Costas Douzinas

COSTAS DOUZINAS is a Member of the Hellenic Parliament, a Professor of Law and the Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, University of London. His recent books include The Meaning of Human Rights (co-edited with Conor Gearty, CUP, 2014), The Cambridge Companion to Human Rights Law (co-edited with Conor Gearty, CUP, 2013), Philosophy and Resistance in the Crisis: Greece and the Future of Europe (Polity, 2013), The Idea of Communism (co-edited with Slavoj Žižek, Verso, 2012), and New Critical Legal Thinking: Law and the Political (co-edited with Matthew Stone and Illan rua Wall, Birkbeck Law Press/Routledge, 2012). Douzinas has served as an editor for Law & Critique, his books have been translated into thirteen languages, and he has written extensively for The Guardian, OpenDemocracy, and other global publications.

On a Recent Change of Tone in Politics and Law

Abstract rendering of the cover of Law & Critique in Central Europe

This is the foreword by Costas Douzinas to Law and Critique in Central Europe: Questioning the Past, Resisting the Present, eds. Rafał Manko, Cosmin Cercel, and Adam Sulikowski (Oxford: Counterpress 2016). I am writing this preface in the Chamber of Hellenic Parliament a little after giving my maiden speech as a newly elected Member of Parliament…

Human Rights for Martians

Young migrants and refugees at a fence in the Moria detention center on the Greek island of Lesbos, on April 16, 2016 (AFP Photo/Aris Messinis) SRC

The human rights movement can be seen as the ongoing but failing struggle to close the gap between the abstract man of the Declarations and the empirical human being. Has it succeeded? Yes and no. 2015 and 2016 have been marked by the heart-breaking images of a moving humanity of refugees and immigrants who leave…

Syriza: The Greek Spring

Syriza Victory

If the Greek Spring succeeds, it will mark the beginning of a new type of democratic socialism for the 21st century. According to an oft-repeated cliché, the recent Syriza victory has historic significance. Its place in history books as the first elected left government in Europe is assured. But its importance goes further. The Syriza…

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

László Moholy-Nagy (1927)

Thesis 7: For a cosmopolitanism to come (or the idea of communism). 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…

Seven Theses on Human Rights: (6) Desire

Portrait

Thesis 6: In advanced capitalist societies, human rights become strategies for the publicization and legalization of (insatiable) individual desire. 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…

Seven Theses on Human Rights: (5) Depoliticization

American Apparel Mannequins

Thesis 5: In advanced capitalist societies, human rights depoliticize politics. 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…

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

Guernica Sun

Thesis 4: Universalism and communitarianism rather than being opponents are two types of humanism dependent on each other. They are confronted by the ontology of singular equality. 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…

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 THERE A RIGHT 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…

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

Barcode Prison

Thesis 3: The post-1989 order combines an economic system that generates huge structural inequalities and oppression with a juridico-political ideology promising dignity and equality. This major instability is contributing to its demise. Why and how did this combination of neoliberal capitalism and humanitarianism emerge? Capitalism has always moralized the economy and applied a gloss of…

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

Jheronimus_Bosch

Thesis 1: The idea of ‘humanity’ has no fixed meaning and cannot act as the source of moral or legal rules. Historically, the idea has been used to classify people into the fully human, the lesser human, and the inhuman. If ‘humanity’ is the normative source of moral and legal rules, do we know what…

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 only pro­gress­ive legal step is to intro­duce social and eco­nomic rights into UK law 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…

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…

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…

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…