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  • 19 Jan 2017 10:55 | Masayuki Murayama

    I have been to Onati many times since I attended a workshop on indigenous law organized by Professor Chiba after the Amsterdam meeting in 1991. Onati is really a wonderful place for researchers to hold workshops, do research at the library and teach at the International Master Program. Onati is rather a small town in the Basque country but the Onati Community based on our experience at the Onati Institute is really a "glocal" phenomenon.

  • 17 Jan 2017 18:48 | Camilo Eduardo Umaña H.



    On October 2, 2016, the peace agreement reached between the Government and the FARC was submitted to a plebiscite. The electorate was asked whether they supported the final agreement. 34,899,000 people were qualified to vote, but only 13,066,047 (37.43%) actually did. The abstention rate was 62.57%. Most of the voters (50.21%) disapproved it. This choice made by 18% of the qualified voters.

    *           The understanding of democracy as an electoral system is poor and needs to be reframed. Elections over humanitarian  principles or basic human rights should be discarded. For instance, even though a particular humanitarian measure as freeing sick or wound prisoners may be unpopular, humanitarian laws should prevail over vengeance.

    *           The great electoral abstention rates worldwide suggest that democracy, instead of being an antonym of the "rule of few", is actually turning into a synonymous. Additionally, elections over peace agreements involve the risk of fostering more opportunities for war and may be politically unwise. Humanitarian measures should not be submitted to vote.

    The “Final Agreement for the end of the conflict and the construction of a stable and endurable peace” is a highly complex document of 310 pages. Its implementation involves different constitutional and legal reforms. As a result of the plebiscite, the government could not politically nor legally implement the agreements. In spite of the existence of different legal exits to the problem, the agreement was not implemented due to the political turmoil that the elections created.

    *           Peace agreements are political in nature but cannot advance without a proper legal framework. These agreements adopt different legal (and complex) forms, which depend on the ability of the legal system to adjust to the political landscape as well as the ability of the political system to frame its aspirations for peace within the legal structure and, at the same time, to be willing to prompt legal changes. In this sense, peace agreements imply the accepted interference of the political system in the operation of the legal system.

    The judiciary in Colombia has acknowledged that the campaign against the agreements was mendacious and dishonest. One of the arguments of this campaign was that negotiations affected private property aiming at distributing private lands among the peasants. Another argument was that amnesties and restorative penalties for crimes committed during the armed conflict brought impunity.

    *           The claim for justice that has been limited in the last years to a claim in favor of criminal law repression needs to regain a wider connotation. The human rights practice focusing on criminal law accountability has become a major argument functional to repression rather than to social justice. A human rights perspective on justice should allow thinking of justice as a human goal involving general social relations and not only those emerging from wrongdoings.

    *           The end of the armed conflict (that in Colombia is still pending considering the presence of other guerrillas and armed organizations) should not be equated to peace. Peace is not only the absence of war but in particular the existence of a just society.

    In the elections, the Catholic Church remained officially neutral. However, different catholic, evangelic and christian churches advocated for voting NO in the plebiscite. They claimed to be against gay couples, abortion, communism and sorcery. However, none of these matters was part of the peace agreement.

    *           Latin America in general and Colombia in particular are living a transformation on the religious landscape. The Catholic Church that traditionally has predominated is falling into decline. Other religions with Christian and Evangelic roots are presenting an expansive manifestation and a great impact in society. The parishioners and the clergy of these religions are often disciplined and uniform in respect to their political ideas. These religious expressions (alongside with traditional Catholic positions) have become a relevant source of assimilation between political and religious ideas, practices and discourses. Such lack of distinction is widening as an utter reminder of the European Middle Ages.

    The peace talks aimed at allowing the victims to participate in the negotiations. During the talks, 60 victims of the different actors of the armed conflict (the state, guerrillas and paramilitaries) were able to speak directly to the negotiation table. In addition, the UNDP and the National University of Colombia organized different encounters of victims (three regional and one national) with the purpose of sending a document expressing the expectations and demands of the victims in the process. In spite of these initiatives, different victims claimed that they were not properly heard.

    *           Victims should not negotiate because they are not parties of the conflict. However, the restoration of victims and the society in general should be the focus of peace talks. With this purpose, victims should be able to actively participate on peace talks. Doing so, they may bring a human face to the conflict, contributing to the social awareness of the atrocities committed and pushing for having prompt and effective results.  

    *           Victims may contribute for understanding the importance of preserving social bonds in times of  war. This may open possibilities for the innovation of the social scrutiny concerning criminal actions, not only in the course of a conflict but also in the context of ordinary wrongdoings.

    *I would like to express my gratitude to
     Diana Duran for her, as usual, crucial observations for this text. 

  • 13 Jan 2017 10:36 | Esen Ezgi Tascioglu

    On 4th January 2017 we woke up to the deeply saddening news of our former classmate Asep Rahmat Fajar’s untimely passing. Asep was a graduate of the Faculty of Law, University of Indonesia (FHUI) and had completed his MA studies at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in 2010. At the time of his passing, he was a PhD student at Tilburg University in the Netherlands and had already established himself as a well-known legal reform activist in his country Indonesia. He was one of the founders of the Indonesian Judicial Monitoring Society (MAPPI) and the first MAPPI Chief Executive from 2000 to 2006. He served as the Spokesman of the Judicial Commission (KY) and at the selection committee for new KY commissioners. His last position was as a member of Expert Staffs of the Presidential Office of the Republic of Indonesia.*

    Asep did not only have a bright career. He was, for many of us, a great friend despite the limited time we shared together in Oñati during our MA studies. As his classmates at the IISJ, we would like to remember Asep and cherish his friendship in this post, with our deepest sympathy to his wife Ella and children Cana and Garda, and to all his family, friends and colleagues in Indonesia and elsewhere.

    Asep was my roommate during our MA studies in Oñati. It is a great loss that I feel as he passed away. I think everyone remembers Asep’s smile, the one he was loved and admired for: being serious, accurate, and polite, Asep always seasoned his interactions with people with a smile that made others feel favourable, comfortable, and easy. He was open-minded, intelligent, generous, and what else… – he was true in a very real sense of the word. The true person as Asep is someone who does not need magic or science to approve him, but who requires other people to share his kind feelings with him. Asep will stay in the hearts of many as that important share of one’s own kindness: a smile that remains with you always after meeting Asep.



    Asep was a kind person. I think this is what we will remember most about him and it is one of the greatest compliments one can say about a person. Despite the many years that have passed, we all remember Asep with a smile, because he was like that, with a ready smile that made you feel at ease. Despite the time and the distance, the sad news of his passing is a heavy burden.

    I consider myself privileged to have met him and my heart goes out to his family. Though no words can sooth the loss, I hope there is some comfort in knowing that we will also remember Asep for his gentle, caring and joyful presence in the world.



    For me, the master studies at the IISJ was an amazing experience, albeit a challenging one. This is when we, Asep and I, met and I remember that during the period, I ended putting a lot of weight, while Asep got quite slim. Even though the master experience was worth it, our bodies showed it was not an easy period, as we found ourselves studying intensely, away from our countries, families, friends and some the comforts we have known all our lives. However, I will never forget that Asep faced all those challenges with a big smile. He had a really captivating smile that showed everyone around that no matter how difficult things could get, we would find joy.

    I always imagine being in Indonesia and once more with my estimated colleague. It would have been such a beautiful fun! Yet, I have to face that destiny served us differently. It is deeply sad, but I will hold on to Asep’s smile to deal with it.

    Go in peace my dear friend. A big smile to you!



    I can only remember Asep with a huge smile in his face, transparent and peaceful eyes and a deep sense of justice in every opinion he shared with us. He truly was an inspiration. We knew how much he loved and missed his family during the master's program; and despite how hard it could get there he always shared that wide smile that made us feel it was all going to be fine.  
    People like Asep make our profession a hopeful field for justice, and make our world a better place. 

    I feel happy I had the chance to meet him.



    Knowing Asep has been a great treasure for me. His peace and warm way of being was amazing and so relieving in many times during the master. I knew after sharing several months with my Indonesian colleagues (including Joeni, of course) that our lives would be very connected in many ways. But just after visiting them in their homes in 2012, I strongly realised how much they mean to me. I am so happy of having been able to see again Asep and Joeni, meeting their families and witnessing daily lives in Jakarta and Surabaya. From that moment I kept great learnings from both. From Asep, I remember a lot the idea of being consistent in life in the way he displayed it at his home in regard with Garda’s allowed time for watching TV, and the practice of being able to understand a person even if we do not speak the same language as long as we have the will to do so. My final treasure from my brothers from Indonesia is when they refer to me with their kids as Aunty Sandra. You are in my heart Asep. Your departure makes me realise how lucky I am of having met you in this journey and gives me perspective about what living friendship means.



    ‘Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same again’ – Asep was one of these people; a kind, sincere and compassionate friend who would welcome you into his life with his peaceful presence and beautiful smile. He was a wise and humble man with an open mind and a wealth of insights that he gathered through his unique life experiences and generously shared with anyone in need. Despite the short time he had, he left his imprint on many people, with his enormous heart and natural intelligence. Mourning the great void left behind by his unexpected loss, we know that we will miss him dearly and he will continue to inspire us for the rest of our lives.

    Dear Asep,

    Your presence has been a gift on this earth and in our lives. In the despair of accepting that you are gone, our only consolation is that your energy will continue to nourish and flow through Cana and Garda and all those others you touched, including us.

    Ezgi & Santiago


    “You and I will meet again
    When we're least expecting it
    One day in some far off place
    I will recognize your face
    I won't say goodbye my friend
    For you and I will meet again”...

    To the memory of Asep! Rest in peace...


    Some of our photos with Asep can be seen here.

    * For more information on Asep’s work as an activist and scholar in Indonesia, see Dio Ashar Wicaksana’s post at https://onati.wildapricot.org/blog/4517504

  • 9 Jan 2017 14:33 | Dio Ashar Wicaksana

    It was shocking news to hear that one of our Oñati family members Asep Rahmat Fajar passed away a few days ago (4th January 2017). He graduated from Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law (IISL) in 2010. In Indonesia, Asep is a well-known activist in legal reform. He began his career as activist in 2000, before joining the Indonesian government to ensure legal reform developed inside the bureaucracy. Therefore, this article is a last tribute to his accomplishments as an activist and scholar.

    His Contribution to Indonesian Legal Reform

    Prior to his term in MaPPI FHUI, Asep Rahmat Fajar was an active and vocal law students in echoing reform particularly in legal and judicial reform area. Like others, he joined massive students demonstrations during 1998 to change the authoritarian government led by Suharto. In 1999, his final year in law school University of Indonesia (UI), he and other students started an organization named MaPPI (Indonesian Judicial Monitoring Society). Asep led MaPPI FHUI until 2006 and leave the organization to his junior so they can continue the torch of the organization.  During his leadership, MaPPI actively contributed to develop blueprints for judicial reform in the Indonesian Supreme Court and Indonesian Attorney General Office (AGO). Later, these blueprints was amended by Supreme Court and AGO for longer term of implementation.

    In addition to that, as the center of the mission, MaPPI-FHUI also conducted judicial process monitoring for review and evaluation. MaPPI then developed reports and discussed the result and recommendation to relevant leader within the judiciary. When he was in MaPPI, Asep was also led and became the spokepersons of the CSOs coalition focused on court monitoring, namely Court Monitoring Coalition (KPP). The Coalition was successfully push and advocate many reform agenda to relevant institutions and become the critical partners to the Judicial Commission (KY) and Anti Corruption Commission (KPK). The monitoring method then was not only used by the CSOs, but it was also used by the Indonesian Judicial Commission (KY) to monitor judges across Indonesia which become a basis for them to develop recommendations to the Supreme Court.

    Asep was successfully built his network, thus it was no surprise when he was requested to join the Judicial Commission as an expert and later on as the KY spokesperson. The relationship between KY and the Supreme Court (MA) is not always smooth and good, more often they had heated debate and disagreement resulted in ignorance of MA to KY’s recommendation. Many experts told the media, that it was when Asep as the spokesperson that the relationship between MA and KY started to be more productive. Some of the outputs during his term as spokespersons were the joint letter between KY and MA on the Code of Conduct for judges and also the improvement of judges’ salary. Asep was not only built official relations with MA’s leader and KY’s commissioner but also successfully built personal closeness to the end that they value and respect his work and advice.

    He left KY so he can focus to continue his education on PhD Program in Tilburg University. However, as predicted, he cannot stand not to participate actively in the reform process for too long, especially when the new era brought by President Jokowi gave so much hope to many reformers. He was joined the Indonesian Presidency Staff Office (KSP) responsible on legal and security issues. This is a tough job with many coordination with lost of stakeholders not only in national but also regional level. But, building network and listen to others were always his best traits, thus only in a short time Asep was trusted with bigger task as the Secretary of Working Group on The President Legal Reform Package. It was an important and tough job because the challenge was not only to develop the package that should be practical and result oriented but also on how to build ownership within the institutions itself so they can carry forward the package within their longer planning and implementation.

    Asep believed formalistic legal norms were not always the best solution for legal problems. He argued that law was the result of many factors and perspectives. Therefore, law is the process to equalise and balance justice between nation and society. He strongly believed that civil society had a fundamental influence towards Indonesian judicial legal reform.

    Based on this perspectives, he decided to continue to study at Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law (IISL) in 2009/2010. He wrote his thesis on “The Institutionalization of Public Participation in the Selection of Supreme Court Justices by Judicial Commission of the Republic of Indonesia”. His thesis emphasized on the importance of civil society to influence the quality of Supreme Court Judges.

    His contribution was not only to the Indonesian judicial institutions, but he was also a big inspiration to Indonesian activists. Therefore, many Indonesian people are sad in the loss of his presence.

    To end this article, I would like to extend my deepest condolences for him and his family.  Farewell Asep Rahmat fajar, Indonesia and Oñati community definitely will miss you, you will always be in our hearts and minds.

    *This article also contributed by Nisa Istiani (the former researcher of MaPPI-FHUI)

  • 12 Dec 2016 19:57 | Miren Manias (Administrator)

    When we talk about Basque cinema no single viewpoint is valid since there are too many different opinions on what being Basque means. It can be defined in terms of aesthetics, linguistic, territory, thematic or waves of filmmakers. However, we can now approach this difficulty with more certainty. After a long period of 16 years something amazing happened in 2005: Aupa Etxebeste! (T. Esnal / A. Altuna ) a film fully shot in Basque, produced in the Basque Country, premiered at the San Sebastian International Film Festival and shown commercially with relative success -distributed in several major Spanish cities, including Madrid or Barcelona-.

    The amazing thing about this film is that it marked a point of inflection. Since 2005 an average of 3 films shot in Basque language have been commercially released.From 2005 to 2015 there have been a further 21 fictional feature films in this language and currently there are four films in post-production process, suggesting the recovery is still ongoing.

    Nevertheless, it has to be pointed out the still present dislocation among national cultural production and the local audience. This is clearly reflected in the recent Basque film’s response, together with economic production constraints.From 2005 and 2015 the average attendance for a Basque-language movie has been around 20,000 viewers, far away from the 72,000 achieved by Aupa Etxebeste! or the internationally well-known film Loreak (FLOWERS, 2014).

    The Paris Theatre, New York; (c) Variety

    National audiovisual policy development

    The revival of Basque language cinema has its roots in a series of recent policy developments.

    In 2002, the first Contract Programme was signed between the Basque Government and EiTB (Public Basque Radio-Television) to assume a commitment towards the Basque audiovisual production sector for a period of four years (2002-2005). The Contract Programme, based on the EU’s principles for Public Service Broadcasting, helped to ensure greater presence of the Basque-language within overall media output, support for national cinema and Basque audiovisual production. This agreement has been renewed afterwards in 2006, 2007-2010, 2011, 2012 and 2016-2019.

    In 2003, the Basque Audiovisual White Paper outlined plans for the development of tax incentives for cinema, better TV drama production, the creation of training programmes for professionals and the improvement of working conditions in the audiovisual sector.

    Following the White Paper, the Basque Plan for Culture was designed in order to determine the future lines of promotion for the sector’s activity. Meanwhile, the two associations of Basque audiovisual producers (EPE-APV and IBAIA) and ETB reached an agreement so that Basque Public TV would guarantee its participation in the production of at least two Basque-language films per year. Since then the commitment has been annually extended.

    Finally, in 2007 the Basque Government introduced the Funding Act (107/2007) for audiovisual production with an annual budget of €1.5 million, although funding was removed in 2013.

    Basque-language cinema, far from becoming established

    There is a clear relationship between the implementation of a new film policy and the growth in the number of productions during the last decade, but Basque-language cinema has neither flourished nor become established. These good results just simply reflect a part of reality; in other words, the results of regulations implemented and agreements struck between the Basque Government and ETB from the beginning of the beginning of the century.

    Over the last few years creating employment and training of professionals has been the priority; it has been a learning process also for creative people, policymakers and audience. This is borne out by the evolution in the production costs and funding models of films. In short: the foundations for the future have been put in place.

    Nevertheless, the structure of the Basque audiovisual sector has yet to be consolidated in order to gain gain better production conditions. So, unless further working lines are designed, it is unlikely that this path embarked by Basque-language cinema can be maintained henceforth. These lines of work should be related to the funding of works (encouraging private investment), creating an audience, gaining visibility and showcasing home grown production.

  • 12 Dec 2016 11:01 | Joxerramon Bengoetxea

    Euskal politics, is the new Basque Government business as usual? and Is this a bad thing?

    The Basque Country held its regional elections last September, 25th. A new government has been formed in two months (2016-11-24) whereas almost a year and a second election were necessary to form a government in Spain. The 28 seats of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV/EAJ) plus the 9 seats of the  Socialist Party (PSE-PSOE-EE, Spanish federalist) make up for a "minority" of 37 seats in the 75 member Parliament. The other parties, EH Bildu with 18 (a colation of four parties around the abertzale left) , Podemos with 11 (the emergent Alternative left all over Spain) and the Popular Party with 9 but only 10% of the vote (right wing Spanish unionist).

    The former minority government of the PNV (29/75) had only 8 ministers and managed to get through with the support of the Socialists in Parliament to approve the budget and the occasional support of Bildu. Iñigo Urkullu has been returned as Lehendakari, President, with a new and larger government composed of 8 PNV ministers and 3 Socialist ministers. Maria Jesus Carmen San Jose Lopez, who was director for relations with Parliament under the Socialist Government of Patxi Lopez, will be the socialist minister for Labour and Justice, and her deputy minister for Justice responsible for the Oñati Institute IISL will be the lawyer Miren Gallastegi. Labour has been split from Employment and Social Affairs, and Justice from Governance and Administration.

    The new coalition will probably manage to get through much of its government program because it is quite unlikely that the opposition will unite to outvote it in Parliament. Whereas EH Bildu and Podemos agree on a large number of issues, from social policy to the right to decide, the Spanish Popular Party will not want to be seen as voting alongside those it considers “radicals”. Bildu is now a modernised, competent and credible alternative, and the Populares are not very popular in Euskadi.

    The new government 2016-2020 can be considered novel and audacious, on the one hand and timid and low-key on the other. Let me explain. It is audacious because the sum of the Socialist MPs does not really secure a stable majority in Parliament. Urkullu probably preferred to have those 9 MPs on his side rather than risk an overall majority eventually forming between EH Bildu, Podemos and the Socialists. Maybe not right now, but perhaps later on. It is also audacious because three Socialist ministers are now in the Government and they will probably want to shine on their own. In the midst of a disastrous leadership and ideological crisis, the Socialist Party is in serious need of some positive notoriety after its leader Pedro Sanchez stepped down when the Party facilitated the continuity of PP leader Rajoy as Spanish premier.

    But in my opinion the new colaition government - as in the German große Koalition - is also pretty much "business as usual": stability, pragmatism, bilateral negotiation, consensus are its keywords, nothing like the past experience of the more beligerant and courageous Ibarretxe Governments, and nothing like the sovereignty claim of the Catalan Government. For the first time, the Spanish political opinion-makers are praising Urkullu and the Basque Nationalist Party, not necessarily a good omen for many in Euskadi. Such praise had not been made since the moderate Ardanza Governments, also in coalition with the Socialists (1986-1998). The praise can also be explained because Rajoy might need PNV support to pass the Budget in the Spanish Parliament. What results are to come from a melt-down of the tension is yet to be seen. 'Business as usual' is not to be discarded in a negative sense. What we have been seeing in the recent USA presidential elections or in the Brexit referendum, and what we might see in other European elections to be held next year is not precisely 'usual' or normal. The alt right, the Tea Party, the mad brexiteers, the populists and ultra-nationalists, those who advocate illiberal democracy, are not at all 'business as usual' but rather anti-system. They do point to and feed on a serious legitimacy crisis in “Western” political systems, a crisis socio-legal scholars would do well to examine, explore and analyse in all its expressions. Happily we have little of that in Euskadi.

    Perhaps, after all, 'business as usual' can even be supportive of a democratic way of life that values dialogue, rational discussion, political negociation, welfare and the Commons, social justice and sustainability policies. Perhaps we Basques can innovate by sticking to our traditional values of Covenants, Democracy, Cooperatives and Equality.

  • 12 Dec 2016 10:34 | Ulrike Mueller

    Socio-legal science typically has a normative drive towards ideas of democracy, civil liberties and equality. Thus, French philosopher Eribon's Returning to Reims and his description of leftist academics losing touch to everyman and -woman could make us nervous – or, on the contrary, keep calm, as research into law in action runs less of a risk of distance to society's shop-floor level. But as part of academia, it still stabilises hierarchies of knowledge. Eribon obviously hit a nerve among politico-intellectual communities when he described how different societal inequalities – mostly education, income, sexual orientation – compete with each other. These insights are not new, but meet a desire to understand the recent success of European nationalist parties. The US-American election barely needs to be mentioned to start pondering about why working-class people vote against social security, and why migration can so easily figure as a scapegoat.

    Does socio-legal science have something to offer to these questions, can it contribute insights into socio-legal possibilities of equality? It can refine its fast analysis on access to justice – not only by adding the aspect of access to legislation but by theorising links between legal and political participation. For instance my current research in Germany shows how unemployed people have lost confidence in parliaments, but not in courts. Germany is the only country with a separate branch of courts for matters of social security.

    Furthermore, socio-legal science can not only scrutinize the legal profession, but also the legal clientele, and thereby, give voice to people from diverse societal positions. In addition, it can strengthen the connections between theoretical critiques of law and empirical data. For instance, growing hierarchies with regard to education have been analysed thoughtfully by 20th century's British sociologist T.H. Marshall. In his fundamental article Citizenship and the Social Class he describes the overall trend of increasing equality of rights, including socio-economic rights, and puts it into contrast with the simultaneous spread of capitalism as system of inequality. Searching for immanent boundaries of growing equality, he identifies education as the category of inequality which will gain influence, as it is connected to employment and perceived as legitimate. Thus, this aspect of class would become more important; Returning to Reims would become more difficult. These prediction fits incomfortably well into empirical data about current electoral participation which shows a high and growing degree of socio-economic inequality. Not only do upper-class people participate to a much higher degree in elections than lower-class people, but this distance is even growing when overall economic inequality is rising. But the role of law might be interesting: Marshall described courts as instrument of civil rights, disconnected from social rights. Germany's courts for social security – which offer more hope for unemployed than parliaments do – prove him wrong. Socio-legal science can contribute insights into the role of legal institutions and modes of regulation in the long-term conflict between democracy and capitalism.

  • 8 Dec 2016 15:05 | Matteo Finco
    Health is generally considered a fundamental right. The World Health Organization established this right a long time ago, and as such it is included in the constitutions of many countries. However, what if health is primarily a need of modern society, rather than a right based on shared values? What if medicine and everything that has to do with well-being (ie treating and preventing illness and improving living conditions, food security, etc.), finds its origin only in the society, which in order to maintain itself specifically requires a system that takes care of individuals?

    This is a hypothesis that could be investigated through seemingly distant, or even incompatible, research areas like system theory and critical theory.

    Luhmann’s system theory assumes that the bodies and minds of individuals are not parts or elements of society, but that they belong to its environment. However, they constitute such an important role in the reproduction of society that special social subsystems (such as the medical system that is designed to cure diseases), were formed. If, therefore, health appears as “the only value that can be placed beyond any ideological controversy” (Luhmann, 2015), the reason can be that the system for curing disease is key to ensuring the maintenance and reproduction of society itself: bodies must be cared for, ultimately, to ensure the inclusion of persons, of consciences in communications.

    Critical theory, for its part, suggests that health is one of the many areas exploited for economic purposes. For example, health creates consumers, even when life and death are at stake. Health, then, would be a subjectivisation mechanism, creating “subjugated subjects” (Han, 2014), who are materials available for power. Thus, health, medicalization and care for the body are the foci of a “politics of life”, or in the terms of Foucault, biopower. A “governmental rationality” based on a type of entrepreneurial government, would then be at the root of the claims of the right to health.

    In this sense, it is possible to make a connection between systems theory’s idea that bodies and minds must be “treated” and “cured” to ensure that they can participate in communication and critical theory’s idea that neoliberalism needs to “manage” the human being, not in a repressive way, but “gently”, to satisfy the inherent logic of society.

    The fact that the right to health is usually fully recognized only for those who hold citizenship of a State (who, besides being a body, is also a person), encourages the idea that health is a systemic necessity masked by law in order to submit transparent subjects to their logic.


    Han B.-C., Why revolution is no longer possible, «Süddeutsche Zeitung», 02/09/2014; doi: https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/byung-chul-han/why-revolution-is-no-longer-possible.

    Luhmann N., Anspruchsinflation im Krankheitssystem. Eine Stellungnahme aus gesellschaftstheoretischer Sicht, in P. Herder-Dorneich, A. Schuller (edited by), Die Anspruchsspirale. Schicksal oder Systemdefekt?, Kohlhammer, Stuttgart, 1984.

  • 6 Dec 2016 16:03 | Tanya Monforte

    "This machine kills fascists". These words were scrawled across the guitar of Woody Guthrie, the Oklahoma-born American folksong writer and author of the iconic "This Land is Your Land", along with other songs on class and injustice in the U.S. during the American dustbowl. Guthrie, an economic migrant himself, traveled across the country bearing witness to the deadly effects of economic inequality. He used the tools of his trade during a dark period in history as a metaphorical weapon against oppressive forces at home and abroad.

    Woody Guthrie (cc)

    There is a similar sense of urgency at this moment, as political dark times appear to be settling on us once more. From Trump to Duterte, a new authoritarianism, distinctly autocratic and comfortable flirting with populist violence, is being elected democratically. These and other "strong men" are emerging along with the rise of various shades of reactionary populism across the globe. Promises of a better tomorrow based on an idealized yesteryear have activated populist movements in many places. In the United States it is however not conservatism that has been championed. The American version of this seemingly transnational movement is an iconoclastic rightwing movement that has been built upon the wreckage of neoliberalism and set aflame by the so-called alt-right's politics of scapegoating.

    The situation was already urgent before Trump's election. One would be hard pressed to deny that the global challenges we face have reached a critical state for some time. From climate change, environmental destruction, economic inequality, conflict and migration, we are witnessing a general shift, on both the right and left of the political spectrum, as people are decrying the inadequacy of the status quo and institutions in place to deal with the crises communities are facing.

    Immediately following Trump's election, organizations in the United States, such as Greenpeace, the American Civil Liberties Union, or the Washington Post, received significant private contributions. In response to the election results, people are moving to strengthen institutions outside of government that are immediately under threat by, and are threatening to, the coming Trump administration. As they announced, those institutions will undoubtedly remain engaged in resistance in the form of activism, litigation and reporting. However, what has been particularly disheartening to witness is how frequently people have already reiterated their confidence that, because Donald Trump was elected democratically into a system of "checks and balances," the institutions would ultimately discipline and contain the worst of what could be expected from the rhetoric of the presidential campaign. It is, however, quite possible that governmental and legal institutions will instead absorb his, and his advisers’ positions, and formally legitimate what was precisely so abhorrent in the context of the electoral campaign.

    Institutions are shaped as much as they shape. The University is in this context a less obvious institution potentially under serious threat in the United States. Universities and faculty are beginning to mobilize to affirm core principles of the university to cope with the coming Trump administration. MIT recently affirmed a commitment to scientific inquiry, a principle that is, however extraordinary it may seem, under increasing threat from the alt-right. Similarly, it was reported that one professor recently proposed a code of conduct that simply affirms, for example, that professors will not inform on their students. These measures may appear paranoid or extreme from the outside. But the University in the U.S. has become increasingly a site of political contestation as a rising shade of rightwing reactionary politics has mobilized against both Liberals and the Left. The organization Turning Point USA, self-described as committed to "free markets and limited government", has created a "Professor Watchlist" that names professors who "advance a radical agenda," along with their supposed offense and a photo. The American version of anti-elitism is taking on a peculiar shape as anti-intellectualism putting academia on the defensive. 

    If the academy is the conscience of the nation, as a wise colleague of mine frequently stated, then in this moment of crisis the University will be a central coil of the machine combatting authoritarianism and autocracy, just as it comes under particular scrutiny by reactionary forces. It is the moment for faculty, staff and students to begin organizing and working towards a progressive form of resistance to reactionary forces.

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