Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Dual Circulation Human Rights and the Challenge of Myanmar for Socialist and Liberal Democratic Orders


Pix credit here

Since the idea of a dual circulation economy became a prominent part of the official discourse of globalization within Chinese New Era theory, both the idea and its manifestations have had a broadening role to play in the ordering and assessment of human rights compliance within global production chains. "According to the dual circulation model, China plans to emphasize both growing exports (international circulation) and expanded domestic demand, powered mainly by rising consumption (internal circulation), with the two reinforcing each other. " (here). 

Pix Credit here
Chinese policymakers, who are more often engineers than lawyers or economists, think about development in terms of an open giant complex system. The dual circulation framework is dialectic, being a strategic balance between internal loops and external loops, depending on overall threats and opportunities. Dialectically, if the outside world does not want to engage with China, it will focus internally. (here)

Whatever the assessment of the value or effectiveness of the strategy as a macro-economic policy objective (eg here), the normative and discursive power of the "dual circulation" model cannot be underestimated.  

1. The idea of dual suggests not just operational separation but conceptual borders.  That is, under traditional theories of internationalist convergence the operative premise was that all stakeholders would, through a process of active engagement nudge themselves and be nudged into roughly common approaches based on similar  shared ideas core operating premises. Conceptually dual circulation necessarily posits that there need not be an identity between core operational concepts that drive the optimization of an internal system and operational concepts that drive the most profitable engagement between systems.  They might align, but they do not require an identity of core premises, objectives, working styles, conduct valuation, normative principles, interpretation, and governance. 

2. Those conceptual borders leak into the field of human rights in economic activity. And indeed, in the context of human rights, there has already been a substantial push to express the emerging differences between human rights first principles that are sourced in liberal democratic imaginaries and those sourced in New Era Chinese Marxist-Leninist theory (eg, The Rise of Socialist Human Rights). While the systems may share the same language, they do not necessarily share the same values. Even when values are aligned, they may be interpreted in significantly different ways. The differences in the "language of human rights requires, in turn, a new vocabulary.  It requires a vocabulary that shifts the emphasis of discourse (and thus the way that terms are understood and applied as policy and rules and norms) from the language and vocabularies of human rights (of the individual) to that of  development (of society and collective institutions)." (Ibid.).  From this starting point, divergence is likely, as the interior dialectic of "domestic" circulation and that of "international" circulation produce their own interpretive trajectories. That requires, in turn, a third language--the language with which it is possible to align (or differentiate) the imaginaries of the domestic and the international. All three share a common language, bt beneath the sound ad signs, meaning, perspective, valuation, purpose, can differ.   

3. Dual circulation in a globalized world creates both challenges and opportunities. For economic actors (including state controlled or owned entities managing production chains), the challenges are clear enough.  Principal among them is the problem of operating among systems whose expectations may be incompatible.  Inconsistent but compatible systems merely cause compliance costs; they do not necessary affect access to markets or productive forces. Incompatible systems or requirements produce substantial issues of access to productive resources and markets. Nonetheless the compatibility also produces opportunity; that opportunity is itself a function of the border that divides conceptual territories and the necessity for developing spaces for operating between and within them. In this case the operative opportunity is contextualized mimesis--the opportunity to develop mirroring parallel systems, one focused on domestic circulation and the other on foreign.

All of this came to mind when reading through  Myanmar Garment Worker Allegations Tracker: Three years of military rule distributed by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.

The 1 February 2024 marks three years since the military takeover of Myanmar. The Resource Centre has been tracking labour rights abuse in Myanmar’s garment factories during this period, recording hundreds of attacks on garment workers’ human rights both in their workplaces and on the streets. In this latest update we examine allegations of abuse tracked over the past year and responses from international buyers – many familiar big brand names. Alongside, we have conducted anonymous. . . worker interviews with the aim of centring the everyday experience of this predominantly female and increasingly precarious workforce. . . The actions taken by the military regime since February 2021 have resulted in far-reaching restrictions on basic civil liberties and trade union rights, as recently confirmed by the ILO Commission of Enquiry. For garment workers, this means tolerating worsening conditions in factories while at the same time highlighting both the disintegration of their rights at work and their ability to raise concerns with trade unions no longer able to operate at factory level.(here)

 Such violations require action grounded in the imaginaries of the human rights priorities of business in global production. 

As our data shows, allegations of labour rights abuse in the country's garment sector continue to increase, not just in frequency but also in severity. And while some brands have taken the decision to divest from Myanmar- including a new wave of companies during 2023, from Inditex to H&M and Lidl- many international fashion brands continue to profit from the political and economic status quo in the country. Three years after the coup and amid overwhelming evidence of attacks on worker rights and freedom of association and assembly, brands sourcing from Myanmar have an unequivocal obligation to conduct heightened human rights due diligence on their supply chains. (here).

Nonetheless it also suggests something else: dual circulation strategies for human rights in business. In this case brands might eventually be nudged into separating their operations.  For those brands subject to regimes of human rights that do not circulate directly within liberal democratic consumption chains one regime.  For them, both the domestic markets and the transnational regimes, the imaginaries of Socialist human rights apply--and with them the choices and values built into that system. These will sometimes align with other systems but sometimes not.  For domestic and transnational regimes within the the orbit of liberal democratic systems the contemporary imaginaries of internationalist human rights applies within the legalities of applicable context.  These are the regimes aligned with the human rights sensibilities that might (in one reading) be expressed as the BHRRC suggests (though there are other readings of the application of both the UNGP and national supply chain due diligence regimes). 

The application of regulatory regimes centered on human rights, then, may not be drawn as a function of physical territory, but rather as a function of production chains (discussed here: Are Supply Chains Transnational Legal Orders? What We Can Learn from the Rana Plaza Factory Building Collapse). In the context of Myanmar, that suggests that the application of legal or normative regimes within the territory of Myanmar will be a function of the production chain to which it will be applied. Those facing toward Socialist markets may be suggest to expectations quite different than those facing toward liberal democratic markets.  What follows for business is then fairly straightforward: brands might be faced with the reality of developing two production streams with two institutional structures nationalized within two distinct territoriality managed units. The result, of course, is then that the unitary analytics of reports such as those in Myanmar Garment Worker Allegations Tracker may be severely impacted, along with the ability of states and other actors to project their preferences beyond the production chains they control and the actors within them subject to the authority of their law. 

These are the questions and strategies that tend to be avoided by those whose preference is to push toward a unitary imaginary of incorporating human rights sensibilities into the compliance regimes of enterprises. They appear nowhere in either national legalization of international normative standards, nor are they anywhere near the construction of that project of international treaty making around human rights (though in fairness that effort might be written broadly enough to make it impossible to apply it within a single normative structure). Also avoided are the questions about the practical consequences of human rights compliance fracture for economic enterprises seeking to operate within production and consumption markets subject to sometimes incompatible systems. From the perspective of pragmatics, especially by those charged with developing and using productive forces, the consequences are easiy visible. The challenge for developing mimetic production chains operating independently then becomes the critical issue, rather than any challenge with respect to compliance within systems. States will seek to project their (unifying) authority to their broadest extent. Other states act to protect the integrity of their systems from inward projection from competitor systems.  Dividing business into context compatible operating systems within each offers the greatest opportunity for productive forces; and the greatest challenge for public authority.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees: When Ought the Acts of IndivIduals be Ascribed to the Collective?


Pix credit here


The issue of collective intent has been at the heart of the claim, brought by the Republic of South Africa, against the Republic of Israel, alleging, in part on the basis of statements from some officials and drawing an inference from the effects of its military operations, alleging genocidal intent against the people now residing in the Gaza  Strip (my discussion here, and here on the ICJ proceedings). There has been little debate, effective debate anyway, among those who drive opinion and perspective, about the value and legitimacy of ascribing to the collective a well curated and weighted cicktail of statements from individuals.   "My decision to vote in favour of the measures indicated rests on the plausible claim by South Africa that certain statements by Israeli State officials, including members of its military, give rise to a real and imminent risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights of Palestinians under the Genocide Convention (see paragraphs 50-52 of the Order). " (Nolte, J., Declaration).

It comes as something of a surprise, then, when, in the context of the allegations that members of the  United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)  actively participated in the operations of Hamas on and before the attacks of 7 October on Israeli and other civilians, the argument is being advanced that there is a fundamental illegitimacy in ascribing to an organization of thousands the conduct or acts of a few, even a critical few.  That, we are now told, amounts to a proscribed collective punishment, not merely on the agency itself but also on the people for which they are responsible. "The decision to suspend aid to the UN Palestinian refugee agency by several Western countries is a “collective punishment”, the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has said, as the UN chief Antonio Guterres joined him in urging donor nations to maintain much-needed Gaza aid." (here).

The outcry, from officials and friends of UNRWA, resulted form the decision of key financial supporters of the agency to suspend their payments (interim measures) pending a thorough investigation not just of the involvement of "the few" but also of the structural biases in the agency that might cause it to repeat these behaviors. The Statement by Japanese Foreign Press Secretary KOBAYASHI Maki provides a good example:

  1. As a United Nations agency, UNRWA plays a crucial role in providing essential services such as health and medical care, education, welfare, and food assistance to millions of Palestine refugees in cooperation with the international community. Especially in the Gaza Strip, where the humanitarian situation is deteriorating further, UNRWA plays a vital role in delivering essential humanitarian assistance to each and every resident.
  2. Against this backdrop, Japan is extremely concerned about the alleged involvement of UNRWA staff members in the terror attack on Israel on October 7 last year. In response, Japan has decided to suspend additional funding to UNRWA for the time being while UNRWA conducts an investigation into the matter and considers measures to address the allegations.
  3. Many UNRWA staff members have been dedicated to providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza. Japan has been strongly urging UNRWA to conduct the investigation in a prompt and complete manner and to take appropriate measures, including strengthening governance within UNRWA, so that UNRWA can firmly fulfill the role it should play.
  4. At the same time, Japan will continue to make persistent and active diplomatic efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and to calm down the situation as soon as possible by providing support to other international organizations.

Pix credit here
 The response has included a promise of investigation and the termination of the individuals identified as participating in Hamas activities. "

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini stated: 'The Israeli Authorities have provided UNRWA with information about the alleged involvement of several UNRWA employees in the horrific attacks on Israel on 7 October. To protect the Agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, I have taken the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and launch an investigation in order to establish the truth without delay.' (here).

That, the head of the UNRWA and the UN Secretary General, have suggested, ought to be enough to satisfy, and to get donor funds flowing again. The idea is that in the case of UNRWA the acts ought not to be ascribed to the organization, nor should the organization consider its own systemic failures, and thus, the effective development of intentional cultures that encouraged or tolerated these acts. The issue is not of the collective, but of individual "bad seeds" who ought to be rooted out and punished--by termination. The same arguments, of course, carried little weight in the ICJ proceedings. 

This raises the core issue, of course, to what extent ought the acts of individuals point to the "intent", "motivations" of the collective.  Since collectives are  in a sense expressed through individual actors, the issue has always been important--and finessed. Or rather it has remained delightfully and strategically ambiguous so that, when it suits, one can ascribe (in a reductionist manner) the acts and sentiments of individuals to the collective, and other times, treat the individual as an "outlaw", "bandit" "transgressor" who does not reflect the institution.   Again, Mr. Lazzarini for UNRWA: “It would be immensely irresponsible to sanction an Agency and an entire community it serves because of allegations of criminal acts against some individuals, especially at a time of war, displacement and political crises in the region." (here).  Perhaps it would, but consistency might then require an equal weighting in other cases of efforts to ascribe to institutions or collectives the statements or acts of individuals.   n all cases, one begins to suspect that the issue of plausibility plays a role--as the Judges on the ICJ recently taught us. Collective punishment, then, might rest, in this era, on its plausibility.

 The Statements follow below.

Monday, January 29, 2024

A Different Environmental Perspective: February 2024 Report Cates 1980


Pix credit here

Cates 1980 has distributed its February 2024 Report. It is worth considering, even if one is inclined not to journey to the edges of policy and embrace the operative presumptions that may be embedded.The Report follows below (with some of the pictures). It is a useful way of getting a sense of what is happening at the edges of the perception from the center.

美学者刘亚伟:美国“中国通”群体在特朗普任期前后发生巨变 发表时间 [American scholar Liu Yawei: The "China experts" group in the United States has undergone tremendous changes before and after Trump's term of office]


The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia describes Liu Yawei this way: "

Yawei Liu, Ph.D., is the senior advisor on China at The Carter Center and an adjunct professor of political science at Emory University. An expert on U.S.-China relations and Chinese grassroots democracy, he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the associate director of the China Research Center in Atlanta. He is regularly invited to speak about Chinese public opinion, and his previous engagements include the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Brookings Institution, the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute for China-America Studies. . . He is chief editor of the Center’s U.S.-China Perception Monitor (Mandarin) and China-America Stories websites. He also publishes the Center’s Finding Firmer Ground report series, which explores how dialogue, conflict management, and collaboration between the U.S. and China can sustain peace and prosperity in East Asia.

On 13 January 2024 Liu Yawei gave a quite interesting interview (in Chinese:美学者刘亚伟:美国“中国通”群体在特朗普任期前后发生巨变 [American scholar Liu Yawei: The "China experts" group in the United States has undergone tremendous changes before and after Trump's term of office] for the state owned Radio France Internationale. The audio of the interview may be accessed HERE.  The printed transcript may be accessed HERE and follows below in the original Chinese and in a crude English translation.

Among the many interesting takeaways is this:

现在的情况就是脱钩已经发生了,就是对中国整个制度的失望,对领导人决策的不稳定,对中国不可能允许国外企业平等地与中国企业竞争等,他们可能现在已经有了比较固化的看法。至于正确不正确,我觉得现在都不重要了。就是说,(他们)现在就是这么看,有可能正确,有可能不正确。但是问题是能不能相互坐下来,把各自的底线都搞清楚,然后在知道对方底线的情况下,谈我们怎么去合作、怎么可以一起挣钱、怎么按国际的规定和法律各自做好自己挣钱的事,同时呢,也要遵纪守法。["The current situation is that decoupling has already occurred. They are disappointed with China's entire system, the instability of leaders' decision-making, and China's inability to allow foreign companies to compete equally with Chinese companies. They may now have a more solidified view. Views. As for whether they are correct or not, I think it doesn’t matter now. That is to say, (they) see it this way now. It may be correct or it may not be correct. But the question is whether we can sit down with each other and work out our respective bottom lines. Be clear, and then, knowing each other's bottom line, talk about how we can cooperate, how we can make money together, how we can each do our own thing to make money in accordance with international regulations and laws, and at the same time, we must abide by the law.]


Saturday, January 27, 2024

The Intersubjectivity of Plausibility/Causation/Perspective: Interim Measures Order on the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip (South Africa v. Israel) With Text of Order, Declarations, Separate and Dissenting Opinions

Pix Credit here

Even though I do not find it plausible that the military operation is being conducted with
genocidal intent, I voted in favour of the measures indicated by the Court. To indicate those measures, it is not necessary for the Court to find that the military operation as such implicates plausible rights of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. My decision to vote in favour of the measures indicated rests on the plausible claim by South Africa that certain statements by Israeli State officials, including members of its military, give rise to a real and imminent risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights of Palestinians under the Genocide Convention (see paragraphs 50-52 of the Order). (Nolte, J., Declaration)

The much anticipated decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the demand by the Republic of South Africa and its friends for interim measures in its action against the Republic of Israel in the context of an action by the Republic of South Africa alleging that the military and related operations of the Republic of Israel against the political and military structures of the Hamas collective, one of several institutionalized manifestations of political collectives among Palestinians has been delivered. 

There was disappointment, interpretation, and rationalizations among all individuals and collectives (political, religious, social, public, private, etc.) desperately hungry to have the ICJ serve as their instrument for the advancement of whatever agendas drive them when it comes to the Jews living in the Republic of Israel; and yet collectives seemed to try to make the best of the decision for their own ends (eg here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). What they got instead was something of a discursive bricolage that sought to satisfy everyone, and in the process neither their any of them, or in the long run, their own institutional interests.  Those who wish to stop the military operations of the Jews were disappointed by the decision; those who wanted a legitimating judicial space in which an ironic Nazi-era right and now left trope of the "Jew as Nazi" might find be advanced were less disappointed; those who sought vindication of the military response were disappointed by a lecture in the importance of abiding by the rules. Those who continue to aspire to a judicialized politics at the international level were more satisfied as the judicial apparatus took the time to protect and expand its jurisdiction and, to some extent, at least theoretically augment its equitable powers to manage the exercise of political discretion in the interactions of states and other actors of interest to the judicial apparatus. None of this is unexpected.

Its arte povera was constructed from out of the textual papier-mâché (the chewed paper) pasted together in the form of a an opinion attached to a judicial order (26 January 2024) pulped together with what one might be excused as characterizing as the self-revealing personal narrative framing declarations of Judges Xue; Bhandari; and Nolte; the counter narrative of the dissent of Judge Sebutinde; and, perhaps in the manner of the old medieval disputations, the separate opinion of the (Jewish) Judge ad hoc Barak (South Africa was also allowed an ad hoc appointment because neither state was represented on the court).  The text of each of these writings are reproduced below. 

Pix Credit here
I leave it to the intelligentsia, and the drivers of global narratives, through their mass collectives, to parse meaning from this arte povera papier-mâché through what is likely to be a polyphonous chorus of elaboration of analytical lines, justifications, planning, and emoting, over the decision, the value and character of the declarations, dissenting and "separate" opinions (an assortment of some here). There are lots of "found objects" from which a variety of narrative bricolage may be fashioned and inserted into the markets for the shaping of reality. I merely reflect briefly on what was mostly at the sidelines of the case: the first touches on the concept of plausibility, one that played an important semiotic role, in the construction of a plausible analytical legitimacy to the ICJ's order; the second touches on the presumptions of causation, one that permitted the construction of a sort of brutish and simpleminded ecology of cause and effect; the third touches on the larger structural narrative which constrict the narrative space within which it is possible to exercise a judicial analytical function. My point is not to suggest that these presumptions and reality shaping rules are either good or bad, but to suggest that each is worth examining not just for their consequences in the immediate historical context, but for the hidden or forgotten deep premises from which these presumptions appear to emerge "naturally."

1. Plausible plausibility. The plausibility of the ICJ Order is itself founded on the application of principles of plausibility to the collection of facts, opinions, feelings, points of view that it can plausibly paste together (again the papier mâché imagery) into a solid foundation for what it means to do: (1) lecture (literally a reading for instruction) the Republic of Israel in its treaty duties; (2) effectively insist that the rates of mortality be reduced to some sort of acceptable level; and (3) remind the Republic of Israel that it will be under observation. 

Today’s order was, in my view, largely a foregone conclusion. The conditions for the indication of provisional measures laid down in the Court’s jurisprudence can easily be met in a situation as harrowing as the one in Gaza. All, that is, but one – the plausibility of the rights (or violations) alleged by the parties. (Marko Milanovic, ICJ Indicates Provisional Measures in South Africa v. Israel (EJIL: Talk!)

It may make sense, then, to consider the context in which the judges wrestle with the meaning they would construct for the term "plausible" within the lexicon of legal meaning making. Etymologically, one speaks here to the "appearance of truth or credibility" (here). One might emphasize the "truth" and "credibility" part of the definition. And, indeed, that is what the judges were arguing about in its essence.  To what extent was there truth or credibility to the statements and actions that represents its own pastiche of truth and credibility. It might be more useful, though, to focus on that other part of its definition--on appearance. Judge Bhandari got closest to this emphasis. Closely tied to the idea of appearance as the essence of the plausible is an older sense from the word's Latin root-- plausibilis "praiseworthy, pleasing, acceptable"(here). And, indeed, in this aspect, it is not truth or credibility that is important, it is the acceptability or praiseworthiness of the idea, fact etc. advanced, that tales center stage.  Here, plausibility is more a function of what one wants to believe--what one believes one must believe, what one  expects to believe, what one's prejudices (judged good or evil; conscious or built into  one's imaginaries) drive one to believe or desire to believe--that drives the condition of the plausible. 

What is plausible, then, is what is "seemingly worthy of acceptance or approval" (here). Judge Nolte got closest to a refreshingly candid embrace of this aspect of the meaning of the term; and so did Judge ad hoc Barak but from vastly different starting points for the judging of appearance or desire.  Of course, judges and lawyers will dress this up in the seemingly logical and methodological weighing and balancing of the language lawyers use to make meaning (Broekman & Backer, Lawyers Making Meaning (2013). But it does not change the thrust of the act of identifying the plausible--one is looking for what one wants to find; that is the threshold of the plausible. The rest is the consequence of the baggage one brings to the task of judging something worthy of acceptance  or approval.  It suggests, then, not a judgment about a quantum of fact, but rather a judgement of a quantum of judgment, of presumption, of expectation that can be evidenced by a collection of "truth objects." The consequence, then, follows--plausibility is not a judicial process but a political-cultural act--an act of affirmation of membership in a particular imaginary collective that is capable of seeing things in a particular way, and thus seeing, capable of plausible judging. That is a point that might be intimated from Judge Sebutinde's dissent.

2. The Narrative Politics of Causation and its limits. There is really very little here; and that is what ought to give pause. Almost with no discussion, all of the judges assumes that the limits of causation were defined by a simple relationship: Palestinian harm was caused by the military acts of the Republic of Israel.

The Court begins by recalling the immediate context in which the present case came before
it. On 7 October 2023, Hamas and other armed groups present in the Gaza Strip carried out an attack in Israel, killing more than 1,200 persons, injuring thousands and abducting some 240 people, many of whom continue to be held hostage. Following this attack, Israel launched a large-scale military operation in Gaza, by land, air and sea, which is causing massive civilian casualties, extensive destruction of civilian infrastructure and the displacement of the overwhelming majority of the population in Gaza. (Order, supra, ¶ 13).
But this judicial conceit might be worth a little interrogation (and the sort of complication that irritates the seamless logic of the analytical framework imposed in this case and largely uncontested by influential or authoritative stakeholders).  The undisputed working premise is that the military action of the Republic of Israel is the cause of Palestinian suffering.

Nonetheless, Nietzsche reminds us (but apparently not the global class of lawyer-priests) of the four great errors: (1) the error of confusing cause and consequence; (2) the error of a false causality; (3) the error of imaginary causes; and (4) the error of free will (Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols; pp. 33-43). In this case, the missing cause is the role of the political-military-religious collective asserting substantial control over Gaza: Hamas. Let us consider the unpalatable--the plausibility of errors of causation at the root of  the case.

The first of the errors would turn cause and effect upside down. Palestinian suffering was caused by Hams as a consequence of its decision to build its military infrastructure in key civilian areas. That was, in part, the inartfully argued stance of the Republic of Israel--against which the proportionality analysis would be applicable., and justifiably so. The cause was Hamas intentionality in placing its military operations strategically; the instrument of that harm was the Israeli response. The cause of Israeli military operations is the presence of Hamas military installations. And the cause of Palestinian suffering are the placement of the Hamas military installations.  Connected to this, of course, is the causality template--intent to genocide focus. Here the  cause issue is equally ambiguous--was the October 7 criminal raiding of Hamas the encouraged pretext for genocide; or was the response to the October 7th criminal raiding the precise objective of the raiding itself; if the later then the genocidal intent rests with Hamas whose instrument is the Israeli military whose actions can be alternatively reframed to suit the principal objective.

The second of the errors  is related to the first: the cause of Palestinian suffering is the proximity of military installations  to places where civilians are found. The accepted cause and effect, then is built on the false cause that the object of Palestinian suffering is Israeli action against them. Here the presumption  is that the Hamas installations are the excuse  to justify a larger  not pacification but elimination. In effect, false causality in situations like this produce not just perversion but opportunity: it becomes clear that a  military political collective would be insane NOT TO place their military installation next to or under centers of appealingly vulnerable civilians. While that placement may be condemned, it would be the forces that seek to confront those military installations that bear the risk of legal breach rather than those who controlled (created) the risk. Indeed, the order suggests just this trajectory. Untested, though, is whether that presumption would apply to disfavored groups. Here the false causality of genocide moves from genocide itself to IHL and proportionality. And it assumes without considering a principle that proportionality breaches can themselves be predicates to genocide.

The third of the errors, imaginary causality,  is at the center of the problem of causality as it has been avoided by the court. The problem here is that of analogy and the mimesis of historical patterns.  In this case especially that iterative mimesis posits a sort of Stockholm syndrome--collectives that suffer traumatic abuse are likely to themselves become abusers  This desperate search for an answer in historical analogy, strategically applied and colored by the another set of historical mimesis--the baseline presumptions  about the stereotypical Jew, conflates to create fertile ground for the imaginary. Again, the imaginary causality in this case might have the power to make Hamas invisible.  And it provides the necessary stage in which the judges can use text to make affirmations of their loyalty to specific forms of legal discursive tropes. And yet, the judges are entrapped as much by these ideological affirmations as they might be by inverted or false causality. 

The last of the errors--the falsity of free will--might be the most interesting. "Men were thought of as “free” in order that they might be judged and punished—in order that they might be held guilty: consequently every action had to be regarded as voluntary, and the origin of every action had to be imagined as lying in consciousness" (Nietzsche, supra, p. 42). But that is the trick. Judgment is not inevitable, and is shaped by the circumstances of judging, and those circumstances are themselves the materialization of presumptions about the way things are, ought to be, and the character of the actors operating in this space of "ought" and "are". That produces the conflations perhaps best evidenced in paragraphs 3 and 4 of Judge Xue's declaration. But it also raises the ancient presumptions of the Merchant of Venice (here); or of the ideologically powerful trope of the Jew as foreign fascist feudal oppressor (Choosing Sides, Socialist Internationalism, and the Ideological Signification of China's Jewish Problem in the International Arena).

Again, much by way of opportunity was missed in the  great efforts of the court to speak to a specific imaginary, and of the parties, as times representing distinct imaginaries, spoke past each other, and in the process created the large empty spaces which the court could fill with its own ideological imaginaries. 

It is regrettable how much the Parties talked past each other during the oral proceedings. South Africa hardly mentioned the attack of 7 October 2023 and the ensuing massacre; Israel barely mentioned the United Nations reports on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. South Africa hardly mentioned the efforts by Israel to evacuate the civilian population from areas of hostilities; Israel did not satisfactorily address highly problematic forms of speech by some of its officials, including members of its military. (Nolte Declaration, supra, ¶6).
And the largest space left empty was that of the genocidal intent of Hams and its followers which, invisible, substantially recasts the narrative tropes and the pathways toward juridified analytics.

3. The intersubjective imaginaries of political premises that serve as the guardrails for judicial operation. Legal intersubjectivity is at the heart of its cognitive-communications, and with its its dialectic. It suggests not merely shared meaning (and its affirmation through the performances  within authoritative spaces like courts), but also to project that meaning on others voluntary or involuntary members of a collective. That, of course, is the essence of the power of law, traditionally expressed through the organs of the state institutionalized in courts and articulated by the judge (its legal semiotics considered here). The official spaces within which the dialectics of subjectivity may be performed assume a critical role in the rationalization of social relations within institutionalized disciplinary organs.

Certainly there is more refinement of these narrative and legal trajectories in the near future--certainly three potential theaters for that explosion--the mechanics of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar (no longer legitimate after the European ethnic cleaning and population movements of 1945-1948; management of the plausibility of legitimacy for an autonomous  political apparatus of global Jewry and the revised character of evidence of ethnic-religious population movement; and the political pan-Slavism encased within imperial ambitions of the Russian state and its reconstitution of peoples within its ethno-ideologies. The analytical flavor of the month, the organizing prism through which these may be managed,  is "genocide," the (re)construction of which  is likely to be quite interesting. The trajectory appears to be to broaden its scope so that it may stand for any (unapproved) expression of ethno-religious-cultural-social chauvinism. But of immediate effect is the reconstruction of the idea of genocide as a powerful bass for satisfying what appears to be a global elite interest in the protection of the status quo; (1) in this case of one in which the expectation must be that both Jews and their opponents  must expect to die periodically (through acts of violence) but in a proportion that does not disturb the relative position of either; and (2) in the Ukrainian-Russian case in the recreation of the stalemate that was the trench warfare of the first stage of the war of European suicide that started officially in 1914 (reignited in 1939 and apparently reignited again in 2014). That, in a sense, was at the heart of all of this textual fuss: how does one preserve the status quo (the tolerance of an equilibrium of violence rule) by recourse to legal objects that may be useful toward those ends.  In that context, of course, the fight between the majority and the dissenting Judge Sebutinde (which invites further elaboration) bears some examination.  The narrative battles continue in text and blood.

Pix Credit here

Friday, January 26, 2024

Cfs Conference: "Legal Imaginaries — a Law, Literature and Humanities Association of Australasia Conference" (University of Hong Kong 16-18 December 2024



Delighted to pass along this call for Streams


This Conference is an invitation to collectively examine, critique, and, for the more daring, transform the  imaginaries that constellate our grasp of reality and sustain the authority of law – from the racialised and gendered representations that give form and force to the colonial and patriarchal imaginaries of both North and South; to the configurations of sovereignty that are held together by the sociotechnical and technoscientific imaginaries of the Anthropocene; to the confined and confining figures of justice that populate the modern imaginaries of the state…

If the ‘imaginary’ is not so much social context, which risks reification, nor historical curiosity, which risks uncritical periodisation, then we might think of it as a fluid. We are immersed in it; it saturates everything; it is in the air that we breathe; but more like water to whales than quicksand to humans: inescapable, perhaps, yet nonetheless enabling of individual as well as collective forms of expression. As with any body of water, there are currents and eddies, particular ways of imagining that coalesce and recycle, for a moment, for a decade, for hundreds of years – but always with the potential for new ways of imagining to flow through. Which is why, for every vortex(t) of ideas, tropes, desires and fears, which sucks us in and hold us down, there must be counter-currents – streams – to help move us in new directions.

All stream proposals welcome. On how, and why, to submit a proposal CLICK HERE. Call for Papers to follow.

The Call for Streams Information follows below.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Conference: "Cooperation, Competition and Conflict in East Asia (15-16 February 2024) Hosted by the William & Mary Global Research Institute Security and Foreign Policy Initiative


Pix credit here

I am delighted to pass along information about an exciting upcoming conference:  "Cooperation, Competition and Conflict in East Asia." In will be held in person on 15-16 February 2024 at William & Mary. It is hosted by the Security & Foreign Policy Initiative of the William & Mary Global Research Institute, a "multidisciplinary hub that brings together academics, practitioners, and students to conduct applied research on pressing global issues."

This two-day in-person conference on Cooperation, Competition, and Conflict in East Asia examines the region’s rapidly evolving security dynamics and the appropriate role for the United States’ engagement therein. Conference panels will address questions about the security vulnerabilities generated by economic interdependence, the purported inevitability of conflict between the United States and China, and the historical insights that can be derived from decades of conflict and diplomatic interactions in the region, among other topics. The conference concludes with a discussion of current and future flash points for security and foreign policy in East Asia.

The Draft Conference Agenda with participants follows below. 

Discussion Draft Posted: "Overcoming the Human, Rights, and the State in Human Rights"


Pix Credit Museum Panama City, Panama


For those who might have an interest, I have posted for comment or reaction, a discussion draft of my essay, Overcoming the Human, Rights, and the State in Human Rights. With any kind of luck a later (and hopefully more polished ) version will find its way into A Research Agenda for Global Power Shifts and International Economic Law (Edward Elgar, forthcoming 2024) a collection of essays put together through the magic of its editor, Joel Slawotsky. 

The essay was meant to respond to a very specific challenge: to think about the transformation of a field and with it the research agenda, or better put, to align theory and examination to the shifting object of study. That alignment requires something quite difficult for an academic--a thorough and honest examination not just of the underlying ideologies shaping the way objects and processes are "seen" and "given meaning" but also how the ideologies that the examiner brings to the examination also substantially obscures anything but the examiner's own ideological lens, desires, objectives, etc. 

I try to apply that double lens to the field of human rights in economic activity by unpacking the trajectories of its categorical elements--the human (in themselves or within their environment),  rights (the obligations and  privileges of the human protected by its collectives), and the state (the institutional expression of the collective through which rights can be identified and administered). Together they describe the epistēmē (understood as "the strategic apparatus which permits of separating out from among all the statements which are possible those that will be acceptable" Foucault, Power/Knowledge (C. Gordon (ed) Pantheon 1980, p. 197) of the emerging era of human rights in the context of economic activity.  The abstract suggests the task:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights appeared to define human rights even as their scope, practice, interpretation, and ideological foundation remained contested, assuming as given core concepts of the human, law, and the state. The given is now contested. That contestation is the focus of this contribution, which uses two contemporary projects to examine the emerging contestations: transforming the objectives of economic activity, and exploiting generative AI in the service of that transformation. The examination is framed within six broad emerging categories of inquiry: decentering the human from human rights in an era of sustainability and climate change; decentering rights in an age of accountability, compliance, and remediation; privatizing the public sphere; governmentalizing the private sphere; managing discretionary supervision in politics and markets through law; and substituting or supplementing supervision through data based analytics, predictive and descriptive analytics, and generative non-human decision making machine for humans and human collectives. 

Comments and reactions are always welcome. One grows through engagement. The draft may be accessed at SSRN here. The Introduction follows below.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) Hearings: "The PRC’s Universal Periodic Review and the Real State of Human Rights in China" and Text of the US Statement at China's UPR


Pix Credit here

  The Congressional-Executive Commission on China was created by the U.S. Congress in 2000 "with the legislative mandate to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, and to submit an annual report to the President and the Congress. The Commission consists of nine Senators, nine Members of the House of Representatives, and five senior Administration officials appointed by the President." (CECC About). The CECC FAQs provide useful information about the CECC. See CECC Frequently Asked Questions. They have developed positions on a number of issues.

CECC tends to serve as an excellent barometer of the thinking of political and academic elites in the United States about issues touching on China and the official American line developed in connection with those issues. As such it is an important source of information about the way official and academic sectors think about China. As one can imagine many of the positions of the CECC are critical of current Chinese policies and institutions (for some analysis see CECC).

Recently, like others in the liberal democratic West, CECC has sought to exploit the UN's process of Universal Periodic Review (Questions submitted in advance:English/Français/Español). "More than 160 countries addressed the hearing in Geneva, Switzerland, and each only had 45 seconds to speak." (China grilled over human rights record at UN). The strategic focus centered on China's post-2018 human rights consequential policies and actions. That is quite fair.  China and others have recently not been shy about doing the same.  The stakes touch on the specifics that are likely to be highlighted--the situation in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, Taiwan related issues, human rights defenders, the role and freedom of civil society to challenge the state and its vanguard, and the like (see reporting here, here, here, and here).  Indeed, CECC has long been diligent about keeping tabs on these policy and operational areas, rationalizing the scope of its investigations around twenty issues, many related to the objections made during the UPR process.   To that end, states that are both friends and critics of China lined up to provide their 45 second assessments (here, cf. here).

Nonetheless these specifics  point to the larger strategically critical role of the UPR (one that the CECC's Chinese counterparts also recognize and toward the realization of which they also work diligently). That is the control of the narratives of human rights--its episteme--that is the basis on which "facts" and "policies" can be identified, organized, assessed and judged  within an authoritative apparatus (Foucault, The Order of Things (Vintage 1994)). It is to the technologies of judgment (the acceptable truth of discourse) rather than the description of facts (that themselves contain their own assessment) that are at the heart of these performances. China and the US have been using quite different measuring (or assessment) sticks to judge the effects or character of the facts proffered at the UPR.  And both are working quite diligently to created epistemic community among the actors that count (states, and state affecting human collectives) in which the language, sensibilities, premises, and perspectives are deeply embedded so that judgement as a function of facts becomes inevitable. Fair enough. To that end it is both necessary to advance one's own framing discourse, and to demonize that of the "other".  Amnesty International provides a nice example of the trope in the context of the Chinese UPR:

Responding to today’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) focusing on China’s human rights record, Amnesty International’s China director Sarah Brooks said: “Today’s rights review should have been a real reckoning for the Chinese authorities: a rare space for other governments to amplify the grave human rights violations faced by victims across China and beyond. “Instead, we saw China seeking to gaslight the global community, denying the scope and scale of violations of human rights documented in UN reports, while offering up its anti-human rights approach as a model for other countries. (China attempts to ‘gaslight’ international community at UN human rights review)

CECC provides a more institutionally impactful version--holding hearing at which facts and their legitimating discourse can be developed and presented.  Fair enough. One expects the same of those pushing a quite different epistemic community of values and outlook. To that end, CECC has announced a program, to be presented on 1 February 2024. Entitled The PRC’s Universal Periodic Review and the Real State of Human Rights in China, it has as its object both the advancing of its own rights narrative and the de-legitimization of those sought to be advanced by their Chinese counterparts. 

The CECC Press Release announcing the event and its concept note follows below along with the text of the U.S. Statement at the Universal Periodic Review of China.

Launch Webinars: GRI 304 (Revised) Biodiversity Standard For Disclosing Biodiversity Impacts31 January and 1 February 2024



Happy to pass along this GRI Press Release:

In the second half of January 2024, and after two years of development, GRI will release GRI 101: Biodiversity 2024, which updates, expands, and replaces GRI 304: Biodiversity 2016.

To contribute to global goals for halting and reversing biodiversity loss, businesses need standardized metrics and a level playing field to measure, understand, and manage their biodiversity impacts. To date, at least 2000 organizations worldwide use GRI 304: Biodiversity 2016 to disclose quantitative and qualitative biodiversity data.

The disclosures in the new Biodiversity Standard align with the goals and targets of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and are consistent with the TNFD recommendations and ESRS standard on biodiversity and ecosystems.

GRI 101 helps organizations to better understand which decisions and business practices lead to biodiversity loss, where in their value chain impacts occur, and how they can be managed. This, in turn, will support organizations to be more resilient to system shocks, and respond to global concerns about biodiversity loss and raising awareness from consumers, investors and other stakeholders.

 Information including registration links follow.

Monday, January 22, 2024

International Conference on ‘Greening’ of the State and Society through Securitization in India and China 7th March 2024: IIT Madras, Chennai, India (Hybrid Mode)


The organizers of the International Conference on ‘Greening’ of the State and Society through Securitization in India and China funded by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) 7th March 2024: IIT Madras, Chennai, India (Hybrid Mode) invites research papers and original articles; abstract due 28 January 2024.

More information follows below.

Trust No Collective Other than the Capitalist Collective-- "Palabras del Presidente de la Nación, Javier Milei" [Special address by Javier Milei, President of Argentina]


Pix Credit here

I have been considering several critical remarks made by high ranking members of two of the more important leading groups on the global scene at the annual congress of global leading forces, the World Economic Forum held in Davos Switzerland.  I have to this point considered the remarks of Chinese Premier Li Qiang (here), and those of EU Commission President Ursula von de Leyen (here). The focus of these remarks turned on the theme for the 54th annual conference--Rebuilding Trust. Today I consider the somewhat remarkable address (Spanish version here; English version here) presented by Javier Milei, President of the Republic of Argentina, a newcomer, and member of the global South (though not of what the leading forces of the global North generally stereotype as orthodox Global South). 

The remarks are fascinating (in the ancient sense of bewitching) and thus remarkable (in the sense of especially worth of remark), if only for their quite useful way of drawing more fully the contrasts of perception very much on display this year--especially around the concept and symbolism of "trust" (as belief, confidence (eg Latin: fiducia; Old Norse traust "help, confidence, protection, support," but also faith and faithful (eg Latin: fides). The contrasts were stark: 

Chinese Premier Li Qiang (here) offered trust in a vanguard state representing global leading forces dedicated to the realization of normatively identifiable objectives;  

EU Commission President Ursula von de Leyen (here) offered trust in a techno-bureaucracy guiding a rationalized process embedding normatively infused values. 

Both infused those abstract proffering with meaning heavily dependent on the way each rationalized the world through the premises of their respective political-economic-social models. Despite the differences, both visions converged around the need for guidance, correction, and shaping as a function of objectives overseen by a shepherding collective.

Pix credit here
In contrast Argentine President (Spanish version here; English version here) offered an oracle of distrust in the form of a warning: trust no collective other than the capitalist collective.

President Milei shifted focus of trust away from the constitution of leading forces guidance collectives to the masses; and from control/nudging organs and vanguards or techno-bureaucracies, all of which he asserted were structurally untrustworthy. While he might have placed his trust in consumers of economic productivity or in labor as a factor in its production, both driving a wobbling collective movement representing the infinitely iterative consequences of individual human interaction, he did not. Instead, and like his peers in China and the EU he also sought refuge in a vanguard--the more rationally anarchic vanguard of global so-called capitalists. Again, like his Chinese and EU counterparts, the focus was on oracular totems: concrete expressions of the essence of the signification of trust in human collective social relations.  China and the EU spoke to political vanguards and institutionalized techno-administrative organs. Their totems were the legitimacy of leading forces vanguards and the disciplinary normativity of administered risk. For China the signifying totem was socialism represented by the new prosperous state as a guardian of the global order in the new historical era; for the EU the signifying totem was democratic administrative supervision overcoming the threats of risks (especially Russian militarism and the corruption of AI). Both were unified by the fundamental objective of ordering from a center. For President Milei, that totem was capitalism, represented by the anarchy (an ordering without a center) of the market but driven by capital. Its unifying effects, in turn, are conceived as ordered around the consequential effects of individual pursuit of personal interest within networked collectives of political, social, religious, and cultural power manifested through institutions also maximizing interests within competitive markets of their own. For Milei, then, trust was centered on the self, and the self is primarily the capitalist self, personal and aggregated productive forces pursuing their own interests disciplined by the aggregated interests of others; everyone else follows.

It follows that though Milei appears to deliver a radical critique of the traectories of social organization of economic activity, he conforms to the premise of collectivity. The radical turn, perhaps, lies in what President Milei understands as difference between the untrustworthy coerced public collectivity of public vanguardism and public administrative supervision, on the one hand, and the trustworthy collectivity built around aggregations of individual choice--even where that choice may be severely constrained by contextual circumstances. It is in this sense, then, that President Milei, like Premier Li Qiang and EU Commission President von der Leyen share a point of convergence in the context of trust. All three of them point to collectives for trust leadership--and in the process suggest those collectives not worthy of trust.  Where Premier Li Qiang  focused trust on a vanguard; where von der Leyen focused on the process of risk guided by a techno-bureaucracy, President Milei focuses trust on production undertaken driven by capital (human and otherwise) and tested in markets substantially free of the state and its vanguards.Trust in leadership, trust in oversight, trust in production--these are the manifestation of trust on offer. One focuses on the trustworthiness of a collective entrusted with a collectively shared embrace of a human trajectory towards something ultimate; the other focuses on the trustworthiness of a collective that is meant to safeguard within a collectively defined pen the fences around which are meant as much to keep things out as to keep those protected in; and the last focuses on the trustworthiness of those who hold economic capacity, an anarchic collective of productive forces that drive institutional ecologies from the sides (not the bottom).

1. Collectivism is the root of all evil; "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains" (Marx, Communist Manifesto Chp. 4). Milei's discursive style appears deliberately to avoid the elegance and subtleties that high level officials tend to adopt, like the poetry of the 16th and 17th century Spanish Hapsburg court in Madrid, as a sign of solidarity with their global peers. of the high level officials. It is meant to function like 20th century brutalist architecture (once much prized, then despised, and now in old age prized if only for its nostalgia for an age impossible to recapture). It is, in this sense, as brutally effective, and discursively aligned with, Marx's Communist Manifesto. But where Marx and the Communists reified Communism, the "spectre haunting Europe" into the totems of class struggle collectivization against feudalism and bourgeois error, Milei reanimated the the spectre of Capitalism haunting the West into the totems of proletarian struggles against the institutionalized feudalism of post-Marxist collectivization which enriches the vanguard and the techno-bureaucracies while it impoverishes those in whose service they operate. 

Today I'm here to tell you that the Western world is in danger. And it is in danger because those who are supposed to have to defend the values of the West are co-opted by a vision of the world that inexorably leads to socialism and thereby to poverty. [hoy estoy acá para decirles que Occidente está en peligro, está en peligro porque aquellos, que supuestamente deben defender los valores de Occidente, se encuentran cooptados por una visión del mundo que – inexorablemente – conduce al socialismo, en consecuencia a la pobreza.] (Milei Remarks Spanish version here; English version here).

Pix credit here

The villain, collectivism: "We're here to tell you that collectivist experiments are never the solution to the problems that afflict the citizens of the world. Rather, they are the root cause. [Nosotros estamos, acá, para decirles que los experimentos colectivistas nunca son la solución a los problemas, que aquejan a los ciudadanos del mundo, sino que – por el contrario – son su causa.]" Ibid. The motives are mixed--either from seeking to do good in a disastrously bad way, or more pragmatically, from the desire to "belong to a privileged caste" [de querer pertenecer a una casta privilegiada]" (Ibid.). One has now flipped hierarchies of exploitation and their object. At the same time, one has satisfied the ancient desire of the human within collectives--to aspire, as Nietzsche suggested in the context of norm controlling religion, to the role of priest (Twilight of the Idols). It is, in fact neither the vanguard, nor the revolutionaries, nor the techno-bureaucrats that one ought to trust; one ought to trust oneself. 

Yet one might stop here to consider what exactly is the nature of the collectivization that so irks President Milei. He has no fear of coordinated action, or of aggregation of human resources toward a shared objective (especially if that objective is wealth enhancing). He objects, instead to coercive collectivization--collectivization from outside. To that end, to enhance collectivization driven from the bottom, it is necessary to unmask the forces of coercion, and then to de-fang them. And for President Milei, the primary source of coercive collectivization in the current era is the state. That coercion can be as readily manifested through the operations of a vanguard in the process of socialist "communization", as it can be manifested through the process of indirect nudging of a regulatory techno-bureaucracy. That can be no trust in the face of coercion. But there can be trst in coercion that is generated by (self) interest. The result may be the same--the trajectories toward that result start from very different places.  It is to that argument that much of the rest of President Milei's remarks turn.

2. "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free"(John 8:32 (KJV). Milei's brutalist realism, the response to a perceived oracular warning, is attached to a factual universe that the President of Argentina elaborates at length.  They are grounded in conclusions from an analysis of per capita DDP growth from the end of the Roman Republic through 1800 AD. (essentially flat as described in the remarks), compared that thereafter which grew at an accelerated rate.  The root cause: capitalism. The precipitating cause, industrialization.  Marx, of course, would view this as an inevitable stage necessary for the movement of a society advancing through industrialization to the richness required for the establishment of a communist society--a view with Chinese characteristics elaborated for for example Deng Xiaoping. But in the West (and President Milei focuses on the West where the great error is at its most noxious) the complex of social relations elaborated in the constitution of society after the Industrial Revolution produced the greatest alleviation of aggregate poverty in that region of the world. "Far from being the cause of our problems, free trade capitalism as an economic system is the only instrument we have to end hunger, poverty and extreme poverty across our planet. The empirical evidence is unquestionable. Therefore . . . there is no doubt that free enterprise capitalism is superior in productive terms" [La conclusión es obvia: lejos de ser la causa de nuestros problemas, el capitalismo de libre empresa, como sistema económico, es la única herramienta que tenemos para terminar con el hambre, la pobreza y la indigencia, a lo largo y a lo ancho de todo el planeta. La evidencia empírica es incuestionable. Por eso, como no cabe duda de que el capitalismo de libre mercado es superior – en términos productivos] (Milei Remarks ).

One might consider, though, the semiotics of free and enterprise. Free here does not appear to be contextless.  President Miñei might imply, but it might be naive to suggest, that choices are absolutely free. Every action is undertaken in context--and context can be quite complicated. In that sense, one's free choice (whether "one" is an individual or collective) is undertaken within and is the consequence of the weighing of the factors within which action or inaction is taken, beliefs are formed, and views of the world are applied. One is free, in that sense, only as a function of the circumstances in which freedom may be exercised.  And those circumstances can significantly constrain the range of "free" choice. President Milei, if he is to be taken seriously, then, must be referencing (or ought to in any case) freedom of a different sort: that is freedom as an autonomy to decide for oneself how the balance of circumstances may be factored into action (or inaction) and to suffer the consequences of that choice. Vanguard freedom delegates that freedom of circumstantial choosing to a collective organ. Administrative supervision offers protection of risk of consequences in return for delegation of choice. Milei would reject both, that is he would reject the delegation of choice or choice constraining based on exogenous risk assessors and controllers, and return trust to those who bear the risk. That is all very well in the economic sphere, from a perspective of role differentiation in social complexes. Yet it does not speak to the residuum--the responsibility of the collective for taking care of its own, at least enough so that, in resident Milei's world view, risk and innovation (and with it wealth creation and poverty reduction) may be enhanced. And that is a pity. 

3. Social Justice is a Chimera; "libertarianism"holds the key to the future.  President Milei then turns to the internal demons that plague what had been the course of Western democratic free market capitalism from its inevitable road toward the augmentation of individual economic welfare (what the Marxist-Leninist would call the necessity of developing productive forces to a stage where communism is possible). Those internal demons are the alignment of collectivist values with free market economics (what in China would be understood as the alignment of moral/cultural values within socialist modernization that had been unbalanced by privileging productive development). 

In the West one does not speak to Core Socialist Values to be embedded in social life by the vanguard; one speaks to social justice as a cluster of value-objectives that must be achieved through the guidance of the techno-bureaucracy and to those ends embedded in the development of economic productive forces.

the left-wing doxa has attacked capitalism, alleging matters of morality, saying - that's what the detractors claim - that it's unjust. They say that capitalism is evil because it's individualistic and that collectivism is good because it's altruistic. Of course, with the money of others.  So they therefore advocate for social justice. But this concept, which in the developed world became fashionable in recent times, in my country has been a constant in political discourse for over 80 years. The problem is that social justice is not just, and it doesn't contribute to general well-being. [la doxa de izquierda ha atacado al capitalismo por sus cuestiones de moralidad, por ser – según ellos - dicen sus detractores, que es injusto. Dicen que el capitalismo es malo porque es individualista y que el colectivismo es bueno porque es altruista, con la ajena. En consecuencia bregan por la justicia social, pero este concepto que – desde el Primer Mundo – se ha puesto de moda, en la última época, en mi país es una constante del discurso político, desde hace más de 80 años. El problema es que la justicia social no es justa, sino que tampoco aporta al bienestar general;] (Remarks, supra)

But President Milei cannot mean  that free markets and liberal democracy is amoral, or put otherwise that the system lacks social justice.  Instead, President Milei is going after another totem--social justice as the concretization of a set of abstract values propositions that serve an ideology inimical, in values, to those on the basis of which capitalist free market liberal democracy is framed. President Milei understand social justice as a consequential tactic of collectivist ideology. "Given the dismal failure of collectivist models and the undeniable advances in the free world, socialists were forced to change their agenda: they left behind the class struggle based on the economic system and replaced this with other supposed social conflicts, which are just as harmful to life and to economic growth." [Dado el estrepitoso fracaso de los modelos colectivistas y los innegables avances del mundo libre, los socialistas se vieron forzados a cambiar su agenda. Dejaron atrás la lucha de clases basada en el sistema económico para reemplazarla por otros supuestos conflictos sociales igual de nocivos para la vida en comunidad y para el crecimiento económico.] (Milei Remarks, supra).

In the process President Milei also demonizes core concepts of contemporary liberal democratic organization in favor of the structures of his vision of libertarianism. First President Milei speaks to the consequences of the the objects of social justice--to use the collective pot of national wealth extracted through taxation for their own ends. "This means that the state is financed through coercion and that the higher the tax burden, the higher the coercion and the lower the freedom." [Lo cual significa que el Estado se financia, a través de la coacción y a mayor carga impositiva mayor es la coacción, menor es la libertad.] (Remarks, supra). President Milei highlights two cases in point: radical feminism and radical environmentalism. The radical in both has produced state intrventions that hinders economic progress "giving jobs to bureaucrats who have not contributed anything to society." (Milei Remarks, supra).

Then in a passage that reminds one of Jack Ma's now infamous Bund Finance Summit Speech (24 October 2020), President Milei speaks to the adverse consequences for innovation of a taxation system used to fuel an ideologically specific social justice agenda. 

If the goods or services offered by a business are not wanted, the business will fail unless it adapts to what the market is demanding. They will do well and produce more if they make a good quality product at an attractive price. So the market is a discovery process in which the capitalists will find the right path as they move forward. But if the state punishes capitalists when they're successful and gets in the way of the discovery process, they will destroy their incentives, and the consequence is that they will produce less. The pie will be smaller, and this will harm society as a whole. Collectivism, by inhibiting these discovery processes and hindering the appropriation of discoveries, ends up binding the hands of entrepreneurs and prevents them from offering better goods and services at a better price. [Si el bien o servicio que ofrece una empresa no es deseado, esa empresa quiebra a menos que se adecúe a lo que el mercado le está demandando. Si genera un producto de buena calidad a un buen precio, atractivo, le va a ir bien y va a producir más. De modo que el mercado es un proceso de descubrimiento, en el cual el capitalista encuentra sobre la marcha el rumbo correcto, pero si el Estado castiga al capitalista por tener éxito y lo bloquea en este proceso de descubrimiento destruye sus incentivos y las consecuencias de eso es que va a producir menos y la torta será más chica, generando perjuicio para el conjunto de la sociedad. El colectivismo - al inhibir estos procesos de descubrimiento y al dificultar la apropiación de lo descubierto - ata al emprendedor de las manos y le imposibilita producir mejores bienes y ofrecer mejores servicios a un mejor precio.] (Remaks, supra).

Compare what might be the more elegant and nuanced version by Jack Ma:

I think there is another phenomenon. Many regulatory authorities around the world have become zero risk, their own departments have become zero risk, but the entire economy has become risky, the whole society has become risky. The competition of the future is a competition of innovation, not a competition of regulatory skills. Now, each country’s regulation is more ruthless than the next, all the development is a mirage, but by not allowing it, each cut is bloody. Based on my understanding, what President Xi said about “enhancing governing ability” means to maintain healthy and sustainable development under orderly regulation, not no development due to regulation. It is not difficult to regulate. What’s difficult is to deliver regulation that achieves the purpose of producing sustainable and healthy development. (Jack Ma Bund Finance Summit Speech supra)

 This then provides the foundation for an extended discussion of the value of libertarianism as a better basis for harvesting the benefits of capitalist free market liberal democracy. 

Now what is it that we mean when we talk about libertarianism? And let me quote the words of the greatest authority on freedom in Argentina, Professor Alberto Benegas Lynch Jr, who says that libertarianism is the unrestricted respect for the life project of others based on the principle of non-aggression, in defence of the right to life, liberty and property. Its fundamental institutions are private property, markets free from state intervention, free competition, and the division of labour and social cooperation, in which success is achieved only by serving others with goods of better quality or at a better price. [Ahora bien, para entender qué venimos a defender es importante definir de qué hablamos nosotros cuando hablamos de libertarismo. Para definirlo retomo las palabras del máximo prócer de las ideas de la libertad, de Argentina, el profesor Alberto Benegas Lynch (h) que dice: “el libertarismo es el respeto irrestricto del proyecto de vida del prójimo, basado en el principio de no agresión, en defensa del derecho a la vida, a la libertad y a la propiedad, cuyas instituciones fundamentales son la propiedad privada, los mercados libres de intervención estatal, la libre competencia, la división del trabajo y la cooperación social”. Dicho de otro modo, el capitalista es un benefactor social que, lejos de apropiarse de la riqueza ajena, contribuye al bienestar general. En definitiva, un empresario exitoso es un héroe.] (Milei Rearks, supra).
It is against this model that President Milei sees deployed the cadres of the techno-administrative organs advanced by EU Commission President von der Leyen. "And I say this precisely because in countries that should defend the values of the free market, private property and the other institutions of libertarianism, sectors of the political and economic establishment are undermining the foundations of libertarianism, opening up the doors to socialism and potentially condemning us to poverty, misery and stagnation." [Digo que occidente está en peligro justamente porque en aquellos países que debiéramos defender los valores del libre mercado, la propiedad privada, y las demás instituciones del libertarismo, sectores del establishment político y económico, algunos por errores en su marco teórico y otros por ambición de poder , están socavando los fundamentos del libertarismo, abriéndole las puertas al socialismo y condenándonos potencialmente a la pobreza, a la miseria y al estancamiento.] (Milei Rearks, supra). And not only against the West, but also of socialism in general. 

There follows a longer exposition of the value of neoclassical economics from a libertarian perspective, one that understands markets as a mechanism for social cooperation and market failures are evidence of coercion.  Milei ascribes the primary engine of coercion, and thus of markeyfailures in the state.  In effect, Milei suggests is that when leaders like Ursula von der Leyen propose  the construciton of economies managed by techno-bureaucracies, they are effectively developing the structural elements of unceasing market failures.  He, in effect, conflates the trajectories of Marxist-Leninist states with those of techno-admnistrative liberal democracy.

The West has unfortunately already started to go along this path. I know, to many it may sound ridiculous to suggest that the West has turned to socialism, but it's only ridiculous if you only limit yourself to the traditional economic definition of socialism, which says that it's an economic system where the state owns the means of production. This definition in my view, should be updated in the light of current circumstances. [Occidente, lamentablemente, ya comenzó a transitar este camino. Sé que a muchos les puede sonar ridículo plantear que occidente se ha volcado al socialismo. Pero sólo es ridículo en la medida que uno se restringe a la definición económica tradicional del socialismo, que establece que es un sistema económico donde el estado es el dueño de los medios de producción.] (Milei Remarks, supra)

4. Capitalists of the world unite. President Milei ends with a plea in the brutalist style: a plea not to the consumers who drive libertarian economics but to the business people who, by traveling to Davos on corporate expense accounts, become indistiguishable from the internal caste of managerial shepherds  against which President Milei hurls his Jeremiad.  "I would like to leave a message for all business people here and those who are not here in person but are following from around the world." [quiero dejarle un mensaje a todos los empresarios aquí presentes y a los que nos están mirando desde todos los rincones del planeta.] (Remarks, supra). These were the remarks that provided the fdder for the press coverage (such as it was) that followed:

Do not be intimidated by the political caste or by parasites who live off the state. Do not surrender to a political class that only wants to stay in power and retain its privileges. You are social benefactors. You are heroes. You are the creators of the most extraordinary period of prosperity we've ever seen. Let no one tell you that your ambition is immoral. If you make money, it's because you offer a better product at a better price, thereby contributing to general wellbeing. Do not surrender to the advance of the state. The state is not the solution. The state is the problem itself. You are the true protagonists of this story and rest assured that as from today, Argentina is your staunch and unconditional ally. [No se dejen amedrentar ni por la casta política ni por los parásitos que viven del estado. No se entreguen a una clase política que lo único que quiere es perpetuarse en el poder y mantener sus privilegios. Ustedes son benefactores sociales. Ustedes son héroes. Ustedes son los creadores del periodo de prosperidad más extraordinario que jamás hayamos vivido. Que nadie les diga que su ambición es inmoral. Si ustedes ganan dinero es porque ofrecen un mejor producto a un mejor precio, contribuyendo de esa manera al bienestar general. No cedan al avance del estado. El estado no es la solución. El estado es el problema mismo. Ustedes son los verdaderos protagonistas de esta historia, y sepan que a partir de hoy, cuentan con un aliado inclaudicable en la republica argentina.] (Milei Remarks, supra).

The political class is both parasitical and powerful. The state is the problem, not the solution. Making money is the pathway to wealth and innovation.  And prosperity is the current stage of the development of the global social order.  The simplification is as appealing as that of a Manifesto. The excruciating realities of nuance, of responsibility and its distribution among social collectives where the enterprise is charged with engaging in one act and one act only.  All of that is left for another day.  But no fault there. This is merely a variation on a theme that marked the addresses of the Chinese Premier and the EU Commission President. What is missing, in the end. . .at least in the remarks of President Milei is the last connection--not with the business people at Davos or their global caste but with consumers rather than producers and to labor rather than capital.

5. Oracles. All of this brings to mind  the tragedy of the oracular. Not the tragedy of oracles, but of the human response to the oracular which is both energetic and almost inevitably vitally misdirected for all its fury and sometimes its beauty. As retold by Stravinsky in his opera Oedipus Rex (1927; synopsis here), the ancient and well known story of the futility of avoiding oracular pronouncements and the blindness of humans to the meaning of oracles received and interpreted from within the lusts, desires, hopes, perspectives, presumptions, and strategies of the objects of oracles, the arc of the phenomenological expression of the oracular required three oracular pronouncements, a prophetic intervention, and a blocking intervention (too late)--each of which were strategically and perceptually misunderstood or avoided--one prophetic truth; and at last, and despite best efforts to avoid it, the revelation that then recasts the entirely of the oracular pronouncements in new, and tragic, light.   

Pix Credit here
The first of the Delphic oracles was delivered to Laius and Jocasta, the reigning monarchs of Thebes with the warning that their son would grow up to kill his father and marry his mother. Avoidance required action--the direction to a shepherd to dispose of the infant boy on a mountainside. Instead the child was ultimately delivered to the monarchs of Corinth who raised him as their own.  

The second of the Delphic oracles was delivered to Oedipus as a young man who, taunted by his friends for appearing unrelated to his parents, set off to Delphi to know more about his origins. There he was warned not to return to his native land because he would kill his father and marry his mother.  Thinking his native land was Corinth he set off, meeting and killing Laius at a crossroads.  

The third of the Delphic oracles was delivered at the request of Oedipus who sought counsel through his brother in law Creon, many years later having assumed the throne of Thebes and married Jocasta, for ridding the city of a plague to the city. It is here that Stravinsky's opera begins. Creon reports that the oracle commanded that the city seek out the murderer of Laius who resided in Thebes ("Quem depelli deus jubet peremptorem, Peste infikit Thebas. Apollo dixit deus."). In his ignorant hubris Oedipus, in his ignorance, declares he will solve the puzzle in the most ironic way ("Clarissimus Oedipus, likeor divinabo").

The prophetic revelation follows from the interrogation of Tiresias. At first he chooses silence ("Dikere non liket, Dikere nefastum, Oedipus, non possum"). Finally goaded he speaks the absolute truth about the meaning of the oracle (Rex kekidit regem, [A King killed the King]; Deus regem acusat [The Gods accuse a king]).Tiresias speaks precisely true. Yet the precision permits a large space for willful misnterpretaiton. That is, precise truth in this case can be misleading--not by the truth spoken, but by the meaning with which it is invested.  

The resistance of those who divine the truth follows. Jocasta understand where this is leading and seeks to avert tragedy by spreading misinformation. Thus her advice to Oedipus: "Semper oracula mentiuntur. [The oracles always lie]; Oedipus, cave oracula [Oedipus, beware the oracles]; Quae mentiantur. [For they lie]). The irony, of course, is that the oracle does not lie--everyone else misperceives. They must.  It is an inevitable consequence of the premises and presumptions that they bring to the oracle from which they reconstruct its meaning in terms that align with their own vision of the way things must be.

The essential quality of oracles, its "giveness" as 20th century phenomenology might describe it (here),  is that neither the oracle nor the oracular actually has the slightest concern about its subject.  That is a given. Oracles exist in a state of perpetual indifference--like the products of an iterative process of data driven analytics by an autonomous generative intelligence. There is another "given" though, that may be of equal interest. In the presence of the oracular, its human (singular or collective) object indifferent to the lusts, desires, perspectives, strategies, impulses, machinations, or semiotic sophistry that chokes the wolrd of the human until, gasping for something sustitaining to breathe, it reaizes the madness of its relationship to the oracular. 

And that is what one ends up with--responses to an unseen and oscure oracular wwarning, discerned from the examonation of the entrails of history and the interpretaiotn of the facts that lay decomposing in its passing. Each of these leaders have read the oracles. Each has sought to restate the oracular warning (signs), and in restating provide a path toward the avoidance of the warning or the fulfillment of its promise. Each in turn will also likely shape the oracular material, precisely true, in ways that invite misdriection depending on what the listener brings to the oracle. The three oracles provide direction, each arising from the context from which or to which they are delivered. And each is, in its own way, impossible to decode until after the fact. But each suggests the temporality of the oracle and its context.  One can, in each interaction, watch the stage setting for the (Greek style) tragedies that follow--not because of avoidable human failing, but because of their inevitability in the face of the indifference of the given to the circumstances of those to whom the oracle (of history in this case) is provided.

Pix Credit here
In that sense, like the cascade of oracles in the Oedipus story, the three speeches suggest the subjectivity of the oracular in quite different places, spaces, and times. Premier Li Qang's speech speaks to the initial oracle--self protection as systemic protection that in the process ensures that oracle's ends.  President von der Leyen's speech recalls the second oracular intervention, a warning to stay away and the construction of systems that seek to protect, but in the process potentially endanger. President Milei's speech invokes the third Delphic oracle, in the context of plague, a willingness to get to the bottom of its cause, but where the seeker is also the object, and the search for freedom returns one the conseqeunces of collective origen. One speaks to trust but in reality one describes the objects of Untrustworthiness that drives the construction of trust: for some it is grounded in a deep suspicion of the market as an autonomous force; for others it is an equally deep suspicion of the state as a coercive risk controller without consequence. These suspicions drive trust analysis and the (mis)interpretaiton of the oracular warning percieved and on display in the speeches. Yet one might be inclined to suspect that vangaurds cannot avoid markets by shifting its structres of failure from market actors to the abtracted spaces of vanguard complementarity (discussed here). One might also suspect that risk cannot be avoided by displacing shifting the control of risk away from risk bearers, one merely reshapes its character and conseqeunces (considered in part here). And one cannot but suspect the impossibility of doing without the apparatus the state in whatever form it might be manifested (discussed here). 

What is missing? These speech stories, these performances, still require their Tiresias signifier. Though were that function to be fulfilled it as likely that they will find an audience as eager to hear them out as Oedipus listened to Tiresias.  And Jocasta. . . Jocasta--well it is possible that the rest of us now serve that role (eg here, here, here, here; here, and here). 

The full text of the Remarks in English and Spanish follow below and may also be accessed here:  (Spanish version ; English version).

This is the third of the set of reflections on the remarks of Li Qiang, Ursula von der Leyen, and Javier Milei delivered at the 2024 WEF in Davos; each can be accessed here:

Brief Thoughts and Full Text of Speech by Chinese premier Li Qiang at the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2024 [李强在世界经济论坛2024年年会开幕式上的特别致辞(全文)];

The Transformative Consequences of Risk Spirals: "Special Address by President von der Leyen at the World Economic Forum 16 January 2024";

Trust No Collective Other than the Capitalist Collective-- "Palabras del Presidente de la Nación, Javier Milei" [Special address by Javier Milei, President of Argentina].