The quote in the title comes from a transcript of an interview with Xie Yang, a human rights lawyer in the PRC. ‘Your only right is to obey’ is the ultimate, and ultimately inhumane, principle of authoritarian rule marking the collapse of obligation into obedience. It sees force making contact with the exposed, unprotected nerve of the human mind, like the application of electrodes to the body. It is destructive, seeking of the subject not now allegiance or loyalty to the Party – it knows this is too late, too fake – but its brainless capitulation, its emptying out. This will be its message to others, not only the rights lawyers, the dissidents, who must learn that innocence is guilt, but the good people, the law abiders, the cautious, the complacent. They must learn the truth that this principle, and no ‘other erroneous idea’, lies at the root of politics, society, life. This paper will address the aesthetics not of democracy, but of demokenosis, the emptying out of the people.
The paper analyzes political resistance as an aesthetic phenomenon by taking as an example a protest in which two asylum seekers stabbed themselves in front of the Finnish Parliament House in the autumn 2017. An aesthetic reading of refugee activism allows critical insights into paradoxes of politics, identity and rights in the western juridico-political context. First, by framing the analysis on Foucault’s and Agamben’s theorizations of biopolitics, the paper interprets how refugee protests give visibility to the violence and inhumanity in the systematized practices of inscribing people with non-citizen identity. Then, by employing Rancière’s ideas of political aesthetics, the paper reads refugee resistance further as empowering democratic politics where refugee identity itself is used as a method for rejecting this oppressive identity.
Since 2001 the worker recuperated enterprises (ERTs) of Argentina have challenged the function, organisation, and normative basis of politics, law, and economics. This is a movement that frames its actions as a political struggle, and in so far as their conception of work rejects the structuring of work in response to market determinations, the ERT movement is normatively distinct from the political and legal status quo. They are an example of political and legal difference that has insisted upon the legality of its political aims, and won. I propose that a careful reading of the ERTs engagement with law reveals a distinctive conception of the relationship between political action and constitutional ordering. The survival of this movement challenges the conception that political difference is neutralised by law, and encourages a re-consideration of the role played by political agency in constitutional change.
Constitutional theory will by default subsume spatial phenomena under the territorial template of its statist paradigm. Constitutional space is, then, the ‘container’ that is more or less compatible with the spatial expanse that the constitutionally delimited state occupies. Alternatively, constitutional space may be seen metaphorically as an organizational schematic, as a ‘constitutional architecture’ in which the power relations of government branches, administrative units and bodies, are defined both vertically and horizontally. In this paper, constitutional space will be explored as a single multidimensional framework that, in addition to more physical aspects of space, includes mental and social dimensions as well. It will use Henri Lefebvre’s well-known ‘conceptual triad’ to account for the various dimensions that can only together form something that we might call constitutional space.