Thursday, February 29, 2024

Environmentally Sustainable Globalization: The Norwegian Pension Fund Global Excludes (1) Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd., (2) Jardine Cycle & Carriage Ltd and discontinues observation for (3) PT Astra International Tbk


Pix Credit here

 Following a recommendation from the Council on Ethics, at the end of February 2024 Norges Bank announced its decision to exclude the companies (1) Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd., (2) Jardine Cycle & Carriage Ltd and (3) PT Astra International Tbk from the Government Pension Fund Global due to unacceptable risk of the company contributing to or being responsible for severe environmental damage, ref. the conduct-based criterion in the Guidelines for Observation and Exclusion from the Government Pension Fund Global § 4 e. PT Astra International Tbk has been under observation since October 2015, but that observation now ends given the exclusion decision.

Worth underscoring is the following principle: "The Council takes the view that parent companies which have a controlling influence over their subsidiaries’ business operations are accountable for the actions of those subsidiaries. Jardines is the parent company of JC&C, which is Astra’s controlling shareholder. Astra is the majority shareholder of PT United Tractors (United Tractors), which, via wholly owned subsidiaries, owns 95 per cent of the mining company PT Agincourt Resources (PTAR) that operates the Martabe Gold Mine. (Council Recommendation p. 2). 

Also important was the standard off sever impact adopted and applied: "For the Council, the decisive factor is that the Tapanuli orangutan is a critically endangered species and that any further reduction in the size of its habitat would, according to many experts, worsen its situation and increase the risk of it becoming extinct. The company’s efforts to preserve these orangutans does not to any great degree seem to be limiting the mine’s expansion or prospecting deeper into the orangutans’ habitat." Ibid., p. 3.

This standard was critical for the decision to discontinue observation for  Astra: "The Council’s observation of Astra and AAL has focused particularly on how AAL conserves and manages biodiversity and areas of high conservation value (HCV) in its concessions. During the observation period, AAL has not opened up any new areas of peat or forest, and has undertaken to preserve High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests, peat and HCVs. The company’s sustainability strategy, which rests on a policy of zero deforestation, no conversion of peatlands and respect for human rights, has been operationalised through three-year action plans. AAL has introduced systems to prevent forest fires, preserve peatland and avoid
deforestation in its supply chain." (Ibid., pp. 3-4).

 Please find the Council’s recommendation here and below.


An Interview with David M. Lampton: Living U.S.-China Relations [专访兰普顿:美中接触战略何以被诟病?如何避免新冷战演变成热战?]



I am delighted to share this quite interesting interview with David Lampton, the Author of Living U.S.-China Relations: From Cold War to Cold War.

David M. Lampton is Professor Emeritus and former Hyman Professor and Director of SAIS-China and China Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and Sr. Research Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute. Dr. Lampton was formerly President of the National Committee on United States-China Relations, and he is the author of many books including his most recently published Living U.S.-China Relations: From Cold War to Cold War. Below, you will find the transcript from the U.S.-China Perception Monitor’s interview with Dr. Lampton about his new book. Dr. Lampton also shared three personal anecdotes about his experiences in U.S.-China relations that we have published separately here.

编者按:大卫·M·兰普顿(David M. Lampton)是约翰霍普金斯大学高级国际研究学院 (SAIS) 的名誉教授、前海曼教授兼SAIS中国和中国研究主任,外交政策研究所 (Foreign Policy Institute)的高级研究员。兰普顿博士还曾担任美中关系全国委员会主席,出版著作无数,是一个权威的“中国通”学者。他最近出版的新书《经历美中关系:从冷战到冷战》(Living U.S.-China Relations: From Cold War to Cold War) 从近六十年的亲身经历出发,讲述了中美关系作为两个社会而非仅仅两个国家之间的故事。本书先已经在亚马逊以及各大网络平台上架。以下是中美印象编辑们对兰普顿博士关于他的新书采访的编译。采访中,兰普顿博士还分享了三个关于他在美中关系中经历的轶事,我们已经在这里单独发表。

 The interview in English and Chinese are reported below.  The original posting may be accessed HERE: English; Chinese.




Call for Contributions: Special Issue--"Rhizomatic Law: Understanding the Linearity and Pendulum of Legal Evolution" in Undecidabilities and Law - The Coimbra Journal for Legal Studies

Pix credit here (Turmeric rhizome, whole and ground into a spice)

Anne WAGNER & Sarah MARUSEK are delighted to invite contributions for the forthcoming Special Issue titled "Rhizomatic Law: Understanding the Linearity and Pendulum of Legal Evolution." The Special Issue will be published under the esteemed auspices of Undecidabilities and Law - The Coimbra Journal for Legal Studies.

The Special issue seeks to explore the dynamic, interconnected nature of legal systems through the innovative lens of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s rhizomatic theory. The object is to transcend traditional legal analyses and present a collection that reflects the multifaceted, intricate nature of legal evolution, emphasizing the interplay of linear, cyclical, and network-like dynamics. We welcome submissions in the form of articles, case studies, and reviews that align with this theme, especially those that challenge conventional paradigms and offer new perspectives.

Submissions should to the guidelines detailed on [ ]. Should you have any inquiries or wish to discuss your ideas, feel free to contact Anne Wagner and Sarah Marusek who serve as gues editors of this Special Issue. 

The Call for Contributions (with concept note) follows below and are due before 30 June 2024.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Tianhao Chen, Wei Xu and Xiaohong Yu:The Perks and Perils of Making Officials Appear in Court (European Chinese Law Research Hub)


Pix Credit here

The folks over at the European Chinese Law Research Hub (with thanks to Marianne von Blomberg, Editor ECLR Hub, Research Associate, Chair for Chinese Legal Culture, University of Cologne) have posted  a marvelous discussion of a new work by the team of Tianhao Chen, Wei Xu and Xiaohong Yu, on the The Perks and Perils of Making Officials Appear in Court .

Marianne von Bloomberg explains:
a Tsinghua University team of Tianhao Chen, Wei Xu and Xiaohong Yu introduce their assessment of the Chief Officials' Appearance System. Since 2015, this system requires state agency representatives to show up in court when citizens sue their offices. After analyzing court decisions and extensive fieldwork, the authors find that the grand expectations related to this reform were not quite met.

One of the most interesting aspects of the paper is the unmasking of the difficulties of aligning a human body with an office.  That identity between an aggregation--a corporation, an administrative agency, a mass organization--is tempting.  Aggregated abstractions are hard to discipline without translating its habits, actions, and mores into a bodily form. The traditional way for incarnation of abstractions--the state, a religion, any sort of social collective, is to  cultivate a collective belief that this abstraction can take human form--institutions made flesh. Human collectives, irrespective of their ideologies or lifeworlds, are littered with the human incarnation of abstracted collectives. Logos must be humanized. But humans are not abstractions--and when we come close to making that a reality--with big data supported generative intelligence--we tend to panic. Instead, one investing incarnation with theater.  And like all theater it produces imaginary effects. When administrators are required to come to court to defend their discretionary actions themselves, then, one can expect a performance--but one with little connection  to the exercise of discretion that forms the basis of complaint. And that is the pity. But in a system in which legality is meant to coordinate and manage discretionary decision making the theater of officials brought before officials offers little promise change. All administrative states face the same issue--the disciplining of administrative discretion for abuse, carelessness and failure to judge adequately--the context with Chinese characteristics merely presents itself a little differently than the challenges of European systems of administrative supervision overseen by a growing techno-bureaucracy. It is more likely that big-data based modeling overseen by an autonomous and generative intelligence would produce a more precisely rational system of assessment. But it is the theater that one craves. And that is precisely what the marvelous analysis of  The Perks and Perils of Making Officials Appear in Court demonstrates.

I am cross posting the essay below. The original ECLRH post may be accessed HERE. And as a plug for the marvelous work at the European Chinese Law Research Hub: if you have observations, analyses or pieces of research that are not publishable as a paper but should get out there, or want to spread event information, calls for papers or job openings, or have a paper forthcoming- do not hesitate to contact Marianne von Bloomberg.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Book Launch Event: The Research Handbook on International Solidarity and the Law



 I am happy to pass along information about an upcoming an upcoming Book Launch for The Research Handbook on International Solidarity and the Law sponsored by the American Society of International Law. The description and registration information follows:


Current global challenges include health emergencies, climate change, increased global inequality, and demands for self-determination which require international solidarity responses by states and civil society. The Research Handbook on International Solidarity and the Law (E-Elgar to be published April 2024) analyzes the expressions of international solidarity within different legal regimes and contextual situations. It addresses the scope of international solidarity in relation to human rights and duties, in particular the need to safeguard transnational civic spaces to promote emancipatory strategies for marginalized groups.

This book launch will include discussion of the successes and challenges of implementing international solidarity in relation to specific global challenges as well as the role of international institutions, including the Inter-American Human Rights Court and Commission as well as the ICJ. It will also include presentations by a selection of the authors and Q&A/discussion.


  • Obijiofor Aginam, UN University
  • Cecilia Bailliet (moderator), ASIL Latin America Interest Group
  • Usha Natarajan, Yale Law School
  • Vasuki Nesiah, New York University
  • Elizabeth Salmon, Pontifica Universidad Catolica del Peru
  • Alex Zhang (welcome remarks), ASIL International Legal Research Interest Group

Date and Location

Friday, May 3, 2024 - 11:00am to 12:30pm  US-ECT

Sunday, February 25, 2024

《中国共产党巡视工作条例》修订条文对照表 [Comparison table of revised provisions of the "Regulations on Inspection Work of the Communist Party of China"]

Pix and char available HERE ("Regulations on Inspection Work of the Communist Party of China" Comparison table of revised provisions The red bolded part is the new or modified content, and the blue bottom part is the deleted content.)

 The comparison table follows below (it is quite long). It is in the original Chinese.  

Xinhua published a summary of the changes. 新华视点|新修订的《中国共产党巡视工作条例》亮点解读 [Xinhua Perspective | Highlights of the newly revised "Regulations on Inspection Work of the Communist Party of China"] which also follows below in Chinese and a crude English translation.

Particularly interesting are changes to the formulation of the focus of inspection work, to align with the New Era framing of the structure of democratic centralism. Also the subject of focus--the development of top leadership supervision and, in line with much of the thrust of Chinese rule of law development, to enhance standardization and coordination.  Lastly, the further centering of data based processes--eventually potentially enhancing the use of bid data technologies and generative AI in the processes of automated inspection, are suggested. That, perhaps, may be the most interesting development and one to what for.  

The Xinhua summary highlighted the following underlying principles: (1) 突出政治定位 以更高标准深化政治巡视 ; (2) 完善体制机制 不断提高巡视工作规范化水平 ; (3) 压实各方责任 更加强化巡视整改和成果运用 ; (4) 贯通监督合力 充分发挥巡视综合监督作用 . [(1) Highlight political positioning and deepen political inspections with higher standards; (2) Improve systems and mechanisms to continuously improve the standardization level of inspection work; (3) Consolidate the responsibilities of all parties to further strengthen inspection rectification and application of results; (4) Adequate coordination and supervision Play the role of comprehensive inspection and supervision.]


Institute for Economics and Peace 2023 Global Terrorism Index


Fir those who follow these trajectories, The Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank dedicated to shifting the world’s focus to peace as a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human well-being and progress, has distributed its 2023 Global Terrorism Index. Its Executive Summary (reproduced below)) describes the Report this way:

This is the tenth edition of the Global Terrorism Index (GTI). This report provides a comprehensive summary of the key global trends and patterns in terrorism over the last decade. The calculation of the GTI score considers not only deaths but also incidents, hostages and injuries from terrorism, weighted over a five-year period. (2023 Global Terrorism Index, p 2).

The 2023 Global Terrorism Index may be accessed HERE.  For the Executive Summary: HERE

Saturday, February 24, 2024

China and the Legalities of Armed Struggle in Israel-Palestine--The Questions Global Legality Cannot Answer: Who is liberating What From Whom?


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On February 22, 2024, Legal Advisor and Director-General of the Department of Treaty and Law of the Foreign Ministry Ma Xinmin, on behalf of China, made a statement during the oral proceeding before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) relating to the request for an advisory opinion on the issue of occupied Palestinian territory. Based on China's policy position on the Palestinian question, he elaborated on China's views and propositions on legal issues such as the Court's advisory jurisdiction, the right of nations to self-determination, the law on the use of force, and international humanitarian law.

This marked the second time that China participated in an oral proceeding before the ICJ relating to the request for an advisory opinion, following its participation in the oral proceeding before the ICJ relating to the request for an advisory opinion on the issue of the independence of Kosovo in 2009. (here)

 Among the points made were references to key international documents about the legalities of peoples and national struggles for liberation.

"The UNGA resolution 3070 of 1973, I quote ‘reaffirms the legitimacy of the peoples' struggle for liberation from colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation by all available means, including armed struggle’. This recognition is also reflected in international conventions. For example, the Arab Convention For The Suppression Of Terrorism of 1998, affirms, I quote: ‘the right of peoples to combat foreign occupation and aggression by whatever means, including armed struggle, in order to liberate their territories and secure their right to self-determination and independence’. Armed struggle, in this context, is distinguished from acts of terrorism. It is granted in international law, this distinction is acknowledged by several international conventions. For example, article 3 of the OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism of 1999 provides that, I quote: ‘the struggle waged by peoples in accordance with the principles of international law for their liberation or self-determination, including armed struggle against colonialism, occupation, aggression and domination by foreign forces shall not be considered as terrorist acts’.” - UNGA resolution 3070 of 1973: - Arab Convention For The Suppression Of Terrorism of 1998: - OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism of 1999:

 All of this is true. Since 1948 it has been commonly assumed, without much thought, that its principles applied to the people occupying the lands that after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire constituted part of the British Mandate in Palestine. The commonly accepted narrative is one of displacement of the people then resident there by a strategic campaign of migration that effectively displaced one people with another.  The reaction--could then be characterized as national liberation invoking the right to resort to armed struggle to resist foreign occupation.  That narrative resist on a critical assumption--that the status quo in 1918 defined the legitimacy of whoever it was that occupied the lands that thereafter became contested. It is possible, however, to flip the narrative--if one drops the assumption that legitimacy is based on the status quo at the end of the Ottoman Empire.  If that premise disappears (assuming the relevance of another principle--that claims to territory are never time barred), then it is also possible for the Jews to make an identical claim that is now being made by the people who occupied the lands in 1918--that the Jews were forcibly displaced by waves of migrants and that they have engaged in national liberation struggles through armed conflict to reclaim ancestral lands that were taken away by reason of conquest, migration, and theological principles that required the displacement of Jews from their homeland by others to whom the land was given or thereafter taken. Neither is implausible; either works if one embraces a specific set of baseline assumptions necessary for the construction of compelling narrative to which the legalities of the rules among peoples may be applied. 


The object ere is not to make the argument in favor of one side or the other. The claim is that in this context, resort to law provides very little guidance and even less support for one position or the other.  The issue remains one of narrative, and narrative is based on the embrace on core premises that make the claims of one or the other side effectively incomprehensible. China, in its efforts to insert itself where it may not belong, and to open pathways to legalities for national struggle that may come back to bite them much closer to home--have advanced a legal position that masks a political position that is possible only by embracing a quite specific set of assumptions about the status quo that then sets the base line for analysis.  As I suggested before, those decisions are essentially ideological but politically driven, perhaps necessarily so (Choosing Sides, Socialist Internationalism, and the Ideological Signification of China's Jewish Problem in the International Arena: "Wang Yi Holds Talks with the Delegation of Arab-Islamic Foreign Ministers").  It does little to clarify either the positions of the parties, the interpretation or application of law or its relevance to an issue that is ultimately going to be decided on the basis of virtually anything but law (though law will be used to paper over the realization of the desires of those with the power to impose their objects. It is a pity, to be sure; but ideologically driven imaginaries rarely produce solidarity building results--especially where ideological rifts are as unbridgeable as those in this case. The way one understands the world, the historical baselines one chooses, makes all the difference in the world in approaching both law and its interpretation. And certainly, as the Chinese well understand, cultures and peoples with 5,000 year histories make for substantial complications in both.


Friday, February 23, 2024

Just Published: Revista Española de Empresas y Derechos Humanos (No. 2 February 2024)



I am delighted to pass along the notice of the publication of Issue No. 2 of the Revista Española de Empresas y Derechos Humanos. The issue includes a number of quite interesting and important articles written in English and Spanish. Contributors include José Antonio Tomás Ortiz de la Torre, Laura Íñigo Álvarez, Marta Paricio Montesinos, Elena Assenza, Andrea Cerofolini, and Luiz Henrique Garbellini Filho.

The entire issue may be accessed via 'pdf' HERE: Ver pdf.

The table of contents with links to individual articles follows below,  along with the Presentación (Introduction), in Spanish, authored by Daniel Iglesias Márquez (Universitat Rovira i Virgili), and Estrella del Valle Calzada (Universitat de València). Highly recommended.

Historical Nihilism Within Chinese Marxist Leninism Against Liberal Democracy: Structuring Solidarity-Enhancing Intersubjective Dialectics Between the Autonomous (Social) Individual and the Leadership of the Vanguard of Collective Social Forces [中国马克思主义列宁主义中的历史虚无主义反对自由民主:在自主(社会)个体与集体社会力量先锋领导之间构建团结--增强主体间辩证关系]


Pix credit here


Every society prefers to keep their shared history close, and those who would dispute it closer.  A shared sense of a collective's memory is critical in modern society for a number of reasons.  It is a basis for the construction and maintenance of collective solidarity around which a collective constructs itself and then sees itself in that construction. The Biblical narratives are an important and anoint example. But then so are the narratives of revolutionary solidarity woven around collectives the legitimating premise of which is that they are a manifestation of the leading social forces of society with an acute sense of a mission (in liberal democracy the mission is to ensure a protected space for the realization of mass desires expressed through bottom up interactions; in Marxist-Leninist worldviews the mission is to lead and guide the masses toward the realization of a communist society by marching along the socialist path). It is also a way in which the ideological basis of the social order can be embedded in the forms and arc of the "story" of the collective. These include not just hero stories (see my discussion in the the construction of a welfare narrative in the United States here), but also stories that deepen an alignment of national ethos with the political-economic-social system, on which its institutional structures are grounded and thereby made  more legitimate. This dialectic between national or other collective (his)stories  In addition, the history of a collective--and especially its birth stories--are meant to provide the justification for the ordering of the social collective. Stories of the birth of a nation, or people, or group. These narratives of identity are as useful to the construction of LGBTQ+ identity as it is to the construction of any ethno- or national-identity. The relationship between (his)stories and the first principles of collective organization are inherently structurally inter-subjective--in the sense that each reflects and expresses the other, and that this relationship acquires a dynamic element as that process of expression is repeated. All of this is well known and often the subject of consideration in several fields (philosophy, politics, economics, and now modeling). 

A challenge that has become more important to social collectives--including states--is focused more intensely on the way a collective might best to manage the unavoidable dialectic processes inherent in the production and cultivation of these (his)stories. In all systems this managing of historical collective intersubjective dialectics is built around--and derives its strength from--a dialectical process that is shaped by and shapes the political-economic system in which it is embedded. 

 Official history is the way that normative values in political can travel through time from out of the past and into the future. Power over history (again understood as the project of rationalizing the past through the application of normative assumptions also tends to rationalize or "prove" those normative assumptions by reference to the rationalization proffered as official history. The fighting for a supreme cultural authority over the meaning of history--that is its rationalization in the service of some overarching normative meaning, and in the embedding of some quite strategic baseline self-awareness as a social and political necessity for the members of the political collectives--is in this sense not merely an important political project, but one that exposes factional rifts in political communities as they develop. If the etymological roots of the term "history" is a compound of "seeing" and "knowing" then this approach to historical narrative is one that emphasizes the "knowing" as the predicate for "seeing." ("Resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century" [中共中央关于党的百年奋斗重大成就和历史经验的决议(全文)] Text and Thoughts).

In liberal democracies it is aligned with the structures of fractured and aggregating interactions. In simpler terms, it is premised on the privileged autonomy and driving force of the individual (German Basic Law Article 1 manifests this first  principle in the political legalities of the state), which, when aggregated, produce an effects based social solidarity which can be discerned by what is left over from these self- and inter-individual interactions. Those leftovers or effects, then, constitute the expression and movement of the dialectic and the shape of solidarity at any one point in time. Control, and the resulting stability for the collective of all of these moving parts, is realized in two principal ways.  The first is that the process is iterative--it builds itself and thus it is constrained by itself within arcs of time; that also suggests linearity (though that may be disappearing in an age of digital simultaneity through hyperlinking, multiple visualization and data herding). The second is that the process is an expression of the alignment between the first principles of solidarity and its manifestation in aggregating individual dialectical encounters with them. The example of the dialectics of the first principle of equality in liberal democracy suggests the complexity, iterative, and evolutionary process of the principle within a stability enhancing framing structure for which the institutions of the social collective are devoted. Thus the hard distinction between revolutionary and noisy solidarity affirming dialectic. Again, much of this is well known and generations of interested people have developed their own arc of intersubjective dialectic about the subjective dialectics of the liberal democratic collective order. The efforts to universalize these mechanisms and the process have proven less successful. All of this is expressed through (in part) and forms the basis for the casting and recasting of history, understood as a contemporary reflection of the past to support the structures of solidarity in the present and provide a basis for its further evolution in the future. As contentious as it might be, and subject to revolutionary overthrow (traditionally the thrust of Marxist analytics, though volatility at the margins can produce decay in the structures without the help of outside vanguards), the structures and processes of fracture in liberal democracy are themselves critical to the stability; they are critical precisely because these are collective systems built on the privileging of individual autonomy  the aggregations of which produce dynamic social cohesion (considered here, here). What appears to make the system of social collectivity built around the driving force of aggregating expressions of individual autonomy (in themselves and in their relations with others) weak serves the opposite purpose--to strengthen stability through the polycentric dialectics of anarchic (order without a center) of liberal democracy (and its markets and its fractures.

In Marxist-Leninist systems the management of collective intersubjective dialectics produces a considerably different structural mechanics. That management is necessarily aligned with the core principle of the leadership of the vanguard of leading social forces organized first as a revolutionary, and then as a part in power. Marxist-Leninism in its revolutionary phases seeks to use the modalities of collective dialectics against the stability of liberal democracy itself (on the basis of a theory that posits that liberal democracy is neither liberal nor democratic, in the sense understood by a Marxist vanguard) and that its internal decay and collapse must be enhanced by using its greatest strength against it. Fair enough.  But a revolutionary vanguard has little to lose when it seeks to accelerate the decay of a collective order inimical to its own set of first principles. What strengthens the Leninist order is the unalterable conviction of the inevitability of a forward movement towards communist society for which a Leninist revolutionary and then institutional order must provide the guiding force and through the leadership of which a controlled and centrally managed dialectic may be developed to ensure that the vanguard leading the masses relentlessly follows the socialist path toward the communist ideal. Coordinated dialectics from the top becomes the essential lubricant of forward motion.

Pix Credit here
It follows that when the vanguard forces, organized as a communist party, become the party in power and must build a state around them for the management of the masses and the project of having the masses travel forward along the socialist path (a journey guided by and a path made visible through the efforts of the vanguard) toward the establishment of a communist society, the dynamics change.  Now the process of autonomous intersubjective dialectics driving social movement becomes a destructive force.  It becomes, in the face of the overarching critical legitimating obligation of the Communist vanguard to guide and to lead, both an oppositional force and a substantial threat to the legitimacy and forward movement (as that is understood by the vanguard) of the socialist path toward communism mission. It becomes nihilism. And not just an academic nihilism, but one that is inherently political.  Its nihilism emerges precisely because it rejects the unalterable foundation of any set of first principles as other than socially constructed. That starting point--that one can test and re-test everything--is fundamentally incompatible with any system that posits a set of starting premises, precisely because, at its limit, it can be used to undo the system itself (again precisely what, as a revolutionary party seeks). A Marxist Leninist vanguard seeks to enhance and accelerate the decay of the liberal democratic system that its own theory posits must make way for the socialist road and its unalterable routing toward the establishment of a communist society. But that is incomprehensible where the revolutionary party becomes the party in power; now the "operating system" is set, and efforts to challenge it becomes an expression of backwards rather than forward movement along the only road that it is possible to follow--the socialist path (see, e.g., here).  But this impulse is not sui generis to Marxist-Leninism; it forms the basis for virtually all religious systems, and in the form of one of its Christian manifestations suggests the need to mediate between Fides et Ratio (between faith and reason).

It is to the protection of the vanguard against uncontrolled impulses to test--toward criticism and self-criticism--that the principle of historical nihilism in Chinese Marxist-Leninist theory.

The term inherits the prevalent interpretation of nihilism in western philosophy as a negation of ‘truth’ and the lack of purpose in human life. However, by putting the adjective ‘historical’ in front of nihilism, the term represents a conception of historical narration which doubts and negates the truthfulness and legitimacy of the CCP-endorsed modern Chinese history. The critique of this conception of history allows the CCP to brand any scepticism and public doubt over the credibility of the historical achievements of the CCP, its leaders and heroes as ‘nihilistic’. By doing so, it forestalls any debate about CCP-endorsed modern Chinese history in order to maintain the CCP’s legitimacy and credibility in history writing. (Jian Xu, Qian Gong,and Wen Yon, "Maintaining Ideological Security and Legitimacy in Digital China: Governance of Cyber Historical Nihilism" (2022) 185(1) Media international Australia 26-40, 28).

But what, then, is it, that one encounters, when one considers evolving Chinese Leninist encounters with  historical nihilism? Of course, one encounter bumps up against the idea that an ideology that rejects the power of ideology is itself a contradiction that distracts from the imperatives of social collective solidarity.  It may be useful as a basis for thinking through issues, but as a governing ideology it eventually posits disintegration. That is easy and not very useful. More interesting are the pragmatics that follow.  First, the idea is that historical nihilism as an ideology is effectively reactionary when it confronts a socialist revolutionary vanguard, even after it has assumed its role as a party in power.  It is effectively the kryptonite of Marxist-Leninist collectivity. For Chinese commentators, for example, the disintegration of Soviet Leninism (and its Marxist project) can be attributed to, in part, the criticism of the system itself, and more particularly, to its leadership.  That is what is sometimes extracted from a Chinese Leninist reading of the decay and disintegration of the Soviet Union after the death of Stalin. The problem, here, was that the dialectics of leadership within the vanguard were used as gateways to broader attacks on the system itself. 

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"Khrushchev’s “secret speech” set a precedent of repudiating the CPSU’s history and rang up the curtain on the first wave of historical nihilism within the CPSU. . . When Leonid Brezhnev came to power, however, he selectively ignored Stalin’s errors and stressed only his achievements, going from one extreme to another. Brezhnev mounted a full defense of Stalin and of the CPSU’s history and did not treat them dialectically. This kind of one-sided assessment of history had exactly the opposite effect, which exacerbated the spread of “de-Stalinization” in theoretical circles. . . The second upsurge of historical nihilism within the CPSU occurred during the Gorbachev era. Gorbachev launched a campaign to “re-evaluate history” and directed its attack at CPSU leaders and Soviet socialism." (Hu Zhongyue 胡中月, "The Symptoms, Damages, and Lessons of Historical Nihilism in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union" [苏共党内历史虚无主义的表现、危害及启示], Contemporary World and Socialism 当代世界与社会主义 (2019)).

The solution inevitably follows--in order to avoid historical nihilism one either adopted the dialectical approach of Deng Xiaoping relating to Mao Zedong, or one avoids criticizing leaders in front of the masses (unless, of course, they are to be made an example--corruption, treasonous behaviors, etc.). 

The essence of the counter to historical nihilism is to protect against the repudiation of one's own history in the process of dialectical progression (Ibid., p. 4-5). That, in turn, requires that such a dialectical process  remain firmly in the collective hands of the vanguard. The object is to use history to guide the masses, rather than confuse them with the messiness of the dialectical process of the vanguard as it seeks to march forward (mostly) along the socialist path (ibid., pp. 5-7). The solution is to carefully preserve the core ideological values the care and development of which has been undertaken by the vanguard of leading social forces now the party in power; view history through a Marxist lens, and carefully manage the expression of these dialectics within a public space. (Ibid., pp. 7-9).

Where does the leave dialectics? And history?  Within the structures and practices of democratic centralism.

It seems that some of our comrades still do not understand the democratic centralism which Marx and Lenin talked of. . . Comrades, we are revolutionaries. If we have really committed mistakes of the kind which are harmful to the people’s cause, then we should seek the opinions of the masses and of comrades and carry out a self-examination. This sort of self-examination should sometimes be repeated several times over. If once is not enough and people are not satisfied, then it should be done a second time. If they are still not satisfied, it should be done a third time until nobody has any more criticisms. . . Criticism and self-criticism is a kind of method. It is a method of resolving contradictions among the people and it is the only method. There is no other. But if we do not have a full democratic life and do not truly implement democratic centralism, then this method of criticism and self-criticism cannot be applied. . . Without democracy there cannot be any correct centralism because people’s ideas differ, and if their understanding of things lacks unity then centralism cannot be established. What is centralism? First of all it is a centralization of correct ideas, on the basis of which unity of understanding, policy, planning, command and action are achieved. (Mao Zedong, Talk At An Enlarged Working Conference Convened By The Central Committee Of The Communist Party Of China (January 30, 1962); consider the analysis HERE).

History is what must be projected outward from the vanguard to the masses (discussed here); it serves as a part of the controlled dialectic subsumed within the parameters of the mass line (considered here, here, and here).  What is projected inward within the institutional structures of the vanguard itself is political dialectic, which remains a process by which the vanguard, as its own subject,  seeks to move forward (more or less) along the socialist path. This, then, might well be the real starting point for any discussion of historical nihilism within Chinese Marxist-Leninism (see also here, here).

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Part 2 (Chapter 1; Introduction; Why a Commentary for the UNGP?)--Vetting the Discussion Draft: "The United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights: A Commentary"


Pix credit here (Libri feudorum (with Glosa ordinaria of Accursius))

I have been working on the production of a comprehensive commentary of the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.  This is a humbling task. It follows the production of both an official commentary, written in tandem with the UNGP itself, and a collective commentary of the UNGP undertaken by some of the most distinguished students of other fields of human rights, business, and its related fields of academic  study ( The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: A Commentary (Barnali Choudhury (ed); Edward Elgar, 2023).  

I am at a point where I can start vetting portions of the draft. I hope to share those discussion drafts with a wider audience in hopes of getting feedback.In these posts I provide a short summary of the draft chapter and a link t access a 'pdf' version.  All draft chapters may be found on my Coalition for Peace & Ethics Website website at UNGP Commentary Page HERE.

This post introduces the manuscript's Chapter 1 (Introduction; Why a Commentary on the UNGPs?). The objectives of this chapter is fairly straightforward. First it is to explain the reasons that it makes sense to attempt another commentary on the UNGP. The second is to suggest an approach a set of  commentary "first principles" that will guide the making of commentary. The third wrestles with the object of commentary--the text to be commented on, its intent, or the meaning that has been extracted from it evidenced by the way it has been applied in law or rules by public or private actors to some ends or other. The fourth considers the challenges of commentary in the age of the digital--the problem revolves around the way in which one reads and uses text. The traditional forms of linear reading of text is giving way to non-linear and multiple textual readings made possible by the digitalization of text, its hypertext, thumbnails, and word searching capabilities, for example.  Lastly, the chapter considers the challenges of crafting a commentary that avoids using the device as a means of projecting a specific set of agendas, or satisfying the craving of stakeholders who might expect just that, and judge the product on that basis. 

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It is in this sense that one can speak about commentary as an exercise in comprehensive interpretation that builds on itself first, and then solidifies that construction by a process of engaging with an ever widening group of sources to which the authoritative text may be tied. The object is to provide a basis for understanding the structures within which it is possible to extract meaning and intent from text, and to tie that the post-endorsement exercises in action-interpretation. More importantly, it is in the interactions among these sources that one can better expose the range of interpretive possibilities embedded within the authoritative text. Each additional element adds another layer of interpretive possibility that together creates a dynamic interaction between text, a secondary body of textual materials that evidence intent, and a third layer of textual representation that suggest meaning through a recording of its application in other textual frameworks that self-consciously draw on the original text. Interpretive range is indebted to the interplay between text, intent, and application. (From Chapter 2).

The Chapter 1 discussion draft may be accessed directly HERE: Backer_UNGP_Chp_1



Part 1 (Preface; Contents)--Vetting the Discussion Draft: "The United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights: A Commentary"


I have been working on the production of a comprehensive commentary of the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.  This is a humbling task. It follows the production of both an official commentary, written in tandem with the UNGP itself, and a collective commentary of the UNGP undertaken by some of the most distinguished students of other fields of human rights, business, and its related fields of academic  study ( The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: A Commentary (Barnali Choudhury (ed); Edward Elgar, 2023).  

I am at a point where I can start vetting portions of the draft. I hope to share those discussion drafts with a wider audience in hopes of getting feedback.In these posts I provide a short summary of the draft chapter and a link t access a 'pdf' version.  All draft chapters may be found on my Coalition for Peace & Ethics Website website at UNGP Commentary Page HERE.

This post introduces the manuscript's frontmatter: a short dedicatory "in Memoriam" for John Ruggie; the Preface; and the Table of Contents. The purpose is to provide a very short introduction to the materials and my basic approach to the materials to be covered. It also introduces the organization of the commentary. The frontmatter may be accessed HERE.

Part One (“On the Making of the UNGP”) includes the first five chapters of the Commentary. Chapter 1 takes a deep dive into the nature and purpose of Commentary, and more specifically, the description of and the reasons for the approach taken in producing this UNGP Commentary. It introduces some of the more challenging elements of a commentary. Most are well known and touch on the three key issues of commentary—the role of text, the importance of intent, and the backwards reading of both through application of text and intent by the consumers of the UNGP. In this case, however, the additional challenge of commentary in a digital age is also suggested. This is built around the emerging problem of moving away from traditional linear reading of text in the face of the simultaneity permitted in an environment of hypertext, word search, and linkages to other sources and media. Chapter 2 presents the key text that will be the primary subject of (or framing for) the commentary. These include the text of the instrument of endorsement by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, John Ruggie’s Report presenting the final draft text of the UNGP to the UNHRC, and the definitive version of the UNGP text (and Official Commentary) endorsed. Chapter 3 serves as a commentary on the traveaux préparatoires for the UNGP. These include principally John Ruggie’s reports to the UNHRC of 2006-2011 and the UNHRC pre-endorsement resolutions. Other relevant documents are considered. These documents are important either for enriching the analysis of the meaning of the UNGP text, or of approaching their meaning more aligned with the intent of those who drafted and endorsed the instrument. Chapter 4 then dives into a brief consideration of the historical foundations of the UNGP project. These are critically important as a basis for developing the contours of the range of plausible meaning one can give to the text. That range of plausibility is, in turn, shaped in part by the operational premises that critical stakeholders brought to the process of drafting (and thereafter to the process of applying or investing that text with meaning). Lastly, Chapter 5 (“the textualization of intent”) serves as a first or preliminary framing of the UNGP text, suggesting key areas of convergence and divergence of meaning possible in interpreting the UNGP text. Critical here is the effort to consider the interpretive challenges attaching to the “spirit” of the UNGPs from the issues of interpretation of its text.

Part Two (“The UNGPs: Section by Section Commentary”), then takes a deep dive into the UNGP text. It consists of four chapters reflecting the three Pillar structure of the UNGPs and its overarching Chapeau (general principles; state duty to protect; corporate responsibility to respect; and access to remedy). Chapter 6 considers the General Principles of the UNGP. These are meant to provide the framework within which the substantive provisions of the UNGP ought to be read. Chapter 7 then considers the state duty to protect human rights (UNGP 1-10). Like the UNGP themselves, the chapter is divided among the state duty foundational principles (UNGP ¶ 1-2), the state duty’s operational principles. These ae then divided among general state regulatory and policy functions (UNGP ¶ 3); the state-business nexus (UNGP ¶¶ 4-6); conflict affected area rules (UNGP ¶ 7); and the provisions on policy coherence (UNGP ¶¶8-10). Chapter 8 then turns to the corporate responsibility t respect human rights (UNGP ¶¶11-24). Again, following the structure of the UNGP, the chapter is divided among foundational principles (UNGP ¶ 11-15); and operational principles. The operational principles are themselves divided among principles on policy commitments (UNGP ¶ 16); Human right due diligence (UNGP ¶ 17-21); remediation (UNGP ¶ 22); and issues of context (UNGP ¶ 23-24). Lastly Chapter 9 considers access to remedy. The chapter is divided among foundational principles (UNGP ¶ 25); and operational principles. These are the well-known state based judicial remedies (UNGP ¶ 26); state based non-judicia remedies (UNGP ¶ 27); non-state based grievance mechanisms (UNGP ¶¶28-30); and effectiveness criteria principles (UNGP ¶ 31).

Part Three (“The ‘Spirit’ of the UNGP”)
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then consists of forward looking commentary. Chapter 10 considers the future of the UNGP through the lens of the work of the UN Working Group. Chapter 11 examines the embedding of the UNGP in international soft law instruments—the OECD Guidelines, the standards in ISO 26,000, and the emerging GRI standards. The commentary ends with Chapter 12’s consideration of the ‘spirit’ of the UNGP as it has manifested itself in national law making and in the years long project of trying to craft an international instrument for business and human rights.


Sunday, February 18, 2024

A Good Read: David J. Gunkel, "Person, Thing, Robot: A Moral and Legal Ontology for the 21st Century and Beyond (MIT Ptess 2023)



This is a great read that lays out the consequences for law and moral philosophy that were considered from the position of semiotics in 'The Soulful Machine, the Virtual Person, and the “Human” Condition', International Journal for the Semiotics of Law. The publisher description captures its essence nicely:

Why robots defy our existing moral and legal categories and how to revolutionize the way we think about them.

Robots are a curious sort of thing. On the one hand, they are technological artifacts—and thus, things. On the other hand, they seem to have social presence, because they talk and interact with us, and simulate the capabilities commonly associated with personhood. In Person, Thing, Robot, David J. Gunkel sets out to answer the vexing question: What exactly is a robot? Rather than try to fit robots into the existing categories by way of arguing for either their reification or personification, however, Gunkel argues for a revolutionary reformulation of the entire system, developing a new moral and legal ontology for the twenty-first century and beyond.

In this book, Gunkel investigates how and why efforts to use existing categories to classify robots fail, argues that “robot” designates an irreducible anomaly in the existing ontology, and formulates an alternative that restructures the ontological order in both moral philosophy and law. Person, Thing, Robot not only addresses the issues that are relevant to students, teachers, and researchers working in the fields of moral philosophy, philosophy of technology, science and technology studies (STS), and AI/robot law and policy but it also speaks to controversies that are important to AI researchers, robotics engineers, and computer scientists concerned with the social consequences of their work.

The book is open access and may be accessed here.

"Do not ask Ukraine when the war will end. Ask yourself – why Putin is still able to continue it "– Text of Speech by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Munich Security Conference


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Perhaps, the weaponization of food or migration will break existing regional balances and undermine many political systems – not only in Europe but also in the Middle East. In Africa. In the Americas. (Do not ask Ukraine when the war will end. Ask yourself – why Putin is still able to continue it – speech by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Munich Security Conference)
Pix Credit CNN here
Like the World Economic Forum gathering at Davos, the Munich Security Conference has become something like the Met Gala for the policy glitterati. They provide spaces for the aging and ambitious the feudal overlords of the techno-bureaucracies over which they assume influence and direction to perform both for themselves and for the audience of media that is meant to project those performances to the masses. It thus serves as a physical manifestation of the abstracted pathways within which power relations are channeled. That channeling requires some care and attention to those pathways--the narratives and rationalizations that preserve analytical premises around which decisions are made, resources are committed, and people die. Davis and Munich, of course are also markets--where those who lead or guide movements along these pathways come to deal. The public is enthralled--or at least the increasingly aging structures of media pathways serving an equally aging demographic that, while still grasping power, may sooner or later have to give way to a generation that might continue these performances or value them less (always lurking the structures of the  Revolt of the Three Feudatories, 三藩之亂; pinyin: Sānfān zhī luàn). For the moment, the institutionalization of something that was perhaps more vital a generation ago remains, in its rituals and spectacles, where imperial entourages meet, and where dependent feudatories must come to pay respects. . . . and beg.

 It is to this event, and in these circumstances that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a now mandatory appearance. His visit included a number of meetings with those powers on whom Ukraine is dependent for the ability to continue to resist the Russian invasion forces, and on whim the narrative framing Ukrainian narratives are projected. It was also marked by a speech that is worth considering in some detail. Much f it recirculates insights that have been delivered before.  It draws its power, though, from the consolidation of those perceptions at a time when the principal imperial suzerain is convulsed by internal factionalism among the lordlings and entitled techno-bureaucracies in its metropolis that threatens its ability to protect the dependencies on which its authority and the world order it has maintained for several generations. And, as has become more common in these speeches, it serves as a reminder, by a national dependency, of the system of responsibilities and obligations that are at the center of the rules based international order, even as those who are called upon to undertake their responsibilities seek, in one way or another, to shirk them.

Several points within President Zelenskyy's remarks deserve some mention (I leave judgment to the reader): (1) the status quo as a default has become both an obsessive ideal and a dangerous goal, especially where that status quo promises little more than managed conflict. One sees this in the complexities of ceasefire narratives in Gaza and Ukraine, but also in other conflict areas; (2) underlying the narratives of status quo is the premise that avoiding changing the formal structures of conflict permit a space in which it is possible to augment the decay and ultimately the collapse of oppositional leader states, that is, that direct resolution precludes victory through internal decay (a metastasis of one lesson drawn by some from the "end" of the Cold War); (3) status quo also permits a weaker suzerain to use the strengths of their opponents to advantage--the weaponization of food and migration, the deployment of military assets within the structures of civilian life or under United Nations structures are examples--it is here that sanctions assume both normative (and potentially) operational power; (4) it may be necessary for semi-dependent suzerains to begin to plan for the time when the principal suzerain decays and effectively collapses in on itself--the United States may no longer be capable of exercising its authority (internal decay) or may seek to lay aside its responsibilities (internal normative collapse) and assume a role of important but still secondary retainer in the global system; which may or may not be preceded by a period of instability; (5) the collapse of suzerains may not be as terrible as anticipated especially where it is managed through the imposition of sanctions regimes--or de-risking strategies; and (6) the perpetuation of racist and ethno-chauvinist tropes provide a basis for excusing behaviors that  ought otherwise to be intolerable, in the case of the Russians, the devaluation of life not merely through the instrumentalization of mass suffering under cover of legalities but also of military strategies in which human life is perhaps values less than artillery shells (eg the meat grinder strategies). 

And thus the structures and pretensions of the Met Gala, and the costuming necessary for effective participation.

Pix Credit CNN

The English and Ukrainian text of the Speech follows.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Just Published: 'The Soulful Machine, the Virtual Person, and the “Human” Condition', International Journal for the Semiotics of Law


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 For those who may be interested in emerging issues touching on artificial intelligence (AI), its essence and the consequences for human interaction, I am pleased to announce that my article, 'The Soulful Machine, the Virtual Person, and the “Human” Condition', has been published in the International Journal for the Semiotics of Law (Springer Nature). My great thanks to the staff at IJSL and Anne Wagner (Université de Lille), IJSL's editor in Chief, for her unwavering support through the long process of drafting and publication. As part of the Springer Nature Content Sharing Initiative, I may publicly share full-text access to a view-only version of the work using the following SharedIt link:

The article focuses on what ought to be emerging questions about the nature of AI (as an object, process, platform, and entity), its (their) autonomy, the nature of consciousness in virtual spaces, and the challenges these issues pose for contemporary efforts to manage or control human interactions with these emerging forms of (autonomous) consciousness, in their contemporary manifestations as law and policy. The article is built around an interactive review of my friend and mentor, Jan M. Broekman's book,  Knowledge in Change: The Semiotics of Cognition and Conversion (Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature, 2023). 

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The principal underlying point is simple enough--the constitution of virtual spaces has upended the ancient and quite rich context in which humans have sought to understand themselves and the world around them through self-centering philosophies (including theological ones, which inevitably place the human at the center of world rationalizing constructs) as the central "subject" in the constitution of human usable reality. In place of an endogenous or (divinely attached) exogenous dialectical inter-subjectivity (the ordering of subjectivities within human collectives or as human collectives depending on one's taste) that produces order and change or progress (again depending on how collectives "spin" this towards something or other (utopia, stability, fulfillment, it doesn't really matter) one now encounters two distinct types of virtual subjects. 

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The first are constructed as virtual reconstructions of the human, which can be used to describe either individual or collective behaviors (through machine learning descriptive analytics) or can be used to experiment with either (predictive analytics and modeling human individual or collective social systems). This is the "Sim City " style version of virtual subjectivity. The second are constructed as autonomous virtual animations of what starts as a minimally formed virtual consciousness that are used to displace, in a sense, the human. That displacement can occur at any level--from determining the outcome (and managing the forms ) of calculations, to decision making about virtually anything. The virtual consciousness does not ask permission to think, though it may be unable to actualize its determinations.  This is the "Robocop" version, in its humanized form; or in its human nightmare forms apparitions like "Skynet" or the 'Machineverse' in "Matrix."

In both cases, the rise of virtual subjects changes the point of reference for analytics.  The centuries long effort of focus the foundations of meaning and the ordering of human collectives around the ordering notions of "balance sheets"--the values-reducing picture of a human or a human collective in a single point in time--and then from that assumptions developing the complexities of rules based ordering are now being challenged. That challenge is coming from what might be understood as the refocus on what Jan Broekman calls 'the flow' (and I call the 'signal') and accounting  calls the income statement--the summaries of action in the spaces between these frozen images of human and collective (physical/virtual/mirroring/autonomous) realities. The iterative behaviors of change between pints of cognition of those changes, rather than the points themselves, are now more likely to be useful points for understanding a world reality of constant interactivity among its physical and virtual subjects. 

The consequences may be important, and those consequences are explored in the context of current efforts to "regulate" AI. The principal underlying point is also simple enough to state: one cannot successfully regulate iterative interactions in motion by recourse to a set of mechanisms and tools that were useful when collective social relations were merely human. That is like powering nuclear plants with people generating energy by riding on bicycles.  One cannot control AI, nor "own" it merely by waving a bit of text at it and threatening it with uniformed humans engaging in the performative encounters of text and act. In the context of virtual and autonomous intersubjectivity, regulation is always chasing an object that is long gone by the time it is brought within its performative spaces.  That may provide some comfort to those who believe (and not incorrectly) that the theater of public action is somehow socially reassuring and stability enhancing--but it has little to do with the actualities of its object. That result is more powerfully invoked when the regulatory object is autonomous. Perhaps, the best one can realize using these mechanisms is something that approaches the modalities of self-control individual and collective). One can regulate individual and social contact with AI, and especially in its generative and autonomous forms. One can punish individuals and collectives that break the taboos of contact and use. One can, in effect, code limits and stops; one can "turn off the machine" perhaps (that is avoid using it). But one cannot do much more. It follows that consequential regulation--prescriptive rules for human actors--are, at this point in time, the more likely to produce some measure of success.  Prescriptive rules for autonomous and generative intelligence remains, elusive, even in the language of code.  

Perhaps here the ancients can be helpful in the story of Odysseus and the Sirens (Homer, The Odyssey Book XII)--they could not be avoided, their power was irresistible, an for human that meant one of two courses--to shut oneself off from their sound, or to tie oneself so that as powerful as the siren song was one was physically incapable of responding. That, most likely, is the relevant foundation for lawmaking in this emerging era of autonomous virtual intelligence--a measure of freedom through self restraint; the sirens are beyond governance (explored in a constitutional context in Gunther Teubner and Anna Beckers, Expanding Constitutionalism (Ind. J. Global L. Stud. 2013)).

Pix credit here Ulysses and the Sirens, painting by John William Waterhouse


The Abstract follows below. Again, SharedIt link: