such extremist ordoliberalism – from market-first policies and lack of social investment to trying to do policing ‘on the cheap’ – could actually be related to the political violence conducted by those often labelled as Islamist extremists. Furthermore, van der Walt claimed that this de-hermeneutic, fundamentalist tendency in ordoliberalism could be traced to particular understandings of its underpinnings in German Protestantism.

To say that this intervention piece provoked strong reactions would be an under- statement.

We are delighted, therefore, to now host a forum that showcases a variety of scholarly perspectives on Johan van der Walt’s ‘When One Religious Extremism Un- masks Another’. The responses to the piece come from scholars working in and hailing from a variety of countries and academic fields – including political economy and economic history, international law, critical security studies, political violence and extremism and the politics of religion and normative orders. This diversity reflects the piece’s cross-cutting relevance as well as the mission of New Perspectives to provoke new constellations of knowledge and understanding through just such encounters as this. I am grateful to the scholars who have provided such rich and varied responses, which were an education to read in themselves, and to van der Walt himself for his spirited and thorough rebuttal, which takes the discussion a step further again.

The discussion here is not for the faint-hearted but it cuts to the core of many of the issues we face – as academics but also as socio-political (and economic) subjects – in understanding and dealing with issues that cut across our various academic disciplines and sub-disciplines, requiring that we extend ourselves beyond our specific fields of expertise. Simultaneously, however, that very expertise, allied to other qualities, allows us to shed light on what is often left in the shadows of other approaches – but this process of course cuts both ways as our own shadows are also illuminated. It also requires, therefore, that we undertake the difficult work of developing sufficient common language to speak across our boundaries and to realise what our ways of seeing also leave us blind to. We at New Perspectives are thus proud to present this forum as a step in these directions – and as an invitation to further discussion of the various contingencies and consequences of ordoliberalism and related political, social and economic issues. This is a discussion that needs to be had and we are happy that it starts here.