Purpose

The role of the one who speaks is there­fore not the role of the le­gis­lator or the philo­sopher, between camps, the figure of peace and of armistice, in that po­s­i­tion of which already Solon had dreamt and also Kant. To es­tab­lish one­self between ad­versaries, at the centre and above them, to im­pose a gen­eral law on each and to found an order that re­con­ciles: this is not at all what is at issue. At issue, rather, is the pos­iting of a right marked by dis­sym­metry, the founding of a truth linked to a re­la­tion of force, a weapon-​truth and a sin­gular right. The sub­ject that speaks is a war­ring – I won’t even say a polemical – subject.

— Michel Foucault

kafka proces

Feeling that they were sym­bolic, we set up this web­site in the week of the 2009 G20 meeting and the protests that wel­comed it to London. For us, that marked the be­gin­ning of a crit­ical (legal) fight-​back. Neoliberalism is not just a per­ni­cious eco­nomic model but an in­teg­rated world­view. It be­came the way we live, the in­sti­tu­tional frame­work of our so­ciety, how we un­der­stand and ima­gine our re­la­tions with others and the world. Neoliberal cap­it­alism formed the real, its in­sti­tu­tions the sym­bolic and its ideo­logy the ima­ginary or­ders of our so­ci­eties in the last 40 years. A deeper af­finity, an al­li­ance, brought to­gether greedy eco­nomic policies, polit­ical and legal mor­al­isa­tion and bi­opol­it­ical governance.

Law, a priv­ileged but not ex­clusive area for our in­ter­ven­tion, is no longer the form or the in­stru­ment, the tool or re­straint of power. Law has started be­coming the very op­er­a­tion, the sub­stance of power. Legal form is squeezed and un­der­mined by the privat­iz­a­tion of public areas of activity and the sim­ul­tan­eous pub­li­cisa­tion of do­mains of private ac­tion. Legal con­tent, on the other hand, be­comes co-​extensive with the op­er­a­tions of power. The global bi­opol­it­ical turn and the new hu­man­it­ari­anism mean that the main norm­ative claims of modern law, typ­ic­ally human rights, have now be­come an in­tegral part of power re­la­tions, that they pre­cede, ac­com­pany and le­git­imise the pen­et­ra­tion of all parts of the world by the new order. Law acts as an empty sig­ni­fier that at­taches to everything from pave­ment walking, the ever-​present CCTV cam­eras (sur­veil­lance being the new vis anglais), to Iraqi lib­er­a­tion. It is auto-​poetically re­pro­duced in a loop of end­less validity but is devoid of sense or signification.

But the signs from Athens and France, from Iceland and the G20 protests are pos­itive. Over the last few years, this model of cap­it­alism, de­reg­u­lated, free-​market, greedy, based on fin­an­cial gambling, cheap credit and dis­regard for any value other than profit has come to crisis. Bail outs, na­tion­al­isa­tion, reg­u­la­tion aim at saving cap­it­alism from its self-​generated im­plo­sion. At the same time, they have de­livered a huge blow to free market id­ol­atry. The crisis of the eco­nomic model, some­thing ac­cepted as the in­dis­pens­able be­ne­volent back­ground of life, gives us a unique op­por­tunity to ex­amine the to­tality of the set­tle­ment of the last 40 years. The best time to de­mys­tify ideo­logy is when it enters into crisis. At this point, its taken for granted, nat­ural, in­vis­ible premises come to the sur­face be­come de-​naturalised, ob­jec­ti­fied and can be un­der­stood for that first time for what they are, ideo­lo­gical con­structs. The aim of crit­ical (legal) thinking is pre­cisely to start this pro­cess and to ex­amine re­cent in­sti­tu­tional strategies as the in­dis­pens­able com­panion of neo-​liberalism.

This is our time, the time of protest, of change, the wel­coming of the event. Critical (legal) theory must be re-​linked with eman­cip­atory and rad­ical politics. We need to ima­gine or dream a law or so­ciety in which people are no longer des­pised or de­graded, op­pressed or dom­in­ated and from that im­possible but ne­ces­sary stand­point to judge the here and now. (Legal) cri­tique is the com­panion and guide of rad­ical change.

CLT, 2009.

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