I am the law

Written for the blog of the Human Rights Centre of the Law School at Central South University, Changsha, PRC

Obviously we are facing a very dramatic challenge since some time: the virus that dominates the world, suggesting to humankind

Nothing will be the same again after defeating me!

If this is true or if we will fall back into the age-old ding-dong, we are challenged today for example by

  • near to 1,000.00 deaths per day in the UK (the figures from the 10th and 11th of April)
  • an increasing fear amongst people
  • lack of coordination – globally and locally
  • political debates that are not discussing the security of life but the maintenance of individual freedom – and economic profitability
  • in many regions of the world – the so-called developing countries – substandard of medical supply and medical care and the lack of means to secure a minimum what is needed, Including the lack of Social Security
  • the president of the United States – carelessly or stupidly – stating in a press conference, talking about the virus , that
    “It comes from China. It will disappear, one day – it is like a miracle – it will disappear …”
  • the president of the European Union proclaiming – nearer to tears then to political realism – that we have to help each other and there’s no other way then helping each other
  • the murder of a 33-year woman in Berlin, FRG, who suffered from psychological distress, killed by a policeman, “executing his duty” – this in itself is a complex story. What is of interest here is the fact that since 2016 the police is not allowed to file psychological abnormalities in order to protect the privacy of the individual (https://de.indymedia.org/node/61800 and https://www.tip-berlin.de/polizist-erschiesst-maria-b-kommentar/)
  • and finally another time Trump who

Signs Order Allowing Private Companies to Mine the Moon    

The list could be extended, but in the present context of the so-called virus-crisis I want to highlight the following three – seemingly not  belonging to the current humanitarian challenge, they can be seen as the core of the entire debate we have to engage in. These are the * political debates, * the politicisation and * the fact of private companies being encouraged to move to the moon. Why? At the very core of the current debate we are dealing with the process of socialisation and its analysis, characterising a specific relationship of accumulation regime and life regimes. The cutting edge concerns the question of valuation with the two dimensions of exchange value and use value. The globalised economy has – today – as its focus the production of exchange value and furthermore the orientation of life and living along this line. Exchange value is as such considered as the ultimate use value – the actual use in terms of managing daily life is shifting away from the metabolism of human practice. This, in consequence, means that we externalise control of daily life as artificial aspect of an alienated economic process: we live in order to work instead of work in order to live; we are in order to eat instead of eating in order to be; we consume in order to keep the machine going instead of maintaining the economic process in order to satisfy our needs; we absorb knowledge in order to be informed instead of gathering and processing information in order to develop knowledge … . Indeed, these are complex processes at the core of which we see an alienation of the social as the core of human existence today. In this light the privatisation of the moon, the exploration that has as its ultimate goal the enclosure, the destruction of the common good, can be seen as a metaphor, though a very real one, of the current debate. Happening in the background of the debate of the virus crisis, it is clearly showing that the core of the crisis is about the disruption of the connection between accumulation regime and life regime. This disruption establishes a hiatus that is difficult to overcome. As stated on a different occasion, we face the following dilemma – a cage from which it is difficult to find an escape. It is this constellation of mutual dependencies, that makes an escape nearly impossible. Individual behaviour can hardly be changed due to system requirements; change of the system is equally impossible due to the endurance of individual behaviour. Equally, there is the blockage between the accumulation regime and the life regime on the one hand and the mode of regulation and the mode of living on the other hand. The complexity is furthered by the tension between the two different regimes and between the two modes.

Indeed, as Hannah Arendt suggested that a country has to be very rich to be able to cover the loss of imperialism, a country has to be also veryrich to cover the cost of privatisation of public services.

All this means not least that we have to find a different way of discussing rights. So far,  we are usually concerned with the juxtaposition of social  and individual. In other words, the rights of individuals, indeed individual freedoms, are counterposed to matters of intervention in the public interest – the first is expressed by individuals being allowed to define their own rules, as mentioned previously with the reference to Tinder; the latter can be expressed by the phrase recently brought forward in a Chinese article, saying

don’t be the farmer who saved the snake.

Realistically, the complex situation is not about social and individual orientation of action, activities, praxis and behaviour, but about the relationship between accumulation regime and life regime, and subsequently the mode of regulation and the mode of living. The following definitions are underlying this interpretation:

  • the accumulation regime is the way in which we make money and spend it for reproduction
  • the life regime presents the fundamental pattern of production and consumption in the perspective of classes and social groups
  • the mode of regulation can be understood as the framework and the rail system, supporting and limiting the processes of accumulation
  • finally we arrive at the way in which individuals translate the general opportunities and restrictions into their real life.

At the very core we find the metabolism, determining the position of human beings in relation to the world around them, determining the two dimensions: “what is  given” on the one hand, “what had been built” on the other hand.

Thoroughly thinking through these dimensions and the interdependencies will reveal the true dimensions of the political: on the one hand it is about the political economy which is today specifically shaped in order to promote profitmaking instead of securing people’s life; on the other hand it is about is the political management not only of the healthcare sector but of services of public or general interest and their denial. In other words, we are dealing with the question if the economy is grounded in commons, understood as common control of the use of means of production in the widest sense in the common interest of the common people, or if the economy is geared to secure the profits of a minority. This is not only about the immediate threat, but it is an issue that concerns the way in which society is shaped, the way the social is actually understood – on the one hand we have the merciful understanding and support, on the other hand we see a rights-based approach that emphasises the need of social security not as matter of supporting individuals, but as matter of societal responsibility, the focus of government action on the common weal and the balance of rights and obligations, based on the principle of acknowledging everybody’s needs and everybody’s capabilities.

Epistemologically it should not come as a surprise that in the country that provided the fertile ground for a very peculiar philosopher from Koenigsberg coming up with the categorical imperative:

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.[2]  

social distancing takes the form of a very different peculiarity,

namely that of being by and large ignored – finally one acts in the supposed freedom, of the individual who defines the rule … – go back a bit, and read again, and perhaps a third and even forth time as it is such a paradoxical situation that in fact results in pulling the wool over one’s eyes, making white to appear as black. As stated on another occasion, all this is concerned with the question of how to define freedom – as liberty to do what one wants or as insight into what is necessary – and how to understand public responsibility – as control or provision of social security. And to be honest, I do not value freedom of miners to work on the moon; instead, I value the security of minors, established on a firm foundation of rights.

***************************

A long time ago, in a very different context, I wrote

One highly important although by no means conclusively defined aspect is the blurring of borders and boundaries in conjunction with increasingly strict closures. Thus, the contributions to this book may also be read as contributions along the line of tension between ‘gated communities’ and the open global village. The question quo vadis? gains a twofold meaning. It is asking where people actually go, where and why they move and where they find some kind of belonging. And the question is also about frames and gains. Where are moves allowed and how is moving allowed and what are the expected outcomes for the different actors? One point can be made at the outset: we have to start from here – this hugely tensional question. And there is a long way to go until we arrive at a position which allows all of us to feel – at least for some time – comfortable in the global village.

Decisively, we are today all migrants and as such in need of The Right to Stay – The Right to Move with its mental, intelectual and spatial dimension. This makes it also meaningful to speak of lockouts in the context of the virus crisis and the crisis of the health system: while we are in fact locked in/quasi-locked in – being privatised, dispelled from the social and this way denaturalised considering that humans are social beings.


[2]               Kant, Immanuel, 1785: Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals

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