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In March 1994, Václav Havel, then President of the Czech Republic, stepped in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg and issued a passionate plea for opening up the European Union (EU) toward the East. Nothing less was expected. What captured his audience, however, was his unexpectedly harsh criticism of the emotional poverty of European integration. In his speech, Havel called for an urgently needed “Charter of European Identity” that would clearly set out the ideas and values Europe was intended to embody. The Maastricht Treaty, which then had been in force for only three months, may have been a ground-breaking constitutional document setting out a daring institutional path toward integration. But it lacked an ethical dimension. The Treaty, Havel explained, had engaged his brain, but failed to address his heart.
This article examines the contemporary debate about the spread of transnational law and its sovereigntist critiques. Sovereigntists argue that the rapid development of international and transnational treaties and the emergence of regional human rights courts such as the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) undermine sovereignty and thus pose a threat to democratic self-determination. I criticise the new sovereigntism and argue that transnational human rights strengthen rather than weaken democratic sovereignty, and name processes through which rights-norms are contextualised in polities ‘democratic iterations’. I develop the ‘authorship model of democratic legitimacy’ in order to show how constitutional rights and international human rights can be understood to be in harmony and dissonance with one another. The challenge is to think beyond the binarisms of the cosmopolitan versus the civic republican; democratic versus the international and transnational; democratic sovereignty versus human rights law. Distinguishing between state sovereignty and popular sovereignty enables us to do so. By constraining certain sovereign powers of the state, international human rights regimes and courts can enhance popular sovereignty in that they strengthen the rights of the marginalised and the excluded. The article also briefly touches upon the significance of the Alien Tort Statute in US courts from the standpoint of the development of international human rights norms and focuses on Hirst v the United Kingdom, recently adjudicated by the ECtHR, to substantiate the distinction between state and popular sovereignty.
Few if any political thinkers of the twentieth century have attracted public attention and scholarly discussion as wide-ranging as has Hannah Arendt. Her theoretical reflections on the human condition have attained classic status in political philosophy, while her writings on the political crises of her time are a continuing source of intellectual inspiration and provocation.
A former student of Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers and a comrade in exile from Nazi Germany with Walter Benjamin, Arendt first came to public prominence ten years after her emigration to the United States, with the publication of The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951). That celebrated work's highly original analyses of antisemitism, imperialism, and totalitarianism immediately established her as a leading commentator on the political upheavals and catastrophes of the era. With that book, she not only offered a uniquely clear-sighted, broad account of twentieth-century totalitarian politics and their antecedents; she also provided an exceptionally subtle and penetrating analysis of the modern mentalities that gave succor to those politics. Within those same pages, she also made a landmark contribution to the discourse of international human rights, with a strong critique of the misuse of the institution of citizenship in the modern nation-state. She followed that achievement with even more far-reaching analyses of the exhausted traditions and neglected resources of Western political thought, culminating in her books The Human Condition (1958) and On Revolution (1963). Her fearlessness in exploring the nature of political evil and personal responsibility found further expression in Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), the source of her famous, much-misunderstood phrase, “the banality of evil.” All of these books – along with the numerous other volumes, essays, and lectures that constitute the corpus of Arendt's work – were the focus of extensive critical notice and often controversy in her lifetime, and in more recent years they have gained an ever-widening circle of attentive readers, both within and outside the academy. With the passage of time, her stature as a major thinker of the twentieth century has received ample confirmation.
This outstanding collection of essays explores Hannah Arendt's thought against the background of recent world-political events unfolding since September 11, 2001, and engages in a contentious dialogue with one of the greatest political thinkers of the past century, with the conviction that she remains one of our contemporaries. Themes such as moral and political equality, action, judgment and freedom are re-evaluated with fresh insights by a group of thinkers who are themselves well known for their original contributions to political thought. Other essays focus on novel and little-discussed themes in the literature by highlighting Arendt's views of sovereignty, international law and genocide, nuclear weapons and revolutions, imperialism and Eurocentrism, and her contrasting images of Europe and America. Each essay displays not only superb Arendt scholarship but also stylistic flair and analytical tenacity.
Hannah Arendt and Raphael Lemkin were witnesses to the twentieth century. They both experienced the dislocating transformations on the European continent as a consequence of two world wars; lost their states as well as their homes in this process; narrowly escaped the clutches of the Nazi extermination machine; and made it to the New World through sheer luck and fortuitous circumstance. Their thought is marked by the cataclysms of the last century, and they have in turn emerged as indispensable interlocutors for all of us in understanding this past.
Arendt and Lemkin were contemporaries and there are astonishing parallels in their early biographies. She was born in Hannover in 1906 (d. 1975) and grew up in Koenigsberg in East Prussia. After World War I, the Polish Corridor was created and cut East Prussia and Koenigsberg off from the rest of Weimar; in 1945 Koenigsberg was occupied by the Soviets and renamed Kaliningrad. Lemkin was born in Bezwodene in 1900, then part of Tsarist Russia. Between the two world wars (1918–1939), Bezwodene became part of Poland and today is Bezvodna in Belarus.
The status of international law and transnational legal agreements with respect to the sovereignty claims of liberal democracies has become a highly contentious theoretical and political issue. Although recent European discussions focus on global constitutionalism, there is increasing reticence on the part of many that prospects of a world constitution are neither desirable nor salutary. This article more closely considers criticisms of these legal transformations by distinguishing the nationalist from democratic sovereigntiste positions, and both, from diagnoses that see the universalization of human rights norms either as the Trojan horse of a global empire or as neocolonialist intentions to assert imperial control over the world. These critics ignore “the jurisgenerativity of law.” Although democratic sovereigntistes are wrong in minimizing how human rights norms improve democratic self-rule; global constitutionalists are also wrong in minimizing the extent to which cosmopolitan norms require local contextualization, interpretation, and vernacularization by self-governing peoples.
The world of identities, affiliations, and allegiances is elusive. Nations and peoples have formed and reformed themselves with astonishing variety over much of the twentieth century, calling into question older orthodoxies that had been buttressed, perhaps, by traditional nation-state projects. It has become truistic, even ritualistic, to reject primordial depictions of human attachment as hopelessly out of touch with its socially constructed character. Anyone willing to look knows that primordialism involves bad anthropology that is all too easily pressed into the service of dubious ideological projects.
If we can speak with confidence about what human attachment is not, things rapidly become more difficult when we try to pin down what it is. Indeed, trying to answer this question in general terms may be a hopeless endeavor. In any event, it will not occupy us here. Our concern is with the political dimensions of human attachment, with why people identify and affiliate themselves with the political projects that they do, how and why these allegiances change, and how and why they should change – to the extent that they can be consciously influenced if not directed.
Pressing as these questions might be, we seek less to supply definitive answers to them than to illuminate some of the complexities that those who aspire to come up with definitive answers will need to take into account. A degree of humility is likely a precondition for progress in this field, given the lamentable track record of prior scholarship.