by Costas Douzinas www.parrhesiajournal.org
HUMANISM AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Who or what is the ‘human’ of human rights and the ‘humanity’ of humanitarianism? The question sounds naïve, silly even. Yet, important philosophical and ontological questions are involved. If rights are given to beings on account of their humanity, ‘human’ nature with its needs, characteristics and desires is the normative source of rights. The deﬁnition of the human will determine the substance and scope of rights. Even if we knew who is the ‘human’, when does its existence and the associated rights begin and when do they end? Are foetuses, designer babies, clones, those in permanent vegetative state fully human? What about animals? The animal rights movement, from deep ecology and anti-vivisection militancy to its gentler green versions, has placed the legal differentiation between human and animal ﬁrmly on the political agenda and has drafted a number of bills of animal entitlements. This essay examines the ideology of humanism in its various transformations and permutations. It starts with the history of the concepts of humanity and human nature. The concept of humanity is an invention of modernity. Both Athens and Rome had citizens but not ‘men’, in the sense of members of the human species. Free men were Athenians or Spartans, Romans or Carthaginians, but not persons; they were Greeks or barbarians but not humans. The word humanitas appeared in the Roman Republic. It was a translation of paideia, the Greek word for culture and education, and was deﬁned as eruditio et institutio in bonas artes.1 The Romans inherited the idea of humanity from Hellenistic philosophy, in particular Stoicism, and used it to distinguish between the homo humanus, the educated Roman, and the homo barbarus. The ‘human man’ was regulated by the jus civile, had some knowledge of Greek culture and philosophy and spoke in a cultivated language – he was like a graduate who read Greats at Oxford and speaks with a slightly posh accent. The homo barbarus was subjected to the jus gentium, lacked the sophistication of the real man and lived in the periphery of the empire. The ﬁrst humanism was the result of the encounter between Greek and Roman civilisation and was used by the Romans to impress their superiority upon the world. Similarly, the early modern humanism of the Italian Renaissance retained a nostalgia for a lost past and the exclusion of those who are not equal to that Edenic period. It was presented as a return to Greek and Roman prototypes and targeted the barbarism of medieval scholasticism and the gothic north. Read the rest of this entry »
By Alan Cibils | October 20, 2004
There is a popular saying in Argentina: más vale estar solo que mal acompañado(better to be alone than in bad company). Increasingly Argentines are wondering whether it isn’t time to go it alone and leave the International Financial Institutions (IFIs, the IMF, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank) behind.
Much is at stake for both Argentina and the IMF in the current negotiations. Central issues are Argentina’s defaulted debt renegotiation process, the country’s continued debt payments to the IFIs, and its ability to design and implement economic policies that run contrary to IMF prescriptions but would reduce its appalling levels of hunger, poverty and unemployment.
by Panagiotis Sotiris*
During the past months Greece has been the most dramatic example of the current sovereign debt crisis and the first to be forced to introduce an extensive set of policy changes. The package of measures negotiated by the Greek government with the EU, the ECB, and the IMF represent the most aggressive attempt in Europe to violently and rapidly implement ‘structural reforms’ that the forces of capital have been trying for decades to introduce. This has led to an impressive wave of social unrest, that will not be easily subdued especially if we consider that the full impact of the measures has yet to be felt. That is why both the crisis and the measures have acted as a litmus test for the Greek Left and its ability to act as the leading force of social protest and resistance.
by Alan Cibils & Rubén Lo Vuolo
Argentina’s spectacular December 2001 economic crash and default were the culmination of a debt-led development process that began in the late 1970s. Much has been written about the crisis and its causes, and many interpretations have been put forth as to why it occurred. Despite overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the financial establishment still claim that the root cause of Argentina’s crisis was the public sector’s inability to reduce its deficit. Other explanations have included the more esoteric “debt intolerance” concept, or that the default itself was the cause of Argentina’s 2002 economic collapse.
The political ‘explosion’ that took place in Greece was a symptom of a systemic and deep-rooted legitimation crisis of the Greek state. This essay examines some of the causes of this crisis, how the political space in which this explosion occurred was produced, and possibilities for continued political antagonisms and struggles. Events belie forecasts; to the extent that events are historic, they upset calculations. They may even overturn strategies that provided for their possible occurrence. Because of their conjunctural nature, events upset the structures which made them possible (Lefebvre, 1969: 7).
The dramatic upheavals in Greece, sparked by the December 2008 murder of a ﬁfteen-year-old student by the police, have been the focus of much interest and speculation. This ‘explosion’ has been one of the most acute challenges to the Greek political
establishment since the end of the Greek Civil War. Read the rest of this entry »
IRC Americas americas.irc-online.org
However, facts and data indicate that the default and crisis were the logical outcome of a massive debt accumulation process which was the direct result of: 1) the negative effects of policy prescriptions by the IMF and the World Bank (WB), enthusiastically implemented by Argentine officials and 2) a series of exogenous shocks which ranged from U.S. interest rate hikes to financial crises in Asia, Russia, and Brazil. These shocks led to spiraling costs of public sector borrowing and to massive capital flight as the system unraveled. The combination of inconsistent macroeconomic policies and exogenous shocks led to an economic collapse in December 2001 of historical proportions. While the Argentine fixed exchange rate regime had managed to survive the Mexican and Asian financial crises, the Brazilian crisis proved too much for an economy straining under the effects of an overvalued currency. A recession set in during the last quarter of 1998, which was to become a depression. By the end of the depression in the second quarter of 2002, Argentina had lost almost 20% of its gross domestic product (GDP). Under these conditions and as a result of the exponential growth of Argentina’s public debt, sovereign default was not only a logical consequence; it was also a necessity. Economic reactivation would have been uncertain and perhaps impossible in the absence of such a default. Also fundamental to economic recovery was abandoning the fixed exchange rate regime, allowing for a more realistic set of relative prices.
By Alan B. Cibils, Mark Weisbrot, and Debayani Kar
September 3, 2002
Alan Cibils is Research Associate, Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director, and Debayani Kar is Research Associate at the
Center for Economic and Policy Research.
It is now more than eight months since the economic crisis led to demonstrations and riots that toppled the government of President Fernando de la Rúa in Argentina, and the country defaulted on its public debt. Argentina’s economy has continued to decline, with the recession now having lasted more than four years. At this moment it is not yet clear when this downward spiral will end.
This paper looks at Argentina’s crisis since the default in an attempt to find a way out of the depression. After more than half a year of negotiations, there has been no loan agreement with the IMF, nor is it clear when there may be one. Furthermore, it is not clear if a loan agreement will provide new resources—as opposed to simply providing money for multilateral debt payment. In addition, the costs to the Argentine economy of conditions attached to IMF loans may exceed the benefits. For these reasons, and others detailed below, it is important to consider the prospects for reviving the economy, whether or not an agreement with the IMF is reached.
Read the rest of this entry »
by Spyros Sakellaropoulos *
*Paper given at the conference on the Greek crisis at the University of Salford, May 4 2010
This intervention is an attempt to explain the mechanism on the basis of which the economic crisis was brought into existence in present-day Greece. I propose to demonstrate: that there is no question either of excessive wage increases or of an exports crisis. On the contrary, today’s situation is the product of an interaction between three different factors and the endeavour to solve the problem is being carried out on the basis of decisions that are first and foremost political. The three factors are a) the fact that the mode of incorporation of Greek capitalism into the international division of labour has run up against its limits, b) the crisis of the euro and the consequences of this for the Greek economy, c) the attempt that is being made by the forces of capital internationally to impose a new model of accumulation. Read the rest of this entry »