On Sunday, this year’s Nobel Prize winners in Physics, Chemistry and Peace held lectures at Uppsala University. The University also welcomed 2015 Nobel Prize winner in Literature Svetlana Alexievich who was awarded the prestigious award “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.”
My contribution to the book “Människa, stat, utopi. En antologi om det möjligas konst” (2015) is entitled “Human rights and ambivalence of the utopia. Between violence and escapism” (in Swedish). The chapter scrutinizes utopian dimensions of the view of human rights as a realistic non-political utopia (as suggested by Jürgen Habermas).
I argue that in order to reduce the risk of human rights becoming either a powerless or a violent utopia, we need to recognize their political dimension. Such recognition, however, is not identical with value nihilism. On the contrary, the understanding of human rights as politics offers new possibilities to reclaim the normative potential of human rights.
Our book “Power and Legitimacy – Challenges from Russia” is now available in paperback.
The book sheds new light on the continuing debate within political thought as to what constitutes power, and what distinguishes legitimate from illegitimate power. It does so by considering the experience of Russia, a polity where experiences of the legitimacy of power and the collapse of power offer a contrast to Western experiences on which most political theory, formulated in the West, is based.
The book offers a critical approach to the connections between the law, politics, and morality as they figure in human rights discourse. It argues that human rights must be understood – ethically, politically, and legally – through the prism of reasonable skepticism towards the legitimacy of contemporary institutions for the protection of human rights. The colonial legacy of human rights, the lack of transparent principles for dealing with conflicting rights, and the counterproductive overemphasis upon the importance of legal instruments are considered as offering serious challenges to the lasting legitimacy of human rights. These challenges are analyzed by means of selected human rights-related cases as well as theoretical discussion.
My contribution entitled “Frälser skönheten världen? En reflektion över den ryska teologins särart” investigates one of the most interesting tensions in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s heritage – his view of beauty as both redemptive (“The Idiot”) and destructive (“The Brothers Karamazov”) power. In the late writings of Dostoevsky there is a notion of “Russian beauty”. How to interpret it? In what sense is it redemptive and when does it become destructive? I propose an interpretation of Dostoevsky’s view of the ambivalence of beauty and develop a criticism of the Russian theological tradition that, very much like Dostoevsky, underestimates the risks of the “esthetization” of Christianity.
“Med blicken österut: Hyllningsskrift till Per-Arne Bodin” is available at Artos, Adlibris and Bokus.
Jewish Thought, Utopia, and Revolution (eds. Elena Namli, Jayne Svenungsson and Alana M. Vincent) has just been published by Rodopi. See Table of Contents.
In response to the grim realities of the present world, Jewish thought has not tended to retreat into eschatological fantasy, but rather to project utopian visions precisely on to the present moment, envisioning redemptions that are concrete, immanent, and necessarily political in nature. In difficult times and through shifting historical contexts, the messianic hope in the Jewish tradition has functioned as a political vision: the dream of a peaceful kingdom, of a country to return to, or of a leader who will administer justice among the nations. Against this background, it is unsurprising that Jewish messianism in modern times has been transposed, and lives on in secular political movements and ideologies.
The purpose of this book is to contribute to the deeper understanding of the relationship between Jewish thought, utopia, and revolution, by taking a fresh look at its historical and religious roots. We approach the issue from several perspectives, with differences of opinion presented both in regard to what Jewish tradition is, and how to regard utopia and revolution. These notions are multifaceted, comprising aspects such as political messianism, religious renewal, Zionism, and different forms of Marxist and Anarchistic movements.
Jewish Thought, Utopia, and Revolution can be purchased from Rodopi and is also available on Bokus, Adlibris, Barnes&Noble, Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
In my review of Boris Kapustin’s book “Citizenship and Civil Society” (2011), I present and analyze Kapustin’s interpretation of citizenship as political practice. I argue that this approach is philosophically and politically productive in that it contributes to a deeper understanding of a lack of democracy linked to the contemporary form of capitalism. The review, entitled (in Russian) “Citizenship: Political Practice or Legal Status”, was published in Logos No. 3 (93) (2013).
My article “Universal Rights versus Sharia? Reflections on the Moral and Legal Dimensions of Human Rights Law and Sharia” has recently been published in Religion and Human Rights (Volume 8 Issue 2).
The article develops a critique of the monopoly of liberal ideology in the field of human rights by considering how law, morality and politics are related to each other. I argue that the constructive potential of international human rights law does not lie in its being understood and practiced as a positive law. On the contrary, to focus on human rights law as positive law is to conceal the political nature of human rights and to prevent effective development of its moral and political potential. Further, I consider the case of Sharia law and argue that Sharia, for it to be implemented concretely in the social, political, and legal spheres, must be understood as a moral and religious ‘way’. These interpretations of human rights law and Sharia are used as the basis for a critique of the idea that human rights law and Sharia contradict each other.