Dangerous Spaces

In radical or alternative left movements, the idea of safety is paramount. It is rare to go to a meeting about feminist, anti racist, queer, or otherwise progressive politics without a safe (or safer) spaces policy being presented. This document, whether read aloud or pinned to a wall, is implicitly a contract between participants regarding suitable conduct. The idea of ‘safe spaces’ has been mocked, derided, and obsessed over by the right wing, viewed as idealistic, authoritarian, or both, though these policies are also subject to significant internal debate in alternative left spaces, whether at the level of specifics or as a mode of organising more generally. Sometimes there is furious and exciting debate on the limitations of safe spaces,…

Marxist Legal Theory: Dictatorship of the Proletariat

1917 Petrograd Soviet

This is one of a series of key concepts in Marxist legal theory organized in collaboration with our friends at Legal Form: A Form for Marxist Analysis of Law. All articles in this series, including the present one, will appear concurrently on Legal Form and Critical Legal Thinking. The Marxist concept of dictatorship has a different meaning from one-man rule or state of siege. It is a central concept of the political theory of Marxism, referring not just to the form of government but to the question of which class is politically dominant. This is why its analysis cannot be carried out in the abstract, but always in concrete relation to the rule of a specific class. When we speak of the…

Marginalisation of Expertise & Media Bias

We write as members of the UK academic community. We are deeply concerned by the marginalisation of expertise in the media coverage of the general election. In particular we would like to highlight the lack of attention paid to recent analyses by economists and employment lawyers in relation to the possibilities that the Labour Manifesto presents for revitalising and positively transforming the UK economy.  Together with these 163 economists and 54 employment lawyers, we would like to emphasise the Labour Manifesto’s proposals for more equitable global economic relations and its commitment to a more ecologically sustainable and socially just international economy.  We therefore endorse these letters by our colleagues and call upon the media to refocus the debate on the policies…

Dear White, It’s OK to be white

In October 2018, the motion ‘It’s OK to be white’ was introduced in the Australian Parliament by White Supremacist Senator Pauline Hanson. The motion called for the ok-ness of Whiteness while denouncing ‘anti-white racism’ and ‘attacks on Western civilization.’ Astonishingly, it was only narrowly defeated 31-28, with many members of the ruling conservative Liberal-National Party coalition supporting it. This short text was written in response to this vote. In the text, I use white to mean a white-skinned person (which as many academic works have shown is a far less straight-forward description than it might first appear). On the other hand, I use White with a capital W to indicate a White who has a conscious or unconscious investment in…

Refugee Struggles: From Helsinki to Paris

Even if refugees have lost their political community, their “society of equals” comprising “reciprocity and commonness” and “mutual agreements and promises,” as Hannah Arendt says, they are able to become and act as political subjects. Refugees create new kinds of political communities through their collective actions. These events generate the “we” of political subjects between refugees and citizens that binds them “together in a relationship of political reciprocity.” I will present two cases of refugee struggle both of which, first, make universal claims, second, turn urban spaces and symbolic places into stages of struggle, and third, create non-hierarchical political movements. Right to Life – A Protest Camp The Helsinki Right to Life demonstration started in front of the Museum of…

Liverpool Law Externals Resign over Management Threats

External examiners for Liverpool Law School today resigned en masse over Liverpool University management’s threats to students. With the authors’ permission we reproduce the letter below. Solidarity with everyone striking this week!   We, the undersigned, have tendered our collective resignation from the School of Law and Social Justice at the University of Liverpool in protest at the University’s advice to students in respect of the UCU industrial action which begins today (Monday, 25 November) and expected to last until Wednesday, 4 December. We have taken this decision out of concern at the University of Liverpool’s misrepresentation of the law regarding support for official pickets and its weaponising of the UK immigration system against visa-holding students. The University of Liverpool,…

The End of the Transition to Democracy in Chile

After the historic march in Santiago that gathered more than a million people, and of multitudinous marches in other cities and regional capitals, the sense of the protests that began more than three weeks ago and led the country to the most acute crisis since the return to democracy, has been crystallizing. Above all, we must say that the crisis affecting Chile is not primarily the product of the subjectivity of a generation that transforms its perception of the world into objective truths and tries to impose them without deliberation on the rest, as the lawyer Carlos Peña, an influential Chilean columnist, said[1].  Rather, it is a constitutional crisis, in which the foundations of legitimacy that shaped and sustained the…

Gilles Deleuze: Jurisprudence

Key Concept The relationship between law and the thought of the French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze, is an interesting one. Throughout his work, Deleuze, often, manifested his contempt for judgment and representation –  undeniably, two fundamental characteristics of law and legal thought more generally.[1] Despite that, in an interview with Claire Parnet, he states that “I have always been fascinated about jurisprudence, about law… If I hadn’t studied philosophy, I would have studied law[…].”[2] Yet, he was quite clear that this interest in law and jurisprudence is not one that aims towards ‘the discovery’ of fundamental truths or the Truth about law’s essence or nature – issues that he considered to be empty abstractions, that fail to engage with the particularities…

New Police powers aimed at #ExtinctionRebellion?

The Metropolitan Police force have requested greater powers to deal with the threat of #ExtinctionRebellion. The exact details of the request are unclear, but some of the proposals have begun to emerge. And they are couched in what may be politely be called ‘utter bullshit’. The police seem to be deliberately obscuring existing powers in order to gain new draconian ways of preventing people from expressing their views together. It is important to see the obfuscation, as well as the outline of these potential powers. This is the case, not least because the proposals have been apparently well received by the Home Secretary (Priti Patel), making it likely that they will form part of any future Tory party legislative agenda.…

Why Context Matters in the Trans Prisoner Policy Debates

‘Let women prisoners decide’ on trans policy sounds democratic but follows a concerning trend of anti-trans groups using women prisoners for their own political agendas In a recent blog post, the Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS) argues that non-trans women prisoners should decide whether trans women should be able to ‘share space’ with them in prison. To suggest that prisoners should determine trans prison policy sounds, on the surface, like a reasonable and laudable position. Certainly prisoners get very little say on the policies that impact their daily lives and should have greater opportunities to feed into decisions that affect their wellbeing. However, what the CCJS Director is actually arguing is that some women (i.e.…

The Case Against Agamben’s Impotence

Another appraisal of Aristotle´s configuration of potentiality and actuality and the latter as a division between Entelecheia and Energeia may open up a new consideration of being and power. Through it, we may dispel Agamben´s interpretation of power that shrouds political action in impotence. When we read Energeia as power without transcendent finality, contingency, as the order of the political, is released and with it the possibility of becoming-other is open anew. Contingency means that only when beings exist, not as a necessity, is the meaning of being necessary. In between potentia and actuality hinges not only the definition of power but the utter possibility of existence, of what is possible and impossible, logical, contingent, necessary and time. We have…

Recognising the right to food does not mean handouts but radical transformations

Four years after the Lombardia regional council in Italy approved the first law on the ‘Recognition, Protection and Fulfilment of the Right to Food’ in the European context, time seems to be ripe to put food at the centre of analogous political and legislative processes across the European Union. After the establishment of a Right to Food Observatory in Spain, the Good Food Nation consultations in Scotland and the announcement by the Liberal Democrat party of a Fairer Share for All, the last act of support was that of the United Kingdom Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Sue Hayman, who announced few days ago that the UK Labour party – if elected – will formally recognise everyone’s right…

A ‘Dred Scott Moment’ – but not only for the UK Supreme Court!

When Aidan O’Neill QC, counsel for SNP MP Joanna Cherry and the other parliamentarians, asked the UK Supreme Court to save the “Mother of all Parliaments from being shut down by the father of all lies” it was justifiably a sensation. Finally the crux of the case about prorogation of Parliament was distilled and expressed free of the legal jargon about the justiciability of the prerogative, and the nature and limits of judicial review in the face of executive power. O’Neill also drew attention to the dark side of liberal institutions when he asked the Supreme Court not to make this their “Dred Scott moment”. The reference was to Dred Scott v Sandford (1857) – widely regarded as the worst decision…

Law & Critique: Technology elsewhere, (yet) phantasmically present

While in some corners it has been argued that “post-modernism” (in these tellings, usually a metonymy for any theory that questions authority, the stability of meaning and the normalization of various forms of sovereignty and their violence) bears a certain level of responsibility for the supposed rise of “post-truth” politics, for us the situation is directly the inverse. The problems that are being discovered today under the various monikers of crises of truth, institutions, ruleof law, etc. are in fact the generalised perception of the long-term impossibility of securing and regulating text that well predates the contemporary technological milieu. “New” contemporary technologies are not all that new.[1] The computer page for example “remains a screen” belonging to a “digital history”…

Pierre Bourdieu: Habitus

Key Concept In Outline of a Theory of Practice (1977) Pierre Bourdieu provides a framework both for understanding the way that cultural settings (re)produce the means of their own production, and for analysing the effect of this (re)production on the particular subjects of a given ‘habitus‘. For Bourdieu, the term habitus refers to the collective entity by which and into which dominant social and cultural conditions are established and reproduced. In Bourdieu’s words, habitus refers to “a subjective but not individual system of internalised structures, schemes of perception, conception, and action common to all members of the same group or class” (p.86). These “internalised structures” and “schemes of perception” structure the subject’s (shared) world-view and their “apperception” of the world…

What now, Brazil?

The words that come to mind the most are astonishment and perplexity. The Brazilian government has slipped into the abyss of absurdity, into an absolute trivialization of abuse and aggression, into a gross violation of the most basic rules of democratic coexistence — not to mention the law and the Constitution —, while spewing hatred and negativity as its sole political weapon. Not a day goes by that we are not bombarded with bits of news and comments that seem to come out of some ideological sewer overflowing with years or centuries of rancid decay, exuding the most pestilential stench as if it were the very perfume of novelty and candor. All this is cause for astonishment among those who…

The Politics of International lawyers: Whose Legacy Is at Stake? Reflections on Martti Koskenniemi’s series on ‘The Politics of International Law’

The latest issue of the European Journal of International Law opens with the third instalment of Martti Koskenniemi’s The Politics of International Law series. This post offers some reflections on Koskenniemi’s article, although it is not intended as a full response to it. First, a disclaimer in the style of Liliana Obregón and many others before her is in order. I am a strong supporter of the structural understanding of international law that Koskenniemi has theorised in his work. Unsurprisingly, my approach to the field underwent significant and irreversible changes after reading From Apology to Utopia (FATU). The reason for this is, I believe, that FATU represents the perfect gateway to critical approaches to international law – in a loose…

Hannah Arendt: The Right to Have Rights

Key Concept Shortly after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, the English translation of Hannah Arendt’s essay was published under the title ‘The Rights of Man: What Are They?’ This essay was later incorporated in Chapter 9 of The Origins of Totalitarianism and became known as one of the most influential critiques of the document. In her writing, Arendt claims the declaration itself embodies a contradiction: the declaration requires states to protect the ‘universal’ and ‘inalienable’ rights of all human beings, whereas the modern institution of the state is grounded on the principle of national and territorial sovereignty. This paradox, according to her, can only be resolved by the recognition of the ‘right to…

Law & Critique: Property and the Interests of Things

We take it for granted that the very wealthy use trusts to leave their wealth to their children. Have they not always done so? After all, the aristocracy has used one or another variant of the trust form for centuries to pass on rolling hills, country piles and precious heirlooms. So what has changed? A number of cases[i] have recently come before the courts that deal with one specific issue in the law that concerns what one may call donative or family trusts. In these cases, trustees and settlors that wish to vary an existing trust (usually for tax reasons) ask the court to hear their application in private. So what, one may think. After all, it is not surprising that…