What do these names have in common: Noam Chomsky, Jurgen Habermas, Judith Butler, Francis Fukuyama, Martha Nussbaum, Nancy Fraser, Frederic Jameson, Axel Honneth, Yuval Noah Harari, Thomas Piketty, Antonio Negri, Etienne Balibar, Richard Bernstein, Sinisa Malesevic, Branko Milanovic, Jacques Ranciere, Michelle Lamont, Jeffrey Alexander, Mikhail Borovoi, Craig Calhoun, Timothy Snyder, Michael Laban Walzer? First of all, at this moment, on our planet, they are the greatest names of philosophy and social sciences. And second, they have all signed and supported the IFDT in the Republic of Serbia.
It is impossible to overestimate the importance of this socio-political event. However different their theories and points of view may be, they are all intellectual superstars, exceptional social influencers, and living legends of textbooks and encyclopedias throughout the world. And such heavyweight thinkers do not easily sign anything. There are so many extreme differences between them: left and right liberals, marxists and anarchists, poststructuralists and postmodernists, and few commun causes that they would support, but this time – they did. Without false modesty, having listed more than five hundred such personalities could easily match the historical assembly for the funeral of Josip BrozTito in 1980, Belgrade, with only one difference – this time they gathered against the funeral of an Institution.
All this fuss is not only about old fashion agressive party uniformity of every aspect of life, in Serbia that is, from kindergarten to high school directors, from property managers to city mayors, to a director of an Institute for nuclear research or a director of the Institute for philosophy and social theory. It is also about the unbelievable fact that such names as Chomsky, Butler and Fukuyama wrote letters about what is happening in a small, dilapidated and globally unimportant country as Serbia. And it is highly unlikely that they would even sit at a table in a restaurant and agree on anything more than peace on Earth and dolphin protection. In other words, global solidarity with IFDT testifies of the reputation and importance of this institution at the same time of the worldwide recognition of philosophers from Serbia. The same reputation and recognition the authorities shortsightedly disregarded during the fierce competition for foreign investors and election promises, consequently condemning any philosophy, sociology and theory from scolar curricula.
Imagine Jean-Luc Godard, Stiven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott, David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, James Cameron, Steven Soderbergh, Pedro Almodovar, Lars von Trier, Spike Lee, Christopher Nolan and David Fincher signing a support for the Jugoslovenska Kinoteka. Or Pele, Diego Maradona, Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Xavi, Sergio Ramos, Figo, Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Eric Cantona, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Franz Beckenbauer signing a support for the Football Association of Serbia. Can we imagine such a thing? Hardly, but that is exactly what happened regarding (post) Yugoslav and Serbian philosophy and social theory.
A well informed layman could have heard of Chomsky and Habermas, the first in relation with Slobodan Milošević, the second with Zoran Đinđić, (by the way, in both cases incorrectly), or heard about Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man, or of Harari’s bestsellers Sapiens and Homo Deus, whilst the other superstars are not so often talked about locally, but let us consult at least Wikipedia and we will find that these are legendary professors emeritus or/and chair of department at MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Columbia, Chicago, Cambridge, Oxford, Sorbonne, Frankfurt…
For example, Judith Butler, founder of critical theory and gender performativity, a leading authority on feminism and queer theory is literally an academic pop star. Martha Nussbaum, who has been teaching philosophy at Harvard since the 70’s, is one of the greatest philosophers on morality and politics (criticized by both Chomsky and Butler!). Nancy Fraser, from The New School, NY, is one of the leading authorities on social justice and injustice. Richard Bernstein, is one the greatest pragmatists, since 1954has been teaching at Yale. Frederic Jameson, is one of the greatest living theoreticians on culture and critique of postmodernism and capitalism. Axel Honneth, during 2001-2018 was the director of the legendary Institute for social research University of Frankfurt (or Frankfurt school).
Negri and Balabar, Althusser’s colleagues and disciples, among most outstanding philosophers of today, Michael Laban Walzer from Princeton and Sinisa Malešević from Dublin are leading theoreticians on war, ethnicity and nationalism. Snyder, from Yale, is one of the most important researchers of Holocaust (Shoah). Milanović is today the most respected theoretician on social inequality, once the leading economist of the World Bank. Lamont, who since 2003 has been teaching sociology at Harvard, was chairman of the American Association of Sociology (ASA) the largest and oldest professional association of sociologists on Earth. Borovoi has been teaching sociology at Yale since the 70’s and also presided the American Association of Sociology. Jeffrey Alexander is the founding figure of the school of cultural sociology. Finally, Noam Chomsky, considered the greatest living philosopher who co-founded the field of cognitive science and changed the approach to the studies of modern linguistics, or Habermas, the most influential living theoretician on democracy, freedom of speech and communication.
And so, these and many other legendary, prominent, acclaimed and popular names stood up in defending one – Institute for philosophy and social theory IFDT – from Serbia. Sounds sexy? Maybe because it is. The fact that there was not a single prime time news nor article in all the media in Serbia is beyond belief. Even if all this top knowledge of philosophy and social theory for the average consumer seems too abstract and incomprehensible, it is not so, because all of these philosophers search for and find answers to daily problems of that average consumer hooked on social media and worried about justice and injustice, democracy and autocracy, equality and inequality, state and nation, capitalism and socialism, man and woman, truth and lie, media and communication language, humanity, morals and personal identity.
But above all the success of this petition that global thinkers such as Chomsky, Habermas, Butler, Fukuyama, Nussbaum, Harari, Piketty and five hundred more have signed and that talks about a certain government of Serbia, of a certain Đinđić and Šešelj, of certain directors and chairmen, speaks volumes about the reputation of philosophy and social theory from Serbia. There is not much global reputation left for this dilapidated country and tortured society. Thanks to this fight for the autonomy and freedom of speech, the IFDT now stands alongside our greatest legends like Nikola Tesla and Novak Đoković. The names that signed the letter of solidarity are real Spielbergs and Tarantinos, Messis and Ronaldos of the philosophy and social theory of the world and any given government of this tiny country should pay respect in front of such great achievement.
The so-called serbian brand beside the raspberries from Arilje or the software analysts and programers from Novi Sad should from now on as well be the philosophers from Institutes of Universities in Novi Sad, Niš and Belgrade, not accidentally supported by the greatest thinkers of our times. Philosophers from Serbia have long since worked with many of those names, published in major international papers, cooperated in international projects and not the least – also by doing so bringing money and fame into this country. Sadly there is no one to write about that, and that is why a philosophy supported by so many planetary giants should represent a truly national treasure. Just like Lepenski Vir and Vinča, Viminatium and Sirmium, Studenica, Gračanica and (Visoki) Dečani, ćevapčići, rakija, kilim from Pirot, Đerdap gorge of river Danube or Brašovan modernism.