The Quiet Counterrevolution of Human Rights Idealism

Transcribed from This is Hell! Radio’s 27 June 2014 episode and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the full interview:

 

“Human rights really only make sense when we think about them in a world after empire.”

Chuck Mertz: On the line with us right now is historian Samuel Moyn. Good morning, Samuel.

Samuel Moyn: Hi, thanks for having me.

CM: Samuel Moyn is author of Human Rights and the Uses of History and is the Bryce professor of European legal history at Columbia University, where he has taught since 2001. His previous books include 2012’s The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History. Samuel’s book Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History, which he co-wrote with Darren M. McMahon, was published in paperback earlier this year, and he co-authored two books last year: 2013’s Global Intellectual History, which he wrote with Andrew Sartori, and The Breakthrough: Human Rights in the 1970s with Jan Eckel.

Here’s how you describe your writings in your new book: “the emphasis of these essays falls on distinguishing the abuses from the uses of history for thinking about the present and future of one of the most central notions and one of the most illustrious political movements of our time: Human Rights.”

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Photo Essay: Sochi, the $50 Billion ‘Ghost Town’

AntiNote: Freelance photographer Alexander Belenkiy posted these photographs* on his livejournal this month, after a trip to Sochi. This is the ghost town he encountered there, only six months after the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Alexander points out in his own commentary that the Olympic Village is not completely abandoned; indeed he took care to include photographs of people there. Ultimately this deepens the images’ chill by providing a sense of scale. Hearing that the Sochi Olympics were a $50 billion waste is somewhat stultifying; seeing the vastness of this crime in (literally) concrete terms really leaves an impression.

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Learning from “Informal” Urban Innovation

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Transcribed from This is Hell! Radio’s 4 July 2014 episode and printed with permission. Listen to the full interview:

“It’s not like we need to encourage bottom-up building and community building, because that’s happening without anyone asking or assisting.”

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On the Road in Late Capitalism

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AntiNote: The following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability. Transcribed and printed with permission.

Since this talk between host Chuck Mertz and author Iain Sinclair (from This is Hell! Radio’s 17 May 2014 episode) covered a lot of ground and went in many different directions, we have removed large portions of it for reasons of space and clarity. We therefore encourage you to listen to the whole thing right here!

 

Our ‘edition’ narrows the scope of the discussion, which centered on a latter-day exploration of the Beat Generation and their haunts, to just haunts. That is, we found the portions of Chuck and Iain’s conversation that centered on place, cities, and our place in cities to be most complementary to topics we cover on Antidote. Further, much of the discourse about the gentrification and commercialization of—and our alienation and expulsion from—urban landscapes lacks the poetic and emotional sensitivity that this conversation contains. We find this fresh, humane approach both affecting and appropriate to the real pain that underlies our objections to the neoliberal ‘development’ of cities we call home—a pain that can be expressed in the question, “Why doesn’t the city I love, love me?” Continue Reading

Know Your Enemy: Debunking Neoliberal Mythology

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AntiNote: The following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability.

In printing it, we are once again responding to explicit requests to do so. We find it noteworthy that This is Hell! interviews about which there is the most vocal enthusiasm are typically the ones that examine the nature of neoliberalism, its often unperceived effects on our daily lives and ways of seeing, and our tendency to misunderstand its origins and aims even as we rail against it. As Henry A. Giroux pointed out in just such an interview this past spring, this points to a very real thirst for more thorough analyses and a deeper understanding of the smilingly savage world order in which we find ourselves—a thirst which commercial media, generally speaking, refuses to quench on the grounds that it does not exist. Classic neoliberal denialism…

This interview, which host Chuck Mertz conducted with author and historian of economic philosophy Philip Mirowski on 31 May 2014, stirred up a good deal of discussion within our writers collective as well, touching as it does on so many topics of great concern to us. To name just a few: current deficiencies and disputes on the “Left;” the structure of philosophical revolutions (of which the rise of neoliberalism is one); the difficulties with using timeworn political descriptors in new contexts where they no longer apply; and the annihilation of the concept of a core moral self, which neoliberalism and fascism have in common…

Resisting the temptation to lengthily interpret Mirowski’s rejoinders (there will be plenty of time for that), we simply leave you with a link to further reading on the Mont Pelerin Society and the contentious origins of the “neoliberal thought collective” Mirowski describes:

Neoliberalism: the Revolution in Reverse by Chris Lehmann for The Baffler

Now, without further ado.

Chuck Mertz: On the line with us right now is author Philip Mirowski. Good morning, Philip.

Philip Mirowski: Good morning.

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Intersecting Neoliberal Goals at the World Cup

AntiNote: the following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability.

On 19 April 2014, Chuck Mertz of This is Hell! Radio (Chicago) interviewed Brian Mier, an expatriate in Brazil who writes and podcasts about Brazilian society and politics from a critical, radical perspective.

Especially refreshing in Mier’s analysis—which preceded last month’s major flare-ups in the anti-World Cup protests in cities across Brazil—is his discussion of U.S. interests being subtly expressed (and served) in Western commercial media’s coverage of the current tumults. In this way, the separate aims of two massively influential neoliberal actors—FIFA and USAID—intersect, and Mier’s observations can be related directly to conversations we have been having on Antidote about other places, especially Ukraine.

Image: Gustavo Froner/Reuters via SCISSION blog

Image: Gustavo Froner/Reuters via SCISSION blog

“One of the reasons why media outlets like the New York Times are smearing Brazil right now is they’re trying to create a sense of instability that will favor the opposition, who they hope will privatize the state petroleum company in the future.”

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How Healthcare Kills

AntiNote: this article appeared this month as part of an ongoing collaboration between LeftEast and the Balkan web portal Bilten.org, where it can be read in Serbo-Croatian. Reprinted with permission.

“Over the last year and a half, ten Bulgarians committed violent suicide via self-immolation because of the increase of electricity prices; with these ‘well-intended’ healthcare reforms we can now anticipate the next, wider, and more bloody wave of ‘unintended’ mass murder—a murder which Bulgarian protesters and civil society could prevent if they shifted focus from ‘moral indignation against corrupt and dysfunctional capitalism’ to a moral indignation against capitalism as such.”

by Mariya Ivancheva

In the last days of March 2014, a Bulgarian woman, Dobrinka Krumova, age 26, died because neither private nor public hospitals in Dupnitsa in southern Bulgaria admitted her for treatment.

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Palestine’s Future is Our Future

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AntiNote: The following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability. We strongly encourage you to listen to the full interview (here); we regretfully removed large sections, containing important information, due to space concerns.

On 3 May 2014 Chuck Mertz of This is Hell! Radio (Chicago) talked to author, scholar and activist Ali Abunimah about a way forward in Palestine. This week, Abunimah and Max Blumenthal brought their joint speaking event, The Future of Palestine, to the Chicago Cultural Center. Like many of our readers, no Antidote writers were able to attend due to a large ocean in the way—but we hope this conversation provides a tantalizing taste of the issues and perspectives that were discussed there. If you went, we’d love to hear what you took away from it.

Abunimah brings rare optimism and fresh thinking to the debate around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But at the same time he hints strongly at a much darker future for Palestinians—as well as everyone else. He reveals new, hidden facets of the emerging global, militarized, security-obsessed neoliberal regime that Naomi Klein described more broadly in The Shock Doctrine. This system’s literal conduits are already being established, and it is these international connections Abunimah makes that we find the most chilling, the most sensitizing, and the most potentially solidarity-inspiring. The Palestinians’ plight, in increasingly direct ways, is all of ours. Read on.

“The same companies profiting from mass incarceration of people of color in the United States are profiting from Israeli occupation.”

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Not Ukraine’s Revolutionary Moment

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AntiNote: As news breaks today of military incidents between Ukrainian government forces and separatist militants in the East, we are once again reeling from the quickly-shifting circumstances in that country. This interview with Volodymyr Ishchenko is less than a week old, and may already be nearing its expiration date…

But: Ishchenko’s statements (as well as his writing; links below) contain a certain wisdom and thoughtful consideration that make them less perishable. As today’s violence sends the international commentariat into fits of hyperbole, lambasting one side or the other (as if there are even just “two sides!”), we find that Ishchenko’s reasoned call for more nuance is as relevant—even urgent—as ever.

Finally, we would like to shout out our friends at LeftEast, a webportal that fosters communication among activists and scholars in Post-socialist regions of Europe—first of all for providing a platform for voices like Ishchenko’s, and secondly for helping us arrange this conversation between him and our other friends and co-conspirators at This is Hell!. We hope this collaboration across continents among AWC’s comrades will not be the last.

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What Form Should Our Movement Take?

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AntiNote:  With this post, we inaugurate a series we will revisit sporadically in the course of our work: One Year Ago

Not to commemorate ‘big dates’ of significance in past and present struggles—there’s plenty of that already, and some of it is quite good—but as a way of refreshing our own memories about conversations that get submerged in the NOW! NOW! NOW! cacophony of internet discourse.

One year ago, our friend and comrade Deckard of the Permanent Crisis blog wrote a thoughtful response to a manifesto of sorts that sprang out of my (Ed’s) experience of the so-called Binz Riots of 3 March 2013 in Zürich. 

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