Posted: March 28, 2013 Filed under: Economy, EU, International, Politics, Society | Tags: Costas Douzinas
The more you obey the more you get punished – that’s the troika’s way. But a second spring of discontent is in the air
- by Costas Douzinas guardian.co.uk, Thursday 28 March 2013 11.25 GMT
Demonstrators hold banners as they protest outside the European Union House in the Cypriot capital Nicosia. Photograph: Yiannis Kourtoglou/AFP/Getty Images
The “new world order” announced at the end of the 1980s was the shortest in history. Protest, riots and uprisings erupted all over the world after the 2008 crisis, leading to the Arab spring, the Indignados and Occupy. A former director of operations at MI6, quoted by Paul Mason, called it “a revolutionary wave, like 1848“. Mason agreed: “There are strong parallels – above all with 1848, and with the wave of discontent that preceded 1914.”
Many on the left have been more circumspect. The philosopher Alain Badiou welcomed the Arab spring but did not think it would lead to a “rebirth of history”. For Slavoj Žižek, 2011 was the “year of dreaming dangerously”. A melancholy of the left descended as the protest wave started receding. But on this occasion the pessimism was premature. Resistance against austerity and injustice is again in the air. In Bulgariaand Slovenia, protesters unseated the government. In Italy, the overwhelming anti-austerity vote has shaken the parties committed to the Berlin orthodoxy. Large marches and rallies in Portugal and Spain have undermined governments and policies and a new push for anti-austerity unity is emerging in Britain. In Greece, the parties that brought the country to its knees and are now administering policies causing the well-documented humanitarian catastrophe and rise of fascism are on the brink of exit. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 22, 2012 Filed under: Society | Tags: Costas Douzinas, Human Rights
27 November 2012
By Costas Douzinas also posted at Critical Legal Thinking.com
The debate over the future of the Human Rights Act (‘HRA’) has been somewhat surreal. The Labour position is schizophrenic. Labour introduced the Act but was justifiably accused of violating most of its principles in its obsession with security. But schizophrenia is not a Labour prerogative. The Tory proposals are equally confusing. Memories of the Thatcher years with their many violations and huge centralization made David Cameron promise that his Bill of Rights would strengthen liberties and ensure proper democratic accountability over new rights. Immediately behind the civilized part, the loony Right attacks the Act as a villains’ charter, stopping the deportation of terrorists, offering porn to murderers and voting rights to convicts. The Act is a left-wing conspiracy, it claims, created by perfidious Europeans intent on destroying British sovereignty and introduced by state fanatics of Stalinist proportions.
For the human rights enthusiasts, to be against the Act indicates ignorance of the law, moral laxity or both. For the Bill of Rights supporters, the many violations during the Act’s life prove its fundamental flaw. Our patriotic duty is to repeal the Act, replace ‘human’ with ‘British’ rights and return to the age-old traditions of the common law and the ‘freeborn Englishman’. One wishes that the arguments had the eloquence or philosophical awareness of Edmund Burke and Tom Paine, the first and unsurpassed contributors to such national soul-searching. This is perhaps too much to ask.
The debate is our pale version of the American culture wars. Arguments about the Act disguise much deeper rifts. Major social, political and ideological antagonisms are presented in the quaint language of procedure and rights. The relationship between self, other and community goes under the code names of the broken society, the ‘big society’ and the relationship between rights and responsibilities. The tensions between law and democracy are expressed in the vernacular of the villains’ charter and the indivisibility of rights, one of the great red herrings of the debate. Finally, the tension between national sovereignty and imperial globalisation is disguised by the language of national pride and cosmopolitan universalism as well as disagreements about ‘ethical’ foreign policy — the most absurd oxymoron of our times.
Let us take a closer look at the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’) incorporated into British law by the Act. Despite accusations of left or liberal bias, the Convention is an ‘exquisitely conservative document’, as staunch right-wingers Peter Oborne and Jesse Norman put it in their pamphlet ‘Churchill’s Legacy’.1 The convention was inspired by Winston Churchill, drafted by Tory politician Sir Maxwell-Fyfe and ratified by a Tory government. As Samuel Moyn has convincingly shown in his The Last Utopia the ECHR was a desperate attempt of the European right and Catholic personalists to re-claim the moral high ground after their ethical debacle in the World War.2 The Convention was part of the cold war ideological battles aimed at showing the superiority of the Western way of life. Compared to the eighteenth century declarations and the Universal Declaration that immediately preceded it, the ECHR was a backward step. No economic, social or cultural rights or right to equality exist except for the protection of property. Article 14 banning discrimination offers ancillary protection that must be argued in conjunction with one of the other rights. The key areas of work, housing or immigration, where discrimination is rife, are immune from a human rights claim. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: November 28, 2012 Filed under: EU, Politics, Society | Tags: Costas Douzinas, Future of Europe, Greek Crisis
By Costas Douzinas
Lecture at The Southern Europe Crisis and Resistances: Academics from Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain discussed the economic, political and humanitarian crisis austerity has created in South Europe. But PIGS can fly. The widespread protests of 2011 have started again in Spain, Portugal and Italy while in Greece the new austerity has brought the government close to collapse. Is austerity or resistance the future of Europe?
at Birkbeck College University of London http://www.bbk.ac.uk/bih/
Delivered at The Southern Europe Crisis and Resistances, Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, 25 November 2012. Listen to the free podcast.
In the summer of 1918, Constantin Cavafy met E. M. Forster in Alexandria. Cavafy compared the Greeks with the English. The two peoples are alike, quick-witted, resourceful, adventurous. ‘But there is one unfortunate difference. We Greeks have gone bankrupt. Pray, my dear Forster, oh pray, that you never lose your capital.’ GiorgioAgamben, commenting on Cavafy’s mysterious statement, writes: ‘The only certainty is that since , all the peoples of Europe and perhaps the whole world have gone bankrupt. Greece was declared bankrupt in 2010 albeit in ‘orderly fashion’ and only temporarily. Temporary default is a little like temporary death. It lasts forever.
What if Greece, and perhaps Europe, have been bankrupted not economically but morally, culturally, politically? What is the gain if the Greeks, repay the debt, keep the euro, and lose their soul? Political and moral bankruptcy haunts not just Greek but the whole of Europe. Greece is the future of Europe. And as know with the future, the best and the worst are next to each other. Let me start with the worst.
The cumulative effects of three separate series of austerity measures are staggering. The first memo imposed up to 50% salary and pension cuts on civil servants and an estimated 150,000 job losses by 2015. The second moved to the private sector and slashed the minimum salary by up to 32%, abolished collective bargaining and various other long-established labour protections. These measures are accompanied by increases in direct and indirect taxes, public transport fares and road tolls, and the imposition of a property tax collected through electricity bills. The remaining public assets and utilities, including ports, airports and even islands, will be privatized at bargain basement prices. Akropolis will be next. The economy shrank by -24% over five years, the largest anywhere in peacetime. In 2012, unemployment stands at 25% and youth unemployment at 55%. It is the killing of a whole generation, a gene-cide to coin a term. Austerity led to a developing humanitarian crisis with homelessness, mental illness and suicide at unprecedented levels. Hospitals cannot work for lack of basic medicines, schools have no textbooks or fuel for heating, soup kitchens have proliferated, 2 million people live below the poverty level.
How did we get there after all these summit meetings and expert analysis? It does not take great wisdom to explain this abject failure. Public spending cuts and tax increases during a deep depression reduce demand, increase unemployment and halt growth. Tax revenues shrink, spending for unemployment and other benefits increases. The deficit increases, the fiscal targets are missed, leading to new austerity to plug the gap. It is a vicious spiral dictated by the toxic idolatry of dominant economics. If the IMF functionaries were first-year economics students, they would have failed their exams. Unfortunately, their diktat makes millions fail their lives.
But the failure and responsibility of the Greek elites is even greater. The politicians, bankers and media barons who brought the country to its knees over 40 years now sense that their corrupt, clientelist capitalism is coming to the end. They will do everything in their power to delay the inevitable end. Greece is a textbook case of a moral decay and political collapse of a system of power. Considerable evidence exists that the Greek government ‘doctored’ the macroeconomic figures in 2001 to gain entry to the euro. The spiralling loans and mounting debt were then used by the ruling elites to oil the wheels of patronage and clientelism. The Papandreou government upgraded the deficit by 3% to 15.4% triggering the European intervention. To cap it all, every set of measures adopted increased the debt. The Greek debt was 120% of GDP in 2009. It will be 190% next year and, after the pain of a dozen years, will reach 125% in 2021, still above the 2009 position. The austerity measures are multipliers of debt, which keeps increasing and metastasing like a malign tumour. Greek society is collapsing before our eyes and the only answer is more loans to pay the past loans, which increases the overall loan. It is borrowing on the Visa to pay the Mastercard. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: May 15, 2012 Filed under: Activism, Politics, Society | Tags: Costas Douzinas, politics
By Costas Douzinas*
‘Europe used Greece as a guinea pig to test the conditions for resstructuring late capitalism in crisis. what the European and Greek elites did not expect was for the guineapig to occupy the lab kick out the blind scientists and start a new experiment: its own transformation from an object to a politicla suvject. The meaning and limits of democracy are renegotiated in the place it was born.’
When I was writing these lines in the autumn of 2011, many friends told me that I was excessively optimistic or, even worse, that I had lost touch with reality. The squares had emptied, the movement was in abeyance, a new government had been sworn in, the usual left melancholy had returned. Yet the truth was the opposite. 2011 was the year of dreaming fabulously and living dangerously. It was a long year. It started in December 2008, moved to 2010 Tunis and Tahrir Sqaure, 2011 Puerta del Sol, Syntagma, Zucotti Park and St Paul’s London and is now well into 2012 and the first astounding victory of the radical left in Greece. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 23, 2011 Filed under: Politics | Tags: Costas Douzinas, New Publication
Costas Douzinas, Resistance and Philosophy During The Crisis , Alexandria Publications, 2011
New publication in Greek by Costas Douzinas,
Costas Douzinas LLB (Athens) LLM PhD (London) is a Professor of Law and Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.
Professor Douzinas joined the Department in 1992 and was Head of Department from 1996 to 2002. Costas was educated in Athens during the Colonels dictatorship where he joined the student resistance. He left Greece in 1974 and continued his studies in London, where he received the Masters in Law and PhD degrees from the LSE and, in Strasbourg, where he received the degree for teachers of Human Rights. He taught at
Middlesex, Lancaster and Birkbeck where he was appointed in 1992 as a member of the team which established the Birkbeck School of Law.
Professor Douzinas is a visiting Professor at the University of Athens and has held visiting posts at the Universities of Paris,
Thessaloniki and Prague. In 1997 he was awarded a Jean Monnet fellowship by the European University Institute, Florence. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: March 18, 2011 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Academic article, Costas Douzinas, humanitarianism
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 »
Posted: December 18, 2010 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Article, Costas Douzinas, European Left, eurozone, Greek left, IMF
Author: Costas Douzinas*
Few events in recent European political history have baffled analysts and commentators more than the widespread insurrection or ‘riots’ (according to right-wing commentators) that took place in Greece in December 2008. The catalyst was the unprovoked police killing of the 15-year old Alexis Grigoropoulos on December 6 in the Exarcheia district downtown Athens next to the Polytechnic and the Law School, two Universities associated with student militancy for some 60 years. Within hours of Grigoris’s killing, massive protests, occupations and demonstrations broke out all over Greece. Daily marches to police stations, Parliament and Ministries were accompanied by sit-ins, street happenings, interruption of theatres, the raising of a banner calling for resistance on Acropolis and the burning of the Christmas tree in Syntagma Square. Some early violence against banks and luxury shops was minimised and no casualties. In an unprecedented move, large numbers of secondary school pupils occupied some 800 schools and took to the streets. Half the population supported the protest. Solidarity protests throughout Europe created fears of the protests spreading.
The insurrection led to a plethora of anxious interpretations. Many, often contradictory, causes were put forward: economic (unemployment and neo-liberal economic measures), political (persistent corruption and failure of education), cultural or ideological. But the most prominent reaction of commentators has been incomprehension mixed with incredulity.
http://www.criticallegalthinking.com/?p=514 Read the rest of this entry »