Jacques Derrida: Deconstruction

The last word on the word (artist Annie Voight)

Key Concept Deconstruction by its very nature defies institutionalization in an authoritative definition. The concept was first outlined by Derrida in Of Grammatology where he explored the interplay between language and the construction of meaning. From this early work, and later works in which he has attempted to explain deconstruction to others, most notably the Letter to a Japanese Friend, it is possible to provide a basic explanation of what deconstruction is commonly understood to mean. Three key features emerge from Derrida’s work as making deconstruction possible. These are, first, the inherent desire to have a centre, or focal point, to structure understanding (logocetrism); second, the reduction of meaning to set definitions that are committed to writing (nothing beyond the…

Livability: Notes on the Thought of Judith Butler

Figure Divided – William Scott

Key Concept Livability is a term increasingly detectable in Judith Butler’s work from the early 2000’s onwards. The concept emerges as intimately caught up with Butler’s discussion of grievability and her wider question of “how can we have more viable and livable lives?”, which in many ways ties together her whole corpus of writing.1 Thus, while a concept explicitly used only in her more recent work, concerns with livability, and the drive to challenge restrictive possibilities for livable life, characterise all of Butler’s work. Engagement with livability in the sense of asking critical questions about which lives are viable and flourishing in particular socio-political contexts is a fundamentally political activity, and one which, for Butler, holds possibilities to direct towards…

The Rise of Luxury Communism

Techno-anarchism

In a post-capitalist world how will we establish a system which provides for the needs of all? The solution to this in a world with mechanized labor is clear: luxury communism The failing of the American liberal lies not in his or her message, which purports to be one that is anti-oppression and anti-capitalism. The failing of the American liberal in recent times has become one which must be expanded well past the traditional thinking of a non-radicalized populace. The liberal encourages in his passivity a state and capital system which allows for the expansion of a system he proposes to be opposed to. The passive act of being governed by voting rather than exercising self-governance can be heard in…

Critique, Contradiction and the Law: Brit Crit History – The 1986 CLC

1986

In 1986, people were wearing shoulder pads, watching Neighbours, and listening to Bananarama. Spain and Portugal had just joined the EEC (there was no EU), the London Stock Market had its big bang (massive deregulation), computers looked like the one below, and Margaret Thatcher was at the height of her powers, declaring a year later that ‘… there is no such thing as society …’ 1986 was also the year of the first major Critical Legal Conference (CLC). Archive documents kindly released by Kent Law School show details of the first discussions, committee meetings, and organisational questions, and that it eventually went under the title ‘Law, Critique and Social Transformation’. One text in particular stands out entitled ‘… on Critique, Contradiction and the Law’ and…

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 the battlefronts of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya to come to Europe, their imaginary Arcadia. More than one million people have braved the rough waters of the Aegean and Libyan seas with the bulk landing on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios, Kos, Agathonissi, Farmakonissi and Lemnos. On the way to the islands, thousands have lost their lives. Photographs of drowned dead bodies lying on the…

zionisms

zion

… this is, in part, a plea to the left to stop saying ‘Zionist’. Two days ago, the news was full of Jeremy Corbyn’s recent decision to suspend Labour MP Naz Shah while her alleged antisemitism is investigated. Two years ago, before she became an MP and during the height of the most recent Israeli aggression in Gaza, Shah wrote a Facebook post suggesting Israel should be relocated to the US and that Israelis transportation costs would be minimal compared to the current military support provided to Israel by the US. Last week, the news was full of the election of Malia Bouattia, the new president of the National Union of Students. She, too, was accused by some of antisemitism…

Who we are or what we could become? Musing on a remark of Judith Butler’s

Who we are or what we could become

How should queer politics respond to the attachment some people feel to a stable gender identity? This is the question Judith Butler poses in discussion with Sara Ahmed in the current issue of Sexualities. Butler asks: If ‘queer’ means that we are generally people whose gender and sexuality is ‘unfixed’ then what room is there in a queer movement for those who understand themselves as requiring – and wanting – a clear gender category within a binary frame? … some people very much require a clear name and gender, and struggle for recognition on the basis of that clear name and gender. It is a fundamental issue of how to establish and insist upon those forms of address that make life…

Universal Basic Income and the Politics of Production

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Of late there have been a growing number of people who take seriously the promise of Unconditional Basic Income (“UBI”) policy programs. Roughly, these advocates propose that UBI can allay the harms and legitimate social anxiety caused by cycles of un- and under-employment thereby making persons less susceptible to predatory employers. In addition to addressing labour unrest in economies beset by precarious work, these kinds of advocates say the policy can somewhat stoke consumption while unleashing the creativity required to make more diverse kinds of public and private goods. All in all, it is said UBI is emancipatory for it can reduce poverty in the Global North and promote human flourishing. It would be foolish and unnecessarily reactionary to dismiss…

Reading Christian Human Rights in Latin America

The Flower Carrier by Diego Rivera (1935)

Samuel Moyn’s most recent book, Christian Human Rights (University of Pennsylvania University Press 2015), tells the story of the relationship between European Human Rights and Christianity, both during the interwar period and after World War II. Among other things, Moyn argues that Catholicism met human rights once the Church abandoned its prior authoritarian corporatist commitments of the early 1930s and drifted towards human dignity and personalism to counter the threat that Nazism and Communism posed for the survival of Catholicism in European soil. This argument sheds light over the question of how antiliberal Catholicism, as explained in Rerum Novarum (1891) or Quadragesimo Anno (1931), came to embrace the idea of “rights”, a concept allegedly based in individual liberalism. Personalism, the…

Eye in the Sky: drones, the (human) ticking-time bomb scenario and law’s inhumanity

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“The law is here to protect YOU” — Legal adviser of the UK military, Eye in the Sky Eye in the Sky is (unintentionally) a film about law’s profound inhumanity. (*Moderate spoilers to follow, proceed with caution.) Colonel Katherine Powell (Hellen Mirren) commands from the UK a mission to capture a number of high-ranking Al-Shabaab militants in Kenya. Amongst them there are two British citizens, but one of them is somehow ‘special’: she is a white, beautiful young woman with a ‘troubled’ childhood, who converted to Islam and was radicalised through her husband. At a certain level, Eye in the Sky is about killing a white woman in a headscarf. As is the case with young women who choose to…

The Left in Power? Notes on Syriza’s Rise, Fall, and (Possible) Second Rise

A man withdraws money from an ATM in downtown Athens on July 4, 2015. A referendum to decide whether or not Greece is to accept the bailout conditions proposed jointly by the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank will take place on July 5. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO        (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

The left in power? Four enticing words. The most important thing here, however, is the question mark at the end. For what does the left mean today as ideology and vision, as organization and party, as movement and government? No single or simple answer exists. We have no recipe or textbook to pick from the shelf, adjust to the Greek situation, and apply. Recent debates about Greece in the international left have been characterized by a somewhat infantile leftism, which has turned the “Grexit”–a return to the drachma and even an exit from the EU altogether – into the litmus test of radicalism. A “left-meter” has been created: anyone who does not accept the Grexit as the holy grail of left ideology…

Taxing Citizens: Hegel On Having the Right Attitude

Hegel's Philosophy of Right

We hear a lot about tax, and about how people dislike paying it. But while there’s general agreement that there is a big difference between tax evasion (illegal:  breaching the law to escape paying tax) and tax avoidance (minimising one’s tax liabilities in a legal way), there seems to be a lot of confusion about what one’s duties are in relation to tax. Is it enough to not break the law? Here I am going to argue that it isn’t. I expect this will chime with a lot of people’s intuitions, and I want to support and justify these. I want to go a bit further than that, however: it’s my contention that we have to have the right attitude to…

Impolite Conversations around the ‘War on Waste’

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I have few food-related memories of my childhood in Italy. One of these is certainly represented by my parents nudging me to eat all the food that was in my plate: no questions asked. It was the end of the 80s, and households in the Global North were for the first time seeing pictures of undernourished African kids in remote and ‘exotic’ places. “Think of how many children are dying in Biafra! You cannot waste food that would save them!” they were telling me, revealing that UNICEF and other aid organizations were properly doing their job in diverting my parents’ attention from local social inequality and creating the image of Africa as the stereotype of a poor, violent and underdeveloped…

What is DiEM25, really? A Reply to the Open Letter

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Note from the LeftEast editors: this is the reply of Yanis Varoufakis to the Open Letter by George Souvlis and Samuele Mazzolini about the Democracy in Europe Movement 2015 DiEM25, which appeared earlier this week on LeftEast. Varoufakis’s reply first appeared on the personal blog of Yanis Varoufakis. Shortly after DiEM25’s Rome launch, I received a splendid Open Letter from George Souvlis and Samuele Mazzolini. It reminded me of another such letter I had received from John Malamatinas prior to DiEM25’s Berlin launch. George and Samuele raise crucial questions about DiEM25 and our project to democratise Europe. Here comes a feeble attempt to answer them. 1. Who/what is DiEM25? What escapes us is who DiEM 25 exactly is and who its ‘enemy’ is meant to be.…

An Open Letter to Yanis Varoufakis

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In the following open letter (republished on AnalyzeGreece), George Souvlis and Samuele Mazzolini respond to the recent DiEM25 launch in Rome. Dear Yanis,We decided to write you this letter after following closely the launch of DiEM 25 in Rome on 23 March. The missive aims to discuss a series of issues regarding your initiative that we found unconvincing by offering a well-intentioned criticism of it. We clarify at this point that our aim is neither to dismiss a priori the project nor to appear like smarty pants that know better than anyone else how things should be done, something not totally foreign within the universe of the Left. Rather, with this letter we wish to raise some questions publicly that we suspect many may…

Open Letter: Calling all Students and Staff to Resist ‘Prevent Duty’ at their University

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Today, 1 April 2016 (this is no April fools) marks a key date in terms of institutionalising toxic policies regarding the Prevent duty at universities around the UK.  The 1 April 2016 marks an important date for the future of the university and the wellbeing of its staff and students. How many people knew that by this date all universities must report to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on how they will comply with the Prevent duty introduced by the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015? The Act places universities under a duty to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. In practice this ‘duty’ means that individuals working within universities must report individuals…

Brexit: Whose Europe, Theirs or Ours?

VLATKA-HORVAT-This-is-Not-a-Good-Place

Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking. — Antonio Machado I. Introduction The referendum on whether or not Britain should remain within the European Union (EU) is now fully underway. This debate confronts socialists with a series of pressing tactical and strategic challenges, the two key questions being: (i) should socialists intervene in this debate and (ii) if so, what position(s) should we advance. The position defended here is that, in all the circumstances, individuals and groups committed to the fundamental transformation of society have to come out strongly against Britain’s continued membership of the EU. We should do this on the basis of our commitments to democracy,…

Brazil: Democracy on the Edge of Chaos and the Dangers of Legal Disorder

Federal Supreme Court of Brazil

With legal order turned into legal disorder and democracy being highjacked by the non-elected sovereign body, political and social life has become a potential field of spoils at the mercy of political adventurers and vultures. When I began studying the judicial system of various countries, almost thirty years ago, the administration of justice had the least public visibility among the state’s institutional dimensions. The big exception was the US, because of the central role played by the Supreme Court in defining the truly decisive public policies. Being part of the sole non-elected sovereign body and given their reactive nature (for as a rule they cannot be mobilized of their own initiative) as well as the fact that they depend on…

Terrorism, Brussels, etc … Think Before you Hunt

Brussles, Terrorism ...

Look at the swamps created by the differential of exterminability and mournability between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is in those and similar dips in the affective tectonic plates in which we are all embedded where some of the emotional propellors of Islamic terrorism grows. Those affects do not necessarily lead to terrorism but Islamic terrorism does not grow without them. Some people like to use the cliché ‘not all Muslims are terrorists’ to comfort themselves as if on one hand there’re the crazy terrorists and on the other there’re the Muslims who don’t feel anything. This is not the case. Many, indeed most, Muslims feel the effect of this differential in exterminability. Who would come to realize that they, as…