Polis, State, Cosmopolis

COSTAS DOUZINAS

ATHENS RISING: COSMO-POLITANISM OR THE POLIS?

Europe has created two distinct and enduring political-spatial entities: the self-governing city and the sovereign territorial state. The rise of neo-liberal capitalism, its global penetration and political effects gave the impression that the territorial state was on the way out. Over the last few months, however, the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism, deregulated, free-market, greedy, based on financial gambling, cheap credit and disregard for any value other than profit has come to a crashing end. Bail outs, nationalisation, regulation have delivered a huge blow to free market idolarty. The rise of neo-liberal capitalism coincided with the emergence of two important juridico-political trends: cosmopolitanism and the post-democratic turn in Western politics. Is there a link between recent moralistic ideology, greedy economic policies and biopolitical governmentality? My answer is a clear yes. Their combined action has led to the gradual decline of the modernist edifice of domestic and international politics, based on nation-states, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. Now that the economic model has come crashing down, what is happening to its symbolic order?

I will examine this question through an exploration of the relationship between space and politics. Cosmopolitanism has been challenging the sovereignty of the nation-state from a globalist perspective while new types of protest have been reasserting the political importance of urban space against the lethargy of formal politics. The first part discusses the way in which a philosophical tradition that started in classical Athens with Diogenes the Cynic and Zeno the Stoic has come to represent late modern ‘capitalism with a human face’. The second part moves to the December 2008 insurrection in Athens and examines it as a new form of urban politics.

SPACE, LAW DEMOCRACY

Democracy as political form and citizenship as the specifically modern subjectivity could only be developed through a strong link between power and space. Modern politics has always operated within a limited territory controlled by single authority and modern legitimacy has depended on spatial ordering. All major political forms, dynastic royalty (principle of inheritance and personification of a population), nationalism (common characteristics of people cohabiting in a particular territory) and representative democracy (the will of nation) combine power and place. Their exclusive and exclusionary link (ie that each nation should have its own territorial state and each state should consist of one dominant nation) was necessary in order to sustain the cultural, religious and national identity necessary for the operation of democracy. The nation could be constructed only within a delimited territory which became its hallowed home worth dying for. Territorial nationalism was the precondition for the rise of democracy. For a simple majority to become an acceptable form of rule, people must feel that similarities with their neighbours are greater than their obvious economic, class or cultural differences. Nationalism provided the basic cultural homogeneity necessary for the rise of democracy. When such initial homogeneity does not exist, the introduction of democratic procedures explodes the conflicts of wider society and can lead to genocidal wars. This is what happened after the collapse of Yugoslavia.

Secondly, national territoriality linked with urbanisation led to the creation of the specifically modern subjectivity. Capitalist accumulation, enterprise and industrialisation depend of large-scale moves of people from the countryside to the cities where they become the labour force necessary for capitalism. These mass moves can succeed local identities must be refashioned in a dialectical confrontation with wider normative claims, primarily those of nationalism and political participation in the nation-state. These normative claims allowed parochial agrarian consciousness to be challenged or alienated in Hegelian terms in order to return to itself in the richer form of the subject-citizen of modern democracy.

Both processed were enabled by the jurisdictionally, that is territorially, organised national law. Rules regulating capitalist production and commodity exchange, including the protection of property, contract and the development of legal and corporate personality developed first in urban centres. Only later did civic rules emerge, mainly the creation of civil and political rights, which completed the creation of the modern subject and citizen and empowered the nascent nation-states to challenge the major urban and trade centres for hegemony. Territoriality, a spatially demarcated and organised nation-state and a national legal system are necessary preconditions for democracy and citizenship. Is this intricate connection between power and place now coming under threat? My answer is yes and no. Let me examine first sovereignty’s retreat.

International lawyers claim that a new international norm called ‘humanity’s law’ has emerged. It brings together the old law of war (traditionally called ‘humanitarian’ law) and human rights law limiting state action both in periods of conflict and during peacetime. Humanity’s law is not restricted spatially or temporally like international law and does not respect natural frontiers. Temporally, no distinction can be drawn between war and peace. War is peace; the merging of war and police action has been declared permanent. Again, while in Nuremberg and Tokyo international criminal justice was invoked after the end of hostilities against the loser, now it is invoked before or during the war and becomes part of the conflict. The linear temporality of modernity is replaced by the symbolic ever-presence of the concept.

Spatially, emphasis has shifted from the protection of national borders to the upholding of certain (legal) concepts and values, key amongst them humanitarianism, security and freedom. Let me examine them briefly.

The international legal system was the consequence of exclusive national control over state territory which marked early modernity. Intervention by the ‘international community’ or states into the territory of another state was allowed in an extremely small and strictly controlled set of circumstances. Authorisation by the United Nations Security Council to stop or prevent wars was the main lawful casus belli. Unlawful war or ‘crimes against peace’ were considered until a few years ago as the most odious attack on international legality. The frontier of the modern state is not a disputed region or zone of control but just a line. Things are culturally and socially different on two sides. The new world order has undermined this clear line however and sets cultural and social specificities against the common principles of ‘humanity’s law’. Humanitarian sanctions and wars are triggered by attacks on human rights, the instability of populations through mass migration, ethnic cleansing, atrocities but also increasingly by natural disasters as the Burma floods indicated. While the premodern nomos of the earth was based on the control of land, the modern on control of sea lanes and trade, the postmodern nomos is planetary: it is spatially boundless, operating on horizontal planes, its cartographic principle conceptual rather than geographic.

‘National security’ was the privileged term recognising state discretion to override policies and rights when it feels threatened by real or imaginary enemies. Now it has been replaced by ‘human’ insecurity as the basis for engagement in domestic and global politics. The substitution of human insecurity for national security hugely expands the scope of state action both domestically and internationally. In the climate of fear of terrorists, criminals and other rogues assiduously cultivated by western governments, personal insecurity is an ever-present existential condition offering open-ended authorisation for all kinds of preventive and protective action.

Liberation, finally, is carried out through military occupation and economic penetration and restructuring. In Iraq we have both: Paul Bremer, the first post-war viceroy, imposed what the Economist called a ‘capitalist dream regime’. It included ‘the full privatisation of public enterprises, full ownership rights by foreign firms of Iraqi businesses, full repatriation of foreign profits…the opening of Iraq’s banks to foreign control…the elimination of nearly all trade barriers’ the imposition of a regressive flat tax, the outlawing of strikes and the restriction of trade union rights.

The World Bank, the IMF and the WTO follow a softer approach. The ‘economic restructuring’ conditions imposed on developing states in loan and aid agreements constrain the ability of developing states to make decisions about wage levels, all aspects of welfare provision and services, constitutional reform and levels of unemployment. Similar policies are followed by the World Trade Organisation and its TRIPS and GATS agreements. The investment liberalisation agenda puts trans-national corporations in a dominant position, promoting private interests and denying local people the information while imposing strict fiscal policies and the privatisation of public services and utilities.

The promise to the developing world that the violent or voluntary adoption of the neo-liberal capitalism, of good governance and limited rights will inexorably lead to Western economic standards is fraudulent. Historically, the Western ability to turn the protection of formal rights into a limited guarantee of material, economic and social rights was based on huge transfers from the colonies to the metropolis. While universal morality militates in favour of reverse flows, Western policies on development aid and Third World debt, indicate that this is not politically feasible. As Immanuel Wallerstein put it, ‘if all humans have equal rights, and all the peoples have equal rights, then we cannot maintain the kind of inegalitarian system that the capitalist world-economy has always been and always will be.’ When the unbridgeablility of the gap between the missionary statements on equality and dignity and the bleak reality of obscene inequality becomes apparent, human rights — rather than the elimination of war — will lead to new and uncontrollable types of tension and conflict. Spanish soldiers met the advancing Napoleonic armies, shouting ‘Down with freedom!’ It is not difficult to imagine people meeting the ‘peacekeepers’ of the New Times with cries of ‘Down with human rights!’

Human rights and humanitarianism have become tools of power’s biopolitical operation best captured in the Swiftian modest proposal of our times presented in a recent article in the Harvard Journal of Human Rights: ‘individuals may be killed intentionally if their expected death is compensated [sic] by more than an equivalent expected increase in enjoyment of human rights.’ In this humanitarian calculus, enjoyment trumps death; the target of power is precisely life. You are killed in order to live happily ever after.

The emergence of this new order parallels early capitalism. First, a global legal regime of neo-liberal investment, trade, aid and intellectual property was created and later global civic rules, ethics, semiotics and lingua franca followed aiming to complete neo-liberal capitalist integration. Robert Cooper has called it the ‘voluntary imperialism’ of the global economy. It combines voracious capitalism and humanitarianism.

The delinking of politics and place means that national democracy is on the retreat but no cosmopolitan democracy is likely to emerge. As we know from debates around the European Union, no common demos exists in the world, no global social or cultural homogeneity to support democracy. The idea of a ‘constitutional patriotism’ has failed in Europe and is not even a starter internationally. Secondly, the belief that national identities will be sublated in a dialectical or agonistic struggle with the universality of humanity is plainly wrong. Humanity remains philosophically an abstract universal and historically a strategy of ontological ordering rather than a quality shared. It cannot replace the normative localisation that the nation performed in early modernity. Cosmopolitan citizenship is an oxymoronic concept.

According to Carl Schmitt, the Sovereign decides exceptionally and performatively about the exception, suspends the law in order to save it. In our recent wars, in a modification of Schmitt’s law, the United States placed itself in the position of global Sovereign by suspending international law. There is more. The exception does not just create the rule; it also constitutes an imaginary global space over which the Sovereign will rule, it creates the terrain of its application, its law and its space. This is the symbolic space of a global community organised according to the effectiveness of planetary technology, a failing world capitalism and a legal system given to the endless circulation without significance or aim, a combination of the nihilism of shock and awe and capitalism. In this sense, recent wars marked the return and condensation of sovereignty, but perhaps a bastard sovereignty without sovereignty, which acts without end, except that of endless circulation and expansion. In a historical reversal, an Emperor is emerging but the Empire is still under construction and indeed may fail. An Emperor without Empire is our world.

Despite differences in content, colonialism and cosmopolitanism form a continuum, episodes in the same drama, which started with the great discoveries of the new world and is now carried out in the streets of Iraq: bringing civilisation to the barbarians. The claim to spread Reason and Christianity gave the western empires their sense of superiority and their universalising impetus. The urge is still there; the ideas have been redefined but the belief in the universality of our world-view remains as strong as that of the colonialists. There is little difference between imposing reason and good governance or between proselytising for Christianity and human rights. They are both part of the cultural package of the West, aggressive and redemptive at the same time.

We can conclude that cosmopolitanism, human rights, international law etc do not constitute the symbolic but the imaginary order of the world. They are the replacement rather than the companion or precondition of democracy. A planetary democracy is impossible since abstract spatial ordering cannot replace the democracies of place. On the contrary, ‘humanity’s law’ subjects democracies to the dictates of oligarchic international and hegemonic elites. Place remains the privileged site and stake of politics and power. What is happening to the city, the second location for bringing together space and politics? Let me turn to events in December 2008 in Athens.

POLIS RISING or THE ATHENS EVENTS

Few events in recent Greek history have created such an avalanche of hermeneutical ingenuity and analytical perspicacity as the widespread protests of December 2008. The catalyst for the insurrection was the unprovoked police killing of 15-year old pupil Alexis Grigoropoulos on December 6 and the spontaneous reaction to the homicide and extensive police brutality and violence. The first wave of events started on the night of the killing and continued until the New Year celebrations. A number of University buildings in central Athens were occupied and demonstrations broke out all over Greece, including forty provincial towns which had never experienced such protests. The activities were varied: marches to local police stations, to Parliament and various Ministries were daily repeated. Other forms were more imaginative: they included sit-ins, street performances, interruption of theatres and cinemas to call for audience solidarity, the raising of a banner on Acropolis calling for resistance and the burning of the Christmas tree in the central Syntagma square. In the early days, shops, banks and cars were attacked in central Athens and damage to property was reported. Violence subsided later and took mainly the form of stone (and some petrol bomb) throwing by the protesters and extensive teargas use by the riot police. In an unprecedented move, large numbers of secondary school pupils aged 12 to 18 took to the streets supported by their parents. It was quite characteristic that despite the condemnation of the protests by most political parties and commentators, well over 50% of the population supported the protest.

Many varied and often contradictory causes have been put forward for this explosion of pupils and students. They are primarily economic (youth and graduate unemployment, underemployment, neo-liberal economic measures, general economic uncertainty) but also political (persistent and unpunished corruption, reform of social security, multiple failures of the educational system, sclerosis of the semi-dynastic political system), cultural (a pervasive protest mentality, anti-statism but also the weakness of ‘civil society’) or ideological (perseverance of anarchism and leftism, toleration of antinomianism).

Many varied and often contradictory causes have been put forward for this explosion of pupils and students. They are primarily economic (youth and graduate unemployment, underemployment, neo-liberal economic measures, general economic uncertainty) but also political (persistent and unpunished corruption, reform of social security, multiple failures of the educational system, sclerosis of the semi-dynastic political system), cultural (a pervasive protest mentality, anti-statism but also the weakness of ‘civil society’) or ideological (perseverance of anarchism and leftism, toleration of antinomianism).

Yet despite the extensive commentary in foreign and Greek media, the prominent reaction of intellectuals, journalists and politicians has been one of shock and bemusement, incomprehension mixed with incredulity. When journalists and politicians conclude either with the condemnation of ‘raw violence’ or with a shocked recognition of the ‘sudden’ awakening of hitherto apolitical teenagers, they admit to a certain failure of political imagination. If the events have tested the ability of society and state to react to its multiple failures they have also put the interpretative ability and analytical acumen of political and social scientists on the line.
The events lack the standard markers of political legibility and in this sense cannot be easily integrated into existing analytical frames. No political organisation or other agent directed the insurrection, no single ideology motivated it, most importantly no overwhelming demand was put forward to be negotiated, conceded or rejected by the government. This is what mostly riled the commentators. Against the abundance of interpretations canvassed, against the desperate attempt to squeeze a modicum of explanation from participants, a sense of bewilderment followed the lack of a ‘clear’ political agenda. The question ‘what do the kids want?’ permeates the responses of the commentators mimicking Freud’s famous quip ‘what does the woman want?’ In both cases, the incomprehension lies on the side of the questioner. The insurrection has no ‘political’ meaning for our hermeneutical detectives, it does not follow a linear temporality of before and after. In standard social scientific terms, effects have a (causal or interpretative) link with causes allowing those coming after the events to comprehend them in reference to their before.

The main characteristic of these events was their resistance to causal linearity. What seems to transverse the insurrection is a refusal, a ‘No more’, an ‘enough is enough’ without a categorical reference. This is precisely the novelty of the situation and what has mostly baffled and even outraged commentators: a negativity that stubbornly yields no meaning to the pursuers of hermeneutical clarity and defies the lovers of political certainty. A stubborn negativity characterises the insurrection, a Bartleby-type ‘I would prefer not to’. Is this a new modality of resistance appropriate to our globalised urban space, to out post-political condition and the debasement of democracy?

The urban space with its built and unbuilt, proper and improper places, its churches, football pitches and cruising spots has always expressed the inequality of social relations and offered a site of conflict. Urban legality comprises planning, architectural and traffic regulations, entertainment, protest and expression rules, licit and illicit ways of being in public. It imposes a grid of regularity and legibility, ascribing places to legitimate activities while banning others, structuring the movement of people and vehicles across space, ordering encounters between strangers. Yet from the regular urban riots of early modernity to the Bastille, the Paris Commune, the British reform movement and the suffragettes, the American civil rights movement, May 1968, the Athens Polytechnic, Prague and Bucharest uprisings, to name a few iconic cases, the ‘street’ has confronted and unsettled urban legality. Urban space offers ample opportunity for political action which has changed social systems, laws and institutions. The December riots join in a long series of street action across epochs and places. The vote, the vote for women, basic laws to protect labour and stop discrimination and many other entitlements today taken for granted were the result of street protests, violence and riots. The abstract denunciation of protests for their violence combines the defence of the status quo with historical ignorance. Let me look first at the special and temporal aspects of urban action.

According to Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life, urban resistance takes strategic and tactical forms: “A strategy assumes a place that can be circumscribed as proper (propre)…The ‘proper’ is a victory of space over time. On the contrary, because it does not have a place, a tactic depends on time – it is always on the watch for opportunities that must be seized ‘on the wing.’” Strategy establishes a new place against already existing static places of authority or against structures of power. This spatial base facilitates resistance against temporal synchronicity and cyclical legality. Tactics on the other hand utilise temporality, the kairos or the timely; through an acceleration or disjointure of time, the propriety of place or structure is unsettled.

In these terms, the December events were a recognisable but transient form of ‘street’ resistance. It established its proper places, the Polytechnic, the Law School, the School of Economics and the adjacent Exarcheia area, against the authoritative stability of Parliament, Ministries or the Police HQ. It used the opportunities of school, University or pre-Christmas time (the burning of the Christmas tree, the protection of its replacement by riot police and its ‘decoration’ with rubbish, the disruption of Christmas shopping) to unsettle the propriety of cyclical temporality. Imagine Westminster and Whitehall, the White House and Congress under siege everyday for two weeks. This was not the use of public spaces for ordinary legitimate protest, something liberal commentators had to concede with some embarrassment quickly turning their ire and incomprehension to a condemnation of violence.

What permeates the stubborn negativity is a condensation of causes, strategies, tactics and actions. The variety of causes which stabilise around a No, the multiplication of actions – some conventional protest forms, others highly novel and imaginative, the intensification of tactics indicates that this is not an ephemeral explosion. As events developed, the insurrection took on an impetus of its own, drawing in ever larger numbers in a snowballing effect that kept unsettling every attempt at calm and peace. At that point, it became clear that the listing of possible causes could not offer an understanding of the effects, that the before and the after became indistinguishable, that causes, effects and actions were intertwined into a knot, a nodal point that cannot be unravelled. In the same way that its arrival could not have been predicted, its long terms effects are unknowable.

This turns the insurrection into an event, in the technical sense of the term in post-Heideggerian political philosophy and primarily that of Alain Badiou. An event is a modality of political action which was not inscribed in the inventory of the situation from which it emerged and cannot reducible to the sum of factors that made it possible. Every situation consists of an infinite series of elements. The current Greek social and political formation includes many types of people, with different customs and habits, beliefs and ideologies, tastes and dislikes, straights and gays, fans of Olympiakos or Panathinaikos, lovers of rebetiko (urban blues) or punk music. But in the midst of this infinity of differences there is also an empty place, a void which, while invisible for the dominant forces, supports the stability of the totality. This void lies close to the most anonymous and vulnerable of the situation. The December events disrupted this settled state of recognised differences by performing the void of the socio-political situation: what was invisible, unspoken and unspeakable under the pre-existing rules and procedures while at the same time sustaining the coherence of the whole came to the fore. This is what made the insurrection difficult to comprehend, what stopped the disturbed commentators from ‘receiving its message’, as the Greeks use to say. It turned these events from a usual protest by students or workers into something new which sublates, both retains the characteristics of urban resistance and politics, and overtakes them radically changing the situation.

Let me complicate this analysis: according to the most advanced contemporary political philosophy (Rancière, Mouffe, Žižek), late modern politics accepts the overall social balance, Badiou’s state of the situation, and aims at marginal (re)distributions of benefits, rewards and positions without challenging the structured order. This post-political or post-democratic condition takes economic and deliberative forms. In the former, individuals, groups and parties are seen as rational pursuers of interest while politics turns into an activity resembling the market-place. The Parliamentary budget debates which coincided with the insurrection exemplify this horse-trading amongst the recognised interests. In the deliberative mode, politics is organised according to argumentative strategies which apply communicative ethics. In this Habermasian ‘ideal dream situation’, politics is predominantly the field where rational consensus about public goods can be reached.

Approached as a neo-liberal market-place or as a town-hall debate, politics pronounces conflict finished, passé, impossible, and at the same time, it disavows and forecloses its appearance. Proposals by the President of the Greek CBI that a grand coalition should be formed between the right-wing New Democracy and the centre-left Pasok parties or that ‘neutral’ mutually acceptable technocrats should be appointed to key Ministries exemplifies this ‘conflict-free’ approach to politics. The replacement of conflict by a collaboration of modernising bureaucrats and liberal reformers turns the state into the muscleman for the market internally (exemplified by the severity of public order legislation and police brutality) and a superficially tolerant enforcer of humanitarianism externally (as seen in the recent ‘humanitarian wars’). But conflict does not disappear – the imposition of the imported ready-made recipes of neo-liberal capitalism if anything increases inequality and fuels conflict.

Here we must introduce a key distinction between ordinary politics and the political. If post-politics veers between a ‘free for all’ market place and moralizing deliberations (what we can call with Nancy, Lacoue-Labarthe and Mouffe) the political, as the expression and articulation of the indissolubility and inescapability of social conflict, is the horizon within which ordinary politics is conducted. In this sense, the political puts into circulation the absence of a common foundation of meaning or value and becomes the instituting function of society. When however social conflict cannot be expressed in politics and is foreclosed from the symbolic order, it returns in the real as radical evil and criminality, as xenophobia and fundamentalism, as terrorism and intolerance of the different; or indeed as reactive violence, the affective response of those invisible to the settled situation to the void which engulfs them.

In the Greek case, antagonism results from the tension between the structured social body and its political representation, where every group has its role, function and place, and what Jacques Rancière calls ‘the part of no part’: groups, causes and interests radically excluded from the social or political order. Huge numbers of people find themselves in a situation where their most essential demands cannot be formulated in the language of a political problem. Against the surfeit of causes, the abundance of (inadequate) meanings, the hermeneutical bonanza of commentators, conventional political meaning cannot be extracted from or imposed on this performing void.

In this sense, the insurrection as event is the performance of the political as such. It is an unadulterated expression of political agency at its degree zero. This makes the insurrection a ‘phatic’ expression according to Roman Jacobson’s definition. It does not say ‘I want this or that’ but simply, ‘here I am’, ‘here I stand against’ (Žižek). Not I claim this or that right, but I claim the ‘right to have rights’. Being invisible, outside the established sense of what exists, speaks and is acceptable, the inhabitants of the void must perform their existence. We, the nobodies, they seem to be saying, the schoolkids, the suffering University students, the unemployed and unemployable, the generation that must survive on a salary of 600 Euros, are everything. We, the apolitical, voiceless, indifferent nothings, are the only universal against those who have always interpreted their particular interests as universal.

When the director of state television dismissed people who raised protest banners during a live news broadcast by calling them ‘disorganised rabble’ or people with no ‘social identity’ he came close to the truth, malgre lui. When the disorganised become visible (and TV news is symbolically significant) politics proper erupts. When an excluded part demands to be included and must change the rules of inclusion to succeed, a new political subject is constituted, in excess of the hierarchical and visible groups. ‘A division is put in the “common sense” about what is given, about the frame within which we see something as given’ (Rancière).

The TV director reminded me of the American congressmen who voted down the early Bush-Paulson rescue pack to bail out the ailing financial institutions because they saw it as a communist conspiracy. This is also the state of most Greek politicians and commentators. Ideology is at its strongest when it turns its axioms into the natural, given way of understanding and living in the world. At times of crisis, these axioms (the kids are apolitical, the market is the best mechanism for organizing public goods, law is a neutral protector above politics) become denaturalised and are seen for what they are: pure ideology, shameless lies that pass for the truth. This rift in what was perceived as the natural order of things and as a main support for identity is emotionally experienced as great loss. No wonder that many people whether against or for them felt the December events as an unprecedented draining experience.

Before the event, political change is a matter of policing and consensus. After the rift, politics returns to a certain normality; its terrain will have changed, however, through the appearance of a new subjectivity and the re-arrangement of the rules of political visibility. For Badiou, the event is evanescent, its very purpose to disappear. ‘The event will be recorded in its very disappearance only in the form of a linguistic trace, which I call “the name” of the event, and will supplement the situation with next to nothing’. The insurrection only respectively can be recognised as an event, if people, some people remain true to that ‘next to nothing’ of the performance of the void. This is a wager on all of us. Whether the insurrection becomes an event or remains just that (important as that is) depends on those who after its disappearance will give it a name (ta nea dekembriana) and will remain loyal to the idea of re-writing the rules of political visibility.

As far as the recently depressed followers of liberalism are concerned, let us remind them some honourable parts of their tradition: If the hallmark of democracy is the disappearance of certainty about the foundations of social life, in the absence of foundations, the meaning and unity of the social is constituted, negotiated and fought over in physical and metaphorical public spaces. Urban space is the product of conflict, the space of a democracy that recognises conflict as its very nature and, rather than trying to repress or marginalise it, finds in it its greatest strength. In this sense the city may be replacing the nation state as the citadel of new forms of politics and subjectivity.

  • About

    Costas Douzinas is Professor of Law, Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities and Pro-Vice Chancellor at Birkbeck College, University of London. Educated in Athens, London and Strasbourg, Costas has taught at the Universities of Middlesex, Lancaster, Prague, Athens, Griffith, Nanjing and Melbourne where he is a Professorial Fellow. He is a founding member of the Critical Legal Conference; managing editor of Law and Critique: The International Journal of Critical Legal Thought; managing director of the publishing house Birkbeck Law Press.


    His essay 'Polis, State, Cosmopolis' appears in Bedeutung Magazine Issue 3/ Life & Death, available here for purchase.