Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Philosophy and Resistance in the Crisis: Greece and the Future of Europe: Books

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Philosophy and Resistance in the Crisis: Greece and the Future of Europe: Books

Article excerpt

Philosophy and Resistance in the Crisis: Greece and the Future of Europe, By Costas Douzinas, Polity, 200pp, Pounds 50.00 and Pounds 14.99, ISBN 9780745665436 and 665443, Published 29 March 2013

The eurozone crisis has sparked a vibrant debate among the European Union's supporters and critics. Costas Douzinas, professor of law and director of Birkbeck, University of London's Institute of the Humanities, is a prominent critic of the EU; here, he examines the effects of the crisis in his native Greece.

Douzinas cites and discusses authors such as Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek and others whose work is often called "radical philosophy" and is mostly obscure, allusive and mystical. In contrast, his own prose is for the most part lucid and direct. The book is often moving and captures well the current Greek mood of anger and despair. At the core of Douzinas' argument lies a moral requirement for "resistance": "Always act according to a maxim which, universally applied, attacks and cancels the causes that exclude and condemn to symbolic and physical death large numbers of people." This "universal moral command" neatly divides the world between oppressors and victims.

Capitalism is the villain and ordinary people are its targets. But Douzinas accepts this without any evidence. He often relies on a simplified history of ideas to present an argument. There is no discussion of what amounts to "symbolic death", nor why we need large numbers of such "deaths" to have a duty of resistance according to the "universal moral command". Strangely, he does not deal with widely available research showing that European societies are among the most prosperous, equal and happy in the world.

For Douzinas, European democracy is an abject failure. Late capitalism, for him, comes with the exercise of "biopolitics", the direct or indirect "control" of thought and action by impersonal forces aimed at domination. It used to be that Left and Right had different policies, says Douzinas, but this is no longer true. Europe's "two major socio-political models", namely classical liberalism and social democracy, have now converged into "neoliberalism", which "extends the market mechanism to the social state, privatizing public utilities and social amenities", where the strong social state of social democracy disappears and becomes a "state of behavioural controls, extensive surveillance and emergency powers deemed necessary to uphold order and keep resistance in check". …

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