Photographers from around the world have been accompanying the Russian full-scale military invasion in Ukraine, showing just the tip of the iceberg of the issues affecting thousands of civilians that remain or are forced to flee their home country. Photographer and artist Robin Hinsch is one of them. We see him capturing the horror and violence through a veil of calmness effervescent to the recurring events in different cities he manages to get to: bombings, trains departing, the faces of those witnessing the war. Hinsch is based in Hamburg, Germany. His practice focuses mainly on social-economic and political issues, meticulously applying methodologies that convert war photography into intuitive storytelling. His work has seen him travel to various countries like Iraq, Ukraine, Syria, Nigeria, China, Russia, India, Uganda and many more. His work is widely published, both nationally and internationally. Since 2016, he is an elected member of the German Photographic Academy.
Markus Gabriel on Invisible Goods
War is back in Europe – or it was never really gone. Did the West choose to forget that war is a reality and might always be?
Putin’s Russia has been raging wars for decades. And it is remarkable that people have forgotten about Syria. Governments have been living under the illusion that there is no war and there are no geopolitics. I take this to be moral progress of sorts: Governments don't want politics to be geopolitics. But that's just us, a provincial fact about the so-called West. Now we are confronted with – and confused by – the fact that Putin or Xi Jinping are not at all impressed by our desire to live in a world without imperialism.
In many ways, globalization might be seen as a continuation of historic economic dependencies. Have we ever exited the age of imperialism?
The social inequalities and crises connected with globalization need to be criticized – but there is a gigantic difference between engaging in war crimes and taking over a country and unjustly repressing the economic activity of others, unfair trade deals or neoliberal exploitation. What Putin is doing is morally worse than our exploitative economic system. They both have horrible consequences. The shock is that this war of aggression doesn't make us morally good.
A world in which you have to die for the ideal of democracy is not a great world.
This war is also a crisis of the so-called West.
There is no such thing as the West – in my opinion, it is long gone. For example, Japan could either be the West or the South or the North, and it would be Eurocentric to call my Japanese colleagues Western. They are Eastern by all standards. And is Brazil the West? Or Chile? I think this category is flawed. If you look closer at what you mean by the West, it's really just American consumer capitalism. And this is already a decaying global phenomenon.
Democracy and capitalism were seen as a sort of twins – does such a narrative hold up in the context of this war?
Neoliberalism – different from classical liberalism – is perfectly compatible with authoritarian and non-democratic regimes. In fact, it can be a danger to freedom. When we worry about the end of democracy, it is intimately linked with neoliberalism which actively undermines democracy.
What does all of this mean for the notion of progress?
Not all progress is good. There is technological progress – and part of it are the Russian missiles. In my thinking, I focus on moral progress. For example, slavery has always been a moral wrongdoing, but it was not recognized as such until the moral effects became visible to a sufficiently large group. This makes one thing clear: We need more than just democracy, we need democracy together with a certain value system.