Costas Douzinas

Costas Douzinas is Professor of Law, Pro-Vice Master for International Links and Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities. He is the author of several books, including the End of Human Rights (Hart Publishing 2000) and most recently Philo­sophy and Res­ist­ance in the Crisis: Greece and the Future of Europe (Polity Press 2013) and, with Conor Gearty [eds], The Cam­bridge Com­pan­ion to Human Rights Law (CUP 2012).

Are there just wars? The history and philosophy of bellum justum — Lecture by Costas Douzinas, Birkbeck 4 Nov 2014

War and Destruction / Kuwait

In 1914, at the beginning of WWI, Cardinals Mercier of Belgium and Billot of France had a heated argument about the sacred nature of pro patria mori. For the Belgian, a soldier who dies defending his country is assured eternal salvation. Such martyrdom is the highest form of love and cleanses a life of sin making the sinner…

Seven Theses on Human Rights: (7) Cosmopolitanism, Equality & Resistance

László Moholy-Nagy (1927)

Against imperial arrogance and cosmopolitan naivety, we must insist that global neoliberal capitalism and human-​rights-​for-​export are part of the same project. The two must be uncoupled; human rights can contribute little to the struggle against capitalist exploitation and political domination. Their promotion by western states and humanitarians turns them into a palliative: it is useful for…

Seven Theses on Human Rights: (6) Desire

Portrait

Liberal theories from Immanuel Kant to John Rawls present the self as a solitary and rational entity endowed with natural characteristics and rights and in full control of himself. Rights to life, liberty, and property are presented as integral to humanity’s well-​being. The social contract (or its heuristic restatement through the “original position”) creates society and…

Seven Theses on Human Rights: (5) Depoliticization

American Apparel Mannequins

Rights form the terrain on which people are distributed into rulers, ruled, and excluded. Power’s mode of operation is revealed, if we observe which people are given or deprived of which rights at which particular place or point in time. In this sense, human rights both conceal and affirm the dominant structure of a period and…

Seven Theses on Human Rights: (4) Universalism & Communitarianism are Interdependent

Guernica Sun

The debate about the meaning of humanity as the ground normative source is conducted between universalists and communitarians. The universalist claims that cultural values and moral norms should pass a test of universal applicability and logical consistency and often concludes that, if there is one moral truth but many errors, it is incumbent upon its agents…

Is there a Right to Disobedience and Resistance? Costas Douzinas, Birkbeck Annual Law Lecture, 24 May 2013

Global Democracy Now

The School of Law, Birkbeck presents 2013 Annual Law Lecture IS THERERIGHT TO DISOBEDIENCE AND RESISTANCE? Professor Costas Douzinas Birkbeck, University of London ‘The ‘new world order’ announced in 1989 was the shortest in history coming to an abrupt end in 2008. From the Arab spring, to the indignados and Occupy, protests and uprisings have…

Seven Theses on Human Rights: (3) Neoliberal Capitalism & Voluntary Imperialism

Barcode Prison

Why and how did this combination of neoliberal capitalism and humanitarianism emerge? Capitalism has always moralized the economy and applied a gloss of righteousness to profit-​making and unregulated competition precisely because it is so hard to believe. From Adam Smith’s ‘hidden hand’ to the assertion that unrestrained egotism promotes the common good or that beneficial effects…

Seven Theses on Human Rights: (2) Power, Morality & Structural Exclusion

Guantanamo

We will explore the strong internal connection between these superficially antagonistic principles, at the point of their emergence in the late 18th century here and in the post-​1989 order in the next part. The religious grounding of humanity was undermined by the liberal political philosophies of early modernity. The foundation of humanity was transferred from God…

Seven Theses on Human Rights: (1) The Idea of Humanity

Jheronimus_Bosch

If ‘humanity’ is the normative source of moral and legal rules, do we know what ‘humanity’ is? Important philosophical and ontological questions are involved here. Let me have a brief look at its history. Pre-​modern societies did not develop a comprehensive idea of the human species. Free men were Athenians or Spartans, Romans or Carthaginians, but not…

Greece and the Future of Europe

Direct Democracy, Syntagma Square

Delivered at The Southern Europe Crisis and Resistances, Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, 25 November 2012. Listen to the free podcast. In the summer of 1918, Constantin Cavafy met E. M. Forster in Alexandria. Cavafy compared the Greeks with the English. The two peoples are alike, quick-​witted, resourceful, adventurous. ‘But there is one unfortunate difference.…

Human Rights or a Bill of Rights?

Failed asylum seeker living rough in UK-Birmingham 2010, photo by Fabio de Paola

The debate over the future of the Human Rights Act (‘HRA’) has been somewhat surreal. The Labour position is schizophrenic. Labour introduced the Act but was justifiably accused of violating most of its principles in its obsession with security. But schizophrenia is not a Labour prerogative. The Tory proposals are equally confusing. Memories of the Thatcher…

The Southern Europe Crisis and Resistances: Free Podcast

Birkbeck Insitute for the  Humanities

On 22 November 2012 academics from Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain gathered at the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities to discuss the economic, political and humanitarian crisis austerity has created in South Europe. But PIGS can fly. The widespread protests of 2011 have started again in Spain, Portugal and Italy while in Greece the new austerity…

A Tribute to Eric Hobsbawm

Eric Hobsbawm - photo by Anne Katrin Purkiss

‘If one thinker left a major indelible mark on the twentieth century, it was Karl Marx’ Eric Hobsbawm wrote in his last book ‘How to Change the World’ published in 2011. Perry Anderson entitles his review of Eric’s autobiography ‘Interesting Times’, ‘The age of Eric Hobsbawm’. Both are right. Different versions of Marxism and its distortions…

Greek myths and the financial markets: Can the UK be next?

At 1.00 pm today (Saturday 25 February) Occupy London invites you to hear and speak with notable guest speakers at the steps of St Paul’s focusing on one of the world economy’s hot topics – Greece. As potential eviction looms for the Occupy the London Stock Exchange camp, based in the churchyard of St Paul’s Cathedral, Occupy…

The Final Blackmail of Baron Papandreou

Greek Prime Minister Papandreou

The unexpected announcement by Greek PM Papandreou yesterday that he is to call a referendum and ask people to vote about the October 24 agreement is the opening salvo in the endgame of the Greek tragedy. Is this extraordinary gambit a genuine request for a popular mandate or a desperate bluff of a gambler down on his chips? In one…

The Indictment

Demonstratos in Athens

The workers of a small bakery and corner shop in central Athens announced yesterday (Weds) that while they would not close because they are serving many vulnerable people they are joining the 2-​day general strike by charging all products at cost. It must have been an unexpected surprise in these hard times for their customers who…

In Greece, we see democracy in action

Syntagma Square

When Stéphane Hessel wrote in Time for Outrage! that indignation with injustice should turn to “a peaceful insurrection” perhaps he did not expect that the movement of indignados in Spain and aganaktismenoi (outraged) in Greece would take his advice to heart so soon and so spectacularly. The Greek resistance to the catastrophic economic measures was…

These hunger strikers are the martyrs of Greece

Children peer through the fence of an immigrant detention centre in the village of Filakio, on the Greek-Turkish border. Photograph: Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP/Getty Images

As the world follows the north African revolutions with bated breath, a less public north African revolt and tragedy is taking place in Athens and Thessaloniki. Three hundred non-​documented migrants, mostly from the Maghreb, have entered the 35th day of a hunger strike. Many have been taken to hospital in pre-​comatose condition and are reaching a state of…