Human Rights

Guantanamo is still there … and the number of Guantanomos is multiplying.

by Banksy

One of the reasons why President Obama’s man­date has fallen many miles short of ex­pect­a­tions is his clear lack of will — let’s dis­pense with eu­phem­isms — to de­liver his promise to close the six dif­ferent camps making up the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay. This is where pris­oners with links to the war against ter­rorism, primarily to Al-​Qaeda,…

The Five Extraordinary Features of the Sochi Winter Olympics

Circassians March for No Sochi 2014

Introduction On 7 February 2014, the Sochi Winter Olympics will com­mence. It is es­tim­ated that these games will cost at least US$51 bil­lion — the most ex­pensive in his­tory — costing Russia more than the $40 bil­lion that China spent on the 2008 Summer Olympics. The UK spent some US$15 bil­lion on the Summer Olympics in 2012. Sochi was selected…

Between Repression and Paternalism: European Asylum and Immigration Policy after the Lampedusa Tragedy

Coffins in the Lampedusa airport hangar

Crocodile Tears In the space of just over a week the world watched in as­ton­ish­ment as two ships sank off the Italian coast, giving rise to stag­gering death-​tolls (359 on the 3rd of October, more than 50 on the 11th) and various ex­pres­sions of grief. Among the mourners were those dir­ectly re­spons­ible for asylum and immigration…

Socialism and rights: A reply to David Renton’s ‘Do socialists still have an alternative concept of rights?’

Eugène Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People

David Renton’s thoughtful and trenchant art­icle in SL64 [Ed: re­pub­lished 18 Nov 2013 on CLT] has done us all a great ser­vice, opening up ques­tions of cru­cial im­port­ance to the Haldane Society. That is be­cause we are so­cial­ists, com­mitted to solid­arity in res­ist­ance to the de­pred­a­tions of cap­ital, and to fighting for its ab­ol­i­tion. We are not simply…

Do socialists still have an alternative concept of rights?

Artist RJ Hamerton (Punch 1843)

An ob­vious starting point is Karl Marx’s po­s­i­tion on human rights. We can begin with his re­sponse in 1844 to Bruno Bauer’s pamphlet The Jewish Question, in which Bauer op­posed Jewish de­mands for polit­ical lib­er­a­tion on the grounds that no one in Germany was eman­cip­ated and that Jews should fight not for their lib­er­a­tion but…

The Alien Body in Contemporary Netherlands: Incarceration and Force-​feeding of Asylum Seekers

Naman Hadi,  Le Déraciné

On 22 May 2013, the Dutch State Sec­ret­ary of Secur­ity and Justice and Min­is­ter for Migra­tion offered the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives a memor­andum is­sued by the Coun­cil of State con­cern­ing ‘the op­tions to admin­is­ter food and drink to an alien in deten­tion who is on hun­ger and/​or thirst strike, against his will.’ This essay sets out to un­pack the main premises of these recom­mend­a­tions in the frame­work of biopol­it­ics, its colo­nial her­it­age and con­tem­por­ary deploy­ment in the Neth­er­lands. Whilst under­stood in a his­tor­ical con­tinuum, this little doc­u­ment gains rel­ev­ance as it rep­res­ents a sig­ni­fic­ant step over the threshold of the human …

Palestinian Family Unification in Israel: The Limits of Litigation as Means of Resistance

Palestinian_Couple

At the end of March 2002, Eli Yishai, then the Israeli Minister of Internal Affairs, de­cided that all re­quests for family uni­fic­a­tions sub­mitted by Palestinian cit­izens of Israel mar­ried to Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) would be frozen until fur­ther no­tice. The media re­ported that the de­cision was made fol­lowing the sui­cide attack…

Decolonizing the Teaching of Human Rights?

Mestizaje - Guayasamin

According to the new Bolivian con­sti­tu­tion, edu­ca­tion is “one of the most im­portant func­tions and primary fin­an­cial re­spons­ib­il­ities of the State”; it is “unitary, public, uni­versal, demo­cratic, par­ti­cip­atory, com­munit­arian, de­col­on­izing and of quality” (art. 78, I); and, throughout the en­tire edu­ca­tional system, it is “intra-​cultural, inter-​cultural and multi-​lingual” (art. 78, II), where its “inter-​cultural character…

Seven Counter-​theses on Human Rights

Street Art – Pablo Herrero and David de la Mano – Winter Haven

In his 2007 book Human Rights and Empire: The Political Philosophy of Cosmopolitanism, Costas Douzinas asks “Are human rights a de­fensive bar­rier against dom­in­a­tion and op­pres­sion or the ideo­lo­gical gloss of an emer­ging em­pire?” (p.viii) In posts on this blog Douzinas has re­prised many of the themes he un­packed in that volume. In the form of Seven…

Prisoners’ Hunger Strike in California

PelicanBaySHUExerciseYard

Daletha Hayden hasn’t hugged her son in four years. Since 2009, the only face-​to-​face con­tact they’ve had has been through thick glass. Even phone calls are not al­lowed in Tehachapi State Prison’s isol­a­tion unit. Despite the sep­ar­a­tion, she said she has seen the ef­fect sol­itary con­fine­ment has had on him. “He has these bouts of…

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…

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…

Homegrown Terror: The Boston Marathon’s Media Coverage

The moment of the Boston Marathon explosion

In the wake of the Boston Marathon ex­plo­sions (15 April 2013), the Obama Department of Justice’s treat­ment of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev — American cit­izen and primary terror sus­pect — gained sig­ni­ficant at­ten­tion from lib­eral media. Dzhokhar will be charged as a ci­vilian for using weapons of mass de­struc­tion; he was provided legal rep­res­ent­a­tion and Mirandized at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital.…

On Human Rights: Two Simple Remarks

J-L Nancy

Today, polit­ical cor­rect­ness de­mands that we say in French droits hu­mains [human rights] when we used to say droits de l’homme [rights of man]. This de­mand, which also oc­curs in other areas, is made be­cause the French homme, like man in English, does not dis­tin­guish between the human race and the male gender. German is better equipped, dif­fer­en­ti­ating between Mensch and Mann. Latin dis­tin­guishes between vir and homo, Greek between anèr and an­thropos, etc. We could dis­cuss the reasons for this. However, it is also im­portant to note the in­tro­duc­tion of an­other am­bi­guity. The ad­jective ‘human’ in French has a value that cor­res­ponds to the usual meaning we now give to the term ‘hu­manist’ and, more gen­er­ally, to the moral qual­ities of ‘care’ (a word which has re­cently been im­ported un­changed from English into French), ‘com­pas­sion’ or ‘charity’.