Organised State Abandonment: The Meaning of Grenfell

❝ My family were survivors of life, yeah? This is not the only traumatic thing that’s happened to us that’s been on the news, et cetera, yeah? And we’re fighters naturally, yeah? So who do you argue with? Who do I argue with? This has been my stress this year, this has made me ill… So, honestly, the last bit, all the message – the only message that I have is for Sir Martin, Theresa May and the rest of the government, red, green, blue yellow… Sir Martin, you do right by us all and you will do right by my – my children. Everybody’s else’s, yeah, but you will do right by my children, because I can’t fight you, I…

Reflections on a Strike: Friendship and/as the Future of Rights

It was a sunny afternoon in early March. We were a small group of about twelve and the event was a teach-in I was leading on the topic ‘Is it Useless to Revolt? The Strike as Counter-Conduct’ (part of a month of Sussex Strike events).[1] We quickly agreed that ‘is it useless to revolt’ is not, of course, the interesting or important question; it is, rather, how we revolt and how we are formed in the process — and what we can create. Can we invent a relationship that is still formless? Can we be friends? Perhaps, as a colleague later wrote to me, it was something to do with ‘the afternoon light, the listening, the mixture of who we were…

Law & Critique: Welcome to A Law World without Jurists?

Does law need jurists (or lawyers, as they are called in the Common law tradition) to perform its regulatory functions? In the Western Legal Tradition, the answer is usually “yes.” The orthodox narrative tells us that law is a human construct in the sense that it would have never come into existence without the great minds of the Roman jurists of the Late Republic (second century BC). Since then, the story goes, the structural link between law and human intellect and sensitivity has always laid at the core of our legal consciousness (with some noticeable exceptions). This conventional reconstruction not only masks that, in the West, law first emerged in Greece, and not in Rome. Above all, it makes us…

Against Appeasement: What’s Wrong with Zionism?

In response to recent attacks on Jeremy Corbyn concerning “Anti-Semitism”, the British Labor Party leader sought to appease Zionist organisations in an op-ed in the Guardian (3 August 2018) in which he disavowed the notion that “Zionism is racism” as an old-fashioned and misplaced Lefty idea. At the same time, liberal Zionists, who are critical of Israeli governmental policies, lament the “betrayal” of early democratic ideals. Recently, Ron Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress wrote in the NYT (13 August 2018): “The Zionist movement has been unwaveringly democratic from its very start. Writ large upon its flag were liberty, equality and human rights for all.” From this perspective, Israel’s recent Nation-State Basic Law, which constitutionalises Jewish supremacy, is a…

New German Intersex Law: Third Gender but not as we want it

Last October, the German Constitutional Court found that an intersex person’s ‘right to positive gender recognition’ had been violated with the availability of only the M and F boxes combined with the obligation to tick one in the population register and many other places. In its decision — praised as ‘revolutionary’ by intersex activists and progressive lawyers — the court ordered the German Parliament to either come up with a third gender option, or abolish gender registration altogether. Last week, the German cabinet adopted a draft amendment to the personal status law, creating a third gender category: ‘divers’ which means ‘various’. Since third gender categories are being considered, by the courts, the states or by stakeholders, in several European countries…

On Colonial Universality and other Legal Prerogatives: Reflections on Peter Fitzpatrick’s The Mythology of Modern Law

2017 marked the 25th anniversary of Peter Fitzpatrick’s The Mythology of Modern Law. An eloquent and incisive critique of Occidental law’s pretensions to secular origins, Fitzpatrick’s text remains of prime significance to scholars engaged with the constitutive forces of race, racism, and colonialism in the structure and political, philosophical and psychoanalytic imaginaries of modern law. The significance of the book cannot be understated; simply put, it laid the groundwork for the development of studies in law and colonialism and elevated race – perhaps one of the ultimate (and sustaining) myths of modernity — to an object of serious theoretical inquiry, an all too rare move in the field of British critical legal theory. Central to the book’s overall endeavour was…

A Manifesto for Feminist Global Constitutionalist Order

No society has a constitution without the guarantee of rights and the separation of powers; the constitution is null if the majority of individuals comprising the nation have not cooperated in drafting it. — Olympe de Gouges (Marie Gouze)1 Constitutionalism is confident in its assertion that it is good for everyone. While the Federalists, or Bagehot or Rousseau argue about its form, the funnelling of constituent and constituted powers through the separation of powers, democracy, rule of law and human rights, raises all boats. So too then for global constitutionalism. And yet, as de Gouges highlights in her Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Citizen, it cannot be assumed that everyone includes women; it has to be demanded.…

Law & Critique: Bourdieu’s Divine State

What can the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu contribute to a critique of law? Throughout the last decades of his career, Bourdieu repeatedly returned to a quasi-theological reading of sociology. During his lectures at the Collège de France in the mid-1980s, Bourdieu would often quote Durkheim’s famous observation that “society is God” – by which Durkheim simply meant, following Ludwig Feuerbach, that people tend to erect the godhead in their own image. Bourdieu, however, gave this phrase his own metaphysical, almost mystical, twist. In the closing pages of his last book, Pascalian Meditations, Bourdieu reiterated Durkheim’s line, this time adding that the State — this omnipresent, all-potent political entity — is the “realization of God on earth.” In other words, Bourdieu…

“Whoever owns the land, the natives do not”: In Re Southern Rhodesia

One hundred years ago today, the British judiciary presented the Empire’s most expressly and egregiously racist justification for the land dispossession of indigenous peoples. As Zimbabweans go to the polls next week, no matter which way they turn, they continue to pay the price for it. On 26 July 1918, the Judicial Committee of the UK’s Privy Council published its infamous ruling, In Re Southern Rhodesia. The court upheld imperial Britain’s wholesale expropriation of the entire territory of Southern Rhodesia, invaded by Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company (BSAC) under a mandate from the British Crown. The BSAC had governed Southern Rhodesia for some thirty years after occupying and seizing the territory in the 1890s. The company’s legal dispute with…

Obituary: Connor O’Callaghan

On Sunday July 8th, our friend and CLT contributor Connor O’Callaghan passed away in a water related accident on Chocolate Lake near Halifax, Nova Scotia. Connor was a third-year PhD Candidate in the Social and Political Thought program at York University, working on his final dissertation proposal. Connor was a brilliant young man and an emerging Socio-legal scholar. Connor was tirelessly committed to analyzing and dismantling systems of oppression; a characteristic he seems to have inherited from his mother, Suzanne O’Callaghan, and which was fostered during long years on the east coast of Canada. His research critically spanned law, political, and critical theory through topics ranging from poverty as violence; law, literature and electricity; and more recently, environmental jurisprudence. He…

Obligations in the New Climatic Regime

The Anthropocene heralds a rupture within the modern imaginary, calling for modes of thinking in obligations beyond the co-ordinates that have hitherto defined that worldview. Mass extinctions, the melting of ice caps, the acidification of the oceans, and extreme weather events all signal the gravity of the contemporary ecological crisis. Many now think we have entered a new climatic regime (the Anthropocene), quite distinct from the previous geological epoch (the Holocene) in which human civilisation developed. Three approaches dominate discussions about the Anthropocene. First, an ‘official’ geological Anthropocene, debated within the relevant sub-committees of the International Commission on Stratigraphy and in the pages of specialist books and journals. The Anthropocene, in this context, is understood through the presence (or not)…

Law, Reading, and Power: The ‘S’ Joke, Why You Find it Funny and Why I Don’t (with Reply)

A guy walks into a bakery known for making fancy cakes. He says, “I’d like to have a cake shaped like the letter S.” The baker says he can do it, but the cake will be expensive. The man confirms that price is no object. The baker tells him to come back after three o’clock. When he comes back, the baker unveils a beautiful S cake, but the man is upset. “I wanted a cake with an S in cursive script, not a block letter!” The baker says, “Not a problem, sir. Come back at seven o’clock and we’ll take care of you.” At seven, the guy comes back, and the baker rolls out a beautiful cake shaped like an…

Carl Schmitt: Katechon

Key Concept The concept of the katechon first appears in biblical literature with two hapaxlegomena occurring in the second deutero-Pauline epistle to the Thessalonians: “And now you know what is now restraining him [τὸ κατέχον], so that he may be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains [ὁ κατέχων] it is removed.”1 In the context of apocalyptic literature, the function of the katechon is to constrain the eschatological enthusiasm of the Christian Thessalonian church who are eagerly awaiting the return of Christ. The restraint that the katechon enforces is directly related to the forces of evil — the evil one — who brings about disorder…

Rethinking the University

Counterpress are pleased to announce the publication of Rethinking the University: Structure, Critique, Vocation by Soo Tian Lee. Dr Lee answers questions about his book. You use the theoretical framework of Kojin Karatani as inspiration for Rethinking the University. Can you tell us what specifically attracted you to his thinking? I was first introduced to the work of Kojin Karatani by Edia Connole, an Irish activist-academic whom I met during the May 2010 occupation of the Mansion Building as part of the Save Middlesex Philosophy campaign. It took me a fair bit of time to assimilate his ideas into a framework which could be used to analyse the subject of my doctoral work, namely the postwar British university. However, looking back,…

Law & Critique: Burkini, Bikini & The Female (Un)dressed Body

Continuing our cooperation with Law & Critique, today Giorgia Baldi returns to her article ‘The Burqa Avenger’ (full text available here). In 2004, when Aheda Zanetti created the burkini, a swimsuit that covers the body leaving the face, hands and feet uncovered, its purpose was to increase Muslim women’s agency by allowing them to enjoy sports and beach culture. She would never have imagined that her successful design would cause immense problems for the Muslim women who wore it. In 2016, fifteen French Riviera mayors decided to ban the burkini in the name of women’s agency and French secular values.1 Rudy Salles, Nice’s deputy mayor, defined the burkini as a “provocation from Islamists” which “threat[ens] French identity”, claiming that the ban…

The Labour of Legal Change: On the Final Days of the Irish Pro-Choice Referendum

I was on Liffey Street with the smokers when the referendum polls closed. A gang of us friends – canvassers and campaigners – had been having dinner together in an upstairs room in a restaurant on the quays. Two big raucous tables. Too much red wine. Loud, joking, beside ourselves with nerves. The day had started well enough – coffee in the sunshine, a visit to the airport to welcome back last minute “Home to Voters”, a chat in the courtyard ofA4 Soundswith Miriam, in the retreat Siobhan had built for the day. But as the afternoon drifted on, my day fell apart and I found myself pacing Dublin, Parnell Street to Camden Street and back down- forgetting to keep…

Can Critical University Studies Survive the Toxic University?

Several things in the news recently have made me want to write again about Critical University Studies (CUS) – a discipline that has been given momentum in the UK by the USS pensions strikes of spring 2018. As I visited a number of campus rallies and teach-outs, I became aware of a real thirst for analysis of the UK and global higher education landscape. The pensions issue seemed to be a conductor for a whole host of other grievances about marketization, financialization, audit culture, management by metrics and the distortions of league tables and concern with university ‘reputation’.  These objections have spawned critique from all areas of the academy, from blogs by experimental scientists (Bishop 2013, Colquhoun 2016 ) to…

Law & Critique: Transitional Justice as ‘Omnus et Singulatim’

Continuing our cooperation with Law & Critique, today we are presenting the work of Josh Bowsher. A full text of the article published in Law & Critique can be viewed here. Our understanding of transitional justice is dominated by an avowedly normative body of scholarship whose allure is rooted in its technocratic promise to solve real problems ‘on the ground’. From its perspective, transitional justice is conceived a set of legal and quasi-legal institutions that can attend to the human rights legacies of countries making the transition toward democracy. These backward-looking processes are understood to be valuable because of their purported contribution to the liberal democratic futures under construction during times of transition. Transitional justice, we are told, is a liberal…

Law & Critique: Encountering the Past

We are thrilled to be working with Law and Critique, the primary critical legal studies journal. In the coming months we will be featuring blogs from some of their most recently published authors, these will include links to open-access read-only versions of their journal articles. Our first blog comes from Kay Lalor. The full text of Kay’s Law and Critique article can be read here. At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April 2018, Theresa May expressed her ‘deep regret’ for the British Empire’s imposition of anti-sodomy laws on its colonies.  Alongside such expressions of historical regret, LGBTI rights have increasingly come to be associated with social progress and progressive values. The temporal dimensions of this contrast between historical…