Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Ruminations 68(3): Looking Back on 2016 in Epigrams and Aphorisms

(Pix © Flora Sapio 2016)
In many ways, the year that is ending has proven to be quite significant. Mostly, it served as a hard reminder that the carefully crafted project of legalization and judicialization of the economic, religious and cultural spheres that were meant to serve as the foundations of a global order to make global war effectively impossible has begun to fray. And with the fraying of the legalization-judicialization project, politics and power have again emerged as significant factors in the organization of law and governance systems. It has seen the destabilization of the Middle East and its consequential destabilization of Europe. It has seen the retreat of a great power, a perpetually brooding political Colossus trapped in its own doubts and pretensions, and the flexing of muscles of rising powers through territorial expansionism and bullying of weaker partners. It has seen the exercise of mass power in the United States and other places that surprised elites that had long grown confident of their ability to manage their people, whether under Marxist Leninist or democratic principles. It has seen the unmasking of the militarization of the internal security and police structures of even the most stable and democratic states, the abandonment of law in battle against drugs and the emergence of law as a technique of managing corruption. It has seen the development of governance beyond the state and the determination of states seeking to substitute itself for the market. It has seen states us law, norms, markets and culture to drive efforts to perfect "model" workers, individuals and citizens, which can then serve the state's perfection of its markets, its centrally planned decision making structures, or its structures of divine command on earth. The Jewish people continued to provide fodder for all sorts of activity and were used by left, right and themselves to their quite distinct ends, as other religious institutions sought to maintain or expand their institutional jurisdiction within legal, cultural, economic and social structures in and beyond states. The rise of global communities has now been challenged by states seeking to avoid the implications of normative communities that cannot be confined to and managed by the state.

2016 is rich with these events that expose the complex connections between law, politics, economics, religion and culture. These events will set the course for 2017, even as new actors seek to take manage people, events, states, enterprises and other institutions with substantial consequential effects of the mass. But most of all 2016 evidence both the great power and the fragility of mass participation in institutions in which they find themselves in a continuous loop of mutually dependent overlordship.

With no objective in particular, this post provides my summary of the slice of 2016 in which I was embedded through epigrams and aphorisms.

This is Part 3. Share your own!

Links to Epigrams and Aphorisms: Ruminations 68.

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

Part III.

15. Nothing in government goes broke unless you choose to break it; the political classes blame the glass for breaking after they throw it on the ground. [Thinking about the pronouncement that Medicate is going broke because of Obamacare as a gateway to eliminating both (here)].

2. The rise of nationalism on the left (reviving the new international economic order) is matched by the nationalism of the right (reviving 1930s style import substitution fortress states); both hard left and right will undo the post WWII order as the center collapses through self absorption, corruption and arrogance; together both would revive sovereign hierarchies and promote global latifundianism;  and make no mistake this is a global problem. [On reading Ben Shapiro and the hard right; thinking about the broader implications of the way that elected officials have used the "alt-right" and the mutual benefit derived thereby (here)].

3. Latifundianism, the new forms of hegemony in a post imperial era: referencing the way that developed states will tend to appropriate land and productive forces of developing states for its own needs, and usually tied to moving higher end production out to the exporting state--for example a developed state may invest in land fir cultivation of crops with no local markets and then export the crop fur processing sale and distribution from the home state. [Considering the implications, accelerating in 2016 and more desperate as climate change alters the location of arable lands, of powerful states turning to poorer states for land to use to feed its home populations (here)].

4. The ironies and paradoxes of legalization: when religion is the language of law, law gains coherence and unity even as religion explodes into a thousand incompatible variations and law with it. [Considering the consequences of efforts in Texas to impose fetal burial rules as a thruast against abortion and the religious objection of Satanists on (here)].

5. The attainment by a community of the greatest control over its adherents produces the conditions necessary to contest that control and reject that power; the most powerful institution seeks to approach but avoids totalitarianism a condition nowhere more evident than within religious communities. [Thinking about the response of Dalit communities in India to convert to Buddhism (here)].

6. Within the personhood of woman, of the female as object and abstraction, lies the germinal premises of societal organization; there may come a time when the personhood of the person can be used to the same effect. [On the beheading and stabbing of a woman in Afghanistan for venturing to the city to shop without a close male relative (here)].

7. The ironies and paradoxes of legalization: when politics is subsumed within law, the judge becomes the greatest political actor in the state. [Considering the implications of the wave of indictments and impeachments of unpopular leaders in Latin America (here and here)].

8. The ironies and paradoxes of legalization: where all societal functions are objects of law, embedding the functions of their interpretation and of application to the judge transforms the rule of law into the rule of the judge; unless the judge herself is the subject of a greater disciplinary power--the community of judges--or  law beyond the state. [On thinking about the efforts to get Chilean judges to indict Israeli judges for actions interpreted as beyond the judgment of international judges (here)]

10.  The ironies and paradoxes of legalization: it is all too common to mistake inference for fact and judgment for law; the former transforms judgment into fact, the latter morphs inference into law.   [Thinking about the implications for projects like the China Guiding cases project (here)].

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

11.  The ironies and paradoxes of legalization: at its most refined, law ceases to be external to its objects; the most effective law is understood as fact; and fact is understood as a consensus of inference drawn from collective desire; the true lawmaker is the one who can manage societal perceptions, the way it draws inferences, the facts it may value and those it may discard, and the societal judgments it might then make.  [On the efforts to discipline, manage and project speech on university campuses (here)].

12.  The ironies and paradoxes of law: it is an error to presume as natural or inevitable that a judge must both interpret law and, thus interpreted, apply it to a specific dispute she is called on to decide; that amalgamation is a product of the genius of a particular culture in time and place built on the notion of the autonomy of law from the institutions around which it is built, managed and protected; it is equally plausible to detach the power to interpret law generally  from the power to apply it to a particular dispute in those societies where the law is understood differently, as embedded in rather than autonomous of the institutions [Thinking about the foundations and approaches of Chinese judicial reform and the universality of the ancient principles of Western legal-judicial construction (here)].

13.  The ironies and paradoxes of legalization: to assert authority through law one must also control the way its subjects view the world, one must direct the process of interpretation; law assumes its authority only when the lawmaker can convince the objects of law that its nature and character are natural and inevitable; to control law one must reshape the way the world is viewed and understood by the objects-persons on which law is imposed. [On the implications of President Obama signing a bill establishing an Anti-Propaganda agency (here)].

14. The ironies and paradoxes of legalization:  who owns law?; the state claims sole ownership of its forms and authority; but beyond the reach of its authority law grows wild--weeds in an otherwise manicured garden; the legalization of everyday life has produced not just law but lawmakers in every community willing to give itself form--the gardens of law now finds itself both invaded by weeds it cannot eradicate and embedded in a meadow well beyond its reach, but one to which, ironically, it had given form. [On the work of the UN intergovernmental working group to elaborate a a comprehensive business and human rights treaty (here and here)].  

15.  The ironies and paradoxes of legalization: inevitably legalization changes the character of law; it ceases to frame normative decisions and is transformed into the language of politics; where religion once served as the grammar of politics expressed through law, now that function is served, not by law but by legalization; to effect legalization through law requires that law cease to be itself.  The implications of recent efforts to ban foreign funding of non governmental organizations through law and in particular, in India, its consequences for the ethnic, racial and religious (caste) politics of the state (here)].

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