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).

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…

‘Athens Revolting: Disobedience, Resistance, Right’ A Talk by Costas Douzinas, Brighton 6 March 2012

Athens Revolting

This talk is in­spired by Professor Douzinas’s re­cent work on the crisis in Greece, and by his time in Athens during re­cent months. Professor Douzinas has been an out­spoken critic of the Greek bailout, of the polit­ical elite in Greece which has signed up to the bailout, and of the ex­traordinary con­sequences of this deal…

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…

Anomie: On civil and democratic disobedience

Greek Protests

Greek Minister for Public Transport Reppas stated last week that the gov­ern­ment will not let ‘Greece ex­posed to the risk of in­ter­na­tional dis­repute and mar­gin­al­iz­a­tion, des­tin­a­tions of coun­tries char­ac­ter­ized by anomie. The at­tack on the so­cial ac­cept­ab­ility of the free-​rider and the polit­ical dis­mant­ling of its simu­lacrum of pro­gress­ive­ness is para­mount.’ The har­assed min­ister was…