The flourishing of a new irrationalism in the last quarter of this century or so has taken universal dimensions, particularly after the collapse of ‘actually existing socialism’, that marked the decline of the socialist project in general. From the revival of established religions (‘reborn Christians’, Islamic fundamentalism and so on) up to the expansion of Thaoism, New Age etc, the trend everywhere is the same: people not only turn away from what passes as ‘politics’ today but, in the search of certainty in an uncertain world, they resort to the absurdities of various irrational systems of beliefs. It is also disturbing that this trend affects even parts of what used to be the "Left"and particularly anarchists and radical ecologists, mainly in the Anglo-Saxon world, who shift, (en masse), to irrational belief systems. It is obvious that the collapse of ‘objective’ rationalism in the last 30 years or so turned many radicals to irrationalism and general relativism which, however, are perfectly compatible with the presently dominant neoliberal internationalised market economy. The object of this double issue of D&N is to examine the causes of this phenomenon, always within the context of a pluralistic dialogue on the matter, and to explore the possibility of the development of a new democratic rationalism and democratic ethics, beyond the traps of ‘objectivism’ (and its potential for totalitarianism) and the heteronomous ways of thinking offered by irrational belief systems, which are intrinsically interconnected with heteronomous forms of social organisation.

In my (Takis Fotopoulos) contribution an attempt has been made to delineate classical irrationalism from the ‘new’ irrationalism, particularly, with respect to the factors which may be used in the interpretation of the rise of today’s irrationalism. A similar attempt is made to distinguish between rational ideologies (like Marxism) and irrational belief systems (like New Age, or Christianity) given that the dividing line between rational ideologies and irrational belief systems is frequently blurred, despite the crucial differences between them as regards their respective sources of ‘truth’. Finally, it is shown that democracy is incompatible not only with irrationalism but also with ‘objective’ rationalism, since democracy is nothing else but }{‘the project of breaking the closure at the collective level’. My article concludes with a proposal to develop a democratic rationalism, as the foundation of a democratic society, and a democratic ethics based on democratic rationalism, as opposed to any kind of ‘objective’ethics derived from supposedlly ‘objective’ interpretations of natural or social evolution.

Thomas Martin’s timely analysis of the relevance of George Sorel’s work to modern anarchism is a perfect example of the irrational trends flourishing in anglo-saxon anarchism today. These trends push anarchism away from rationalism, democracy and autonomy (in the sense of individual and  collective autonomy) toward Irrationalism, non-democratic forms of social organisation and individualistic autonomy respectively. Thus, for Martin, the three major contributions of Sorel to what he calls the post-Western synthesis (i.e. the convergence of anarchism with ecology, feminism and other movements) are his rejection of reason as a guide to behaviour, the centrality of myth and the uses of violence. But, Martin, instead of arguing for the development of a democratic rationalism, in place of objective rationalism which has indeed led to various sorts of totalitarianism, throws away the baby with the bath water and puts forward the case that "we must }{attempt to re-organize anarchism on a non-rational or even irrational basis". Furthermore, instead of arguing for the creation of a new type of politics, that, on the basis of rational argument and face-to-face democracy, will establish the goal for a democratic society, he seems to agree with (or, at least, he does not object to) Sorel’s view that  "only the establishment of a mythical goal can draw us onward and upward to the next stage of history"— despite bitter historical experience. One can only feel sad about these trends in the anarchist movement; not only because they are perfectly compatible with the dominant trends in world society at large and could well form an integral part of the neoliberal consensus. But, also, because, in case they eventually become dominant in the anarchist movement, they will surely mark the death of this historical movement as a liberatory force. This, at the very moment when the collapse of socialist statism in general and Marxism in particular has provided anarchists with their historic chance to make a major contribution to the emergence of a new liberatory project, based on a synthesis of the libertarian socialist and democratic traditions with the radical trends in the ecological, feminist and Third World movements.

Fotis Terzakis, in a very comprehensive analysis of todays’ forms of irrationalism, proposes the thesis that religious fundamentalism should be seen as a belated nationalism. In the process, the author illuminates the historical links between monotheism and statism and the role of religion as a form of ideology ‘justifying’ national integration. However, although the author offers an in depth analysis of the links between religion and nationalism in the past, as well as in the present fundamentalist movements in the South, still there is a question mark as to the importance of such links in the North of today where, within the context of the internationalisation of the market economy, the nation-state (as well as nationalist ideologies) seem to be withering away, particularly in Europe. Another question one may raise with this very insightful analysis is whether the ideologies which enhance ‘ an obscure worship of science and technology’ (in which one could easily classify dogmatic Marxism or, generally, any ideology which aims to derive ‘objective’ laws of social or natural evolution) could also be classified as forms of irrationalism along with religions, esotericism etc. In other words, given the fundamental differences between such ideologies and the other forms of irrationalism (which the author himself recognises) the question is whether we are justified in classifying these ideologies as forms of  irrationalism  rather than as cases of objective rationalism.

Damon Young’s contribution is significant in showing not only the superficiality and contradictions of New Age rhetoric but also in making explicit that "it is often a front for the logic of the free-market, professing spirituality but openly condoning the power of profit". However, one may question the author’s stress on interacting with tradition and the need for a dialogical critique of the traditions we inherit. Although interacting with tradition is, of course, the first step, it is obviously far from the final step on the way to create a democratic society. An authentic democracy presupposes not just a ‘dialogical critique’ of the traditions we inherit but a break with them, particularly so when the aim of  the socialisation process is exactly to make people to conform with tradition, or at least that part of it which is compatible with the institutional framework. In other words, from a radical democratic perspective, the problem is not to understand that  we exist within one or many traditions but, having done so, to take the next logical step and initiate the process of collectively creating our own truths --which is what democratic rationalism is all about.

Nikos Raptis, in a well documented paper, attempts to analyze and highlight the impact  of religion on societies and especially on contemporary societies, with particular reference to the impact of the Christian religion on humanity. A very interesting part of the analysis concerns the possible reasons that people become "believers". The author, in a very insightful analysis, stresses that it is mainly socio-economic factors which convert people from rational human beings to ‘believers’, or better, to actors playing the role of believers. Given the present deterioration of the socio-economic climate, Raptis’ contribution is a particularly useful tool in the analysis of the present massive expansion of ‘believers’.

If Martin’s analysis is a typical example of the irrational trends flourishing in anglo-saxon anarchism today, Manos Marangudakis’ well argued contribution is, correspondingly, a good example of the irrational trends flourishing at present in the anglo-saxon ecological movement. The author’s thesis is that the present antropocentric and ecocentric approaches have to be transcended by a ‘theocentric’ approach which, given the other two approaches’  trend to either utilitarianism or naturalism, is perhaps the only approach capable of reintegrating society and nature. The author, taking for granted that nature and society must have  a meaning and morality of their own, concludes that the way to unite them into ‘a meaningful and moral equation’, is through the aid of a third party that would, at the same time, transcend differences and underline similarities. For the author, this third party could only be an 'illogical' medium such as God. In a sense, Marangudakis’  contribution brings to its logical (extreme) conclusion not only the irrationalism of deep ecology but also the objective rationalism of eco-socialism and social ecology. This is so, because both objective rationalism and irrationalism share a common aim, the search for an ‘objective ethics’, via different means (‘economic laws’, natural ‘ directionalities’ and metaphysical absurdities respectively). In this sense, objective rationalism and metaphysical irrationalism share a fundamental common characteristic: they express heteronomy in thought and as such are incompatible with the project for an inclusive democracy.

Adolf Gundersen’s thought provoking article attempts to develop a holistic explanation of native American’s respectful behaviour toward the environment. In this context, he shows that this behaviour cannot simplybe ascribed to their environmental ethic (derived from religion and myth), as many US greens, who turn to irrationalism and spiritualism in order to justify an ecological society, want us to believe. Their political structures which, as the author stresses, encourage the engagement of each individual in  the affairs of the larger community, play a crucial role in this respect. What however is not explored in this discussion is whether their eco-friendly environmental ethics would have been the same had they not based their societies on communal property  and usufruct, distribution of surpluces according to need, the absence of a regular market etc. However, the very fact that their attitude towards nature has been so crucially interconnected, not only  with their political structures and their ethics but also with their economic structures, makes any attempt to imitate elements of their political structures within the framework of todays’ market economies seem utopian.

Finally, in the Dialogue section a very interesting exchange develops between, on the one hand, James Hart & Ullrich Melle and on the other Janet Biehl on Rudolf Bahro and particularly on his affinities to irrationalism which were manifest in the last years of his life. This double issue ends with the inauguration of a dialogue on the editorial comments which this time includes contributions by James Robertson and Hue Lacey.