July 2011


Oslo, shortly after the explosion.

Whether he knows it or not, Breivik is a member of Al-Queda. It is with those words that The Danger Room’s Spencer Ackerman chose to write his first words related to the Oslo attacks. Two acts of terrorism of extreme violence carried out without a slightest warning in a country mostly known for soccer teams and a stern refusal to be a part of the Euro zone. Wherever Europe chose to hide its best, brightest and quietest – Scandinavia – the curtain has now been pulled to reveal that the darkest stains of the Old Continent have spread to the parts we believed were kept out of the miserable stench of racism emerging out of the upmost western shores. The 2008 crisis did nothing to help a rise in extreme right fringes represented within France’s Sarkozian government, Britain’s Tories flirting with the BNP and Austria’s early 00’s dance with Jörg Haider. Regardless of the position, terrorism is terrorism: it is the refusal to adhere to the rule of law, a complete disregard for human life, and a basic, if at all, knowledge of what constitutes civil society. What is shocking the world as of today is not the scope of the attack, its suddenness, or its unusual location. It is the fact that Anders Behring Breivik was a white-skinned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed 32 years old who couldn’t find another way to “spark a revolution” he believed to be necessary to rid the world of “the threat of Islamism”. Primitive fear of the other and outstanding political violence: Europe is facing its own failure to integrate, mix, and roll in with multiculturalism. The ghosts of the wars of the 20th century are passing by, sending a very chilly breeze. Antonio Fernandez gives us his insight on Europe’s old trends of xenophobia and the hypocrisy in national narratives.

“the flow of minute-by-minute particular details of the massacre provided by mainstream media cannot and should not prevent us from asking larger questions about Nazism as a European phenomenon, deeply rooted in the mind-set of European national narratives”

On Friday, July 22nd, Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Norwegian man with extreme right ideas, allegedly a member of Swedish Nazi forum, killed at least 93 children in the island of Utoya. It is the worst attack suffered by Norway since the Second World War and has been described in the media as Norway’s Oklahoma moment. Behring’s outspoken hatred of Muslims, Marxists and multiculturalism, his call for a defence of what he perceives as a “decadent” Europe put him in line with the extremist ideas of the resurgent neo-Nazi movement in Europe. It is deeply worrying to observe how almost 70 years after the Nazis’ war on Europe and fascism, countries such as Sweden, Finland, Germany, Austria, Russia, Italy and Spain, to name only a few, have seen the ideas of xenophobic, populist and demagogical political parties taking seats in their national parliaments. What should raise our concern, however, is the disproportionate and indiscriminate nature of the brutal twin attacks, which clearly mark a transition from street knife crime to what could be seen as a more violent and sophisticated form of terrorism in Europe. The question that runs through my head is probably similar to that of many: why? Obviously, the flow of minute-by-minute particular details of the massacre provided by mainstream media cannot and should not prevent us from asking larger questions about Nazism as a European phenomenon, deeply rooted in the mind-set of European national narratives and its devastating consequences. My intention with this article is to briefly navigate to the core of racism in Europe and offer a broader historical and philosophical perspective about the ramifications of power in the right to kill the other, which lies at the heart of European totalitarianism. Nazism should never occur in Europe again but the resurgence of organised racism forces us to wonder whether Europe has really learned its historical lessons. It is only by confronting the discomforting and uncomfortable truth of Europe’s colonial past that we may be able to fight terror – intellectually and physically – in all its forms, whatever traits the terrorists uphold and whatever the nature of terror inflicted.

Anders Behring Breivik

“In Agamben’s words, the state of exception is that space where one who has been accused of committing a crime, within the legal system, loses the ability to use his voice and represent themselves- the individual can not only be deprived of their citizenship, but also of any form of agency over their own life”.

Anders Behring Breivik travelled to the island of Utoya dressed as a policeman after having left explosives in a governmental building. With chilling coldness, Breivik arrogated himself the right to end the life of 93 young boys and girls, members of the Socialist youths. They were not given the chance to speak, to say a word in their defence as, in Breivik’s mind, they represented everything that he stood against: multiculturalism, empathising with Muslims, and the perversion of Europe’s cultural purity. The island became a form of a state of exception and the young boys and girls became homo sacer, to use the terminology employed by philosopher Giorgio Agamben. In Agamben’s words, the state of exception is that space where one who has been accused of committing a crime, within the legal system, loses the ability to use his voice and represent themselves- the individual can not only be deprived of their citizenship, but also of any form of agency over their own life. Agamben identifies the state of exception with the power of decision over life. On the island of Utoya, Breivik turned the congregated into homo sacer, that is, human beings outside the reach of law by virtue of the state of exception, where no law applies. But, in Breivik’s own words, the end justified the means – he recognised the brutality of the massacre yet claimed it was necessary. A sort of instrumental rationality seemed to underpin the goal of his actions.

Racism in Europe emerged in the age of colonial exploration, when the European merchant class went overseas in quest for raw material and new markets. Thanks to technological improvement and the rule of Enlightnement, Europe moved beyond the Middle Ages and entered  Renaissance as the descriptor and scriptor of the world, the beacon of civilisation, the civilising centre of the world to which the other peoples in the world should naturally tend. Soon, Indigenous populations were rendered primitive and backward or as having a civilizational deficit, in front of Europe’s perceived technological superiority. Different life styles and worldviews that did not conform to the standards of agricultural productivity and technological efficiency that had allowed Europe to overcome the medieval age were deprived of their legitimacy to exist by using violence dressed as liberal legality. The discourse of modernity justified colonial genocide in Australia, Africa and South America: the “end” of economic growth justified plundering and dispossession and soon the machinery of death began to emerge in slave plantations. Entire populations of human beings were dehumanised and excluded from the rule of law and, as Michel Foucault argues in The Will to Knowledge, the first volume of The History of Sexuality, racism became a technology by which the right to death was exercised by judicial agents that arrogated themselves the right to define law and, at the same time, to arbitrarily exclude the “other” from the rule of law.

candlelight vigil in Oslo

In the 19th century, racism was institutionalised within nation-states, that ascribed European peoples with essentialised ethnic, linguistic, geographical and historical features, as if cultures were isolated and bounded entities. The construction of the non-European “other” (e.g. the Arab, the Hindu) as irrational, passion-led was a necessary step in the civilising process of killing and colonial expropriation: the perception of the “other” as a threat or dangerous mysterious entity enabled their dehumanisation and justified the massive taking away of lives. Again, the appropriation of the natural resources of other peoples in foreign lands (the irrational) had to be rationalised. As I mentioned before, it is the European nation-state that creates and defines law and lawlessness in order to remove any obstacle on the road to economic growth. This is a far-right ideology, the same ideology endorsed by Breivik: as Ibrahim Hewitt argues, “the notion of Europe’s and Europeans’ racial superiority – giving cultural credibility to the far-right – gave rise to the slave trade and the scramble for Africa leading to untold atrocities against “the Other”; ditto in the Middle and Far East”.  Seen from this perspective, the rhetorical stance of Breivik’ anti-Muslim view is nothing new under the sun. As we have seen, the idea that Europe is being “occupied” or “conquered” by hordes of “barbarous” Muslims is well rooted in the European consciousness; and far from disappearing, it can be found in more recent literature such as Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations, where the cultural features of a community of almost 100 million people is reduced to a number of stereotypes.

“The pursuing of geopolitical interests across the world by European nations (and non-European as well) requires the implementation of spaces excluded from the rule of law, as in the West Bank and Gaza, where human beings converted into homines sacri can be routinely and massively killed”.

The “rationalised” irrational logics of the slave plantation, the Bantustans in South Africa, the Nazi concentration camps and the present day prison state of Gaza or Guantanamo, the wall in the West Bank and in the US Mexican border or the fence in the North African city of Melilla are physical metaphors of the mental barriers of many Western countries. The economic system that governs our lives requires the constant fabrication of states of exception, in cultural and physical space. The pursuing of geopolitical interests across the world by European nations (and non-European as well) requires the implementation of spaces excluded from the rule of law, as in the West Bank and Gaza, where human beings converted into homines sacri can be routinely and massively killed with the legitimation of Israeli law and probably, with the legitimization of theories like Huntington’s.

Are Breivik and fellow extremists aware of the absurdity of their claims? How can they not possibly see or at least have a hint that migratory movements in this globalised world are the consequence of military conflict, hunger, poverty mainly caused by neoliberalism, which is a perpetuation of the very same capitalist economic system that has generated the same dynamics of irrationality (the serial, industrial calculation of death and human exploitation) in the name of economic efficiency? Why is it that racism and the luring appeal of “the motherland” remained alive and well, taking hold of more more European ideological mindsets? We educate our children to be efficient and successful in the same kind of society and economic system in which the (extreme) right wing has felt most comfortable. I do not know of any school where the colonial period of European history is honestly taught from the standpoint of its victims. Rather, education in European schools is mostly Eurocentric and multiculturalist, which has been conceived as the mere unarticulated juxtaposition of cultural atomistic entities, without contributing to erase the walls of otherness between European and non-European citizens. Ignorance breeds hatred and only this can help us understand the barbarous irrationality of Anders’ actions. It is hard to believe that, 75 years after the Holocaust, ignorance and racial stereotyping is still fomented and legitimated by the media, shaping the opinion of a significant segment of the European population who uncritically accept barbarity and irrationality as a normal and acceptable discourse. As long as we are trapped in the vicious circle of instrumental rationality that places efficiency and economic benefits above moral and ethical principles, we are prone to repeat the same mistakes and we will never understand why an individual can decide on its own the killing of other human beings. Like George Bush’s government decided unilaterally the massive killings of Iraqis for geostrategic, instrumental reasons, just like the International Monetary Fund pack of privatisation measures sparked the seed of nationalist, ethnic hatred in Yugoslavia during the 1990’s for the instrumental purpose of extending neoliberalism in the region.

Finally, I must admit that recalling Angela Merkel and James Cameron’s words certifying the death of multiculturalism a couple of months ago, using a nationalist rhetoric that is not far at all from one of the points in Breivik’s extremist agenda, supports my claim that still in the 21th century, politicians have not learned anything about our most recent past. The discourse of the nation as an homogeneous entity (an idea that is not supported by facts) continues to generate and perpetuate the very same irrational mental barriers that have driven Europe to its darkest times. As I write this article and read the news, what I find is a disheartening display of evidence that something is very wrong in our European societies: the English Defence League blames the Norwegian government for the attacks, most media headlines and governments have claimed, without a single fact, that the attacks were caused by Islamist militias, the perpetrator is not a defined as a terrorist but just a lunatic killer, avoiding any reference to its Christian supremacist views, defying all logics….isn’t all this irrational and barbaric, yet it’s part of our everyday life? Perhaps in Europe the fine line between rationality and irrationality is not clear as rationalising the irrational is deeply engrained in our history. As long as long Europe looks itself in the mirror and confronts the origins and consequences of its own actions, barbarity and irrationality will continue to undermine the prospect of a better and more just society for everyone.

 

 

Antonio Cuadrado-Fernandez is an independent researcher who obtained his PhD in postcolonial literature in the School of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where he has taught literary theory, Ecopoetry and Catalan language. His research focuses on the relationship between art and biodiversity, cultural politics, philosophy of mind and cultural/human geography. He also loves progressive rock, growing vegetables and all kinds of coffee. He is a freelance translator, Spanish and Catalan Tutor and enjoys volunteering for the U3A group teaching Spanish to elderly people in Norwich.

Antonio has already contributed to the OISC project writing about the Spanish uprisings.

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As the United States is facing a major divide in civil society – a modern day reenactment of an age-old class war – a vast portion of its members are consistently absent from the debates: inmates, in spite of their growing numbers, fail to be included within society. Part of the prison sentence is to be isolated from the everyday life and ongoings of the nation. However, it is this absent-minded way to think of prisons only in terms of law enforcement and judicial hearings that have led to a number of prison protests over the last year. Not so far from the movement having sparked the Attica riots, the inmates of Pelican Bay Supermax are requesting that the state meets their demand: to be treated as human beings. In a time and age where prisons are now privatized and advertised like any consumerist products, will their clientele be treated as more than cattle? Sue Thomas takes a look on the modern methods of discipline and their failure to meet basic human rights standards.

“What does it say about their living conditions that they would rather kill themselves slowly than continue to live as they do now?”

Prison protests are nothing new. Only last December, prisoners in institutions across the state of Georgia banded together and went on strike, calling for better nutrition and healthcare, as well as access to education and to their families. However, the hunger strike started by prisoners in California on July 1st has now become the largest state inmate coordinated protest. Reports estimate that around although participation had peaked at 6600 inmates during the first week. Despite it becoming evident that some prisoners are falling seriously ill, the inmates are determined to continue until their voices are heard. What does it say about their living conditions that they would rather kill themselves slowly than continue to live as they do now?

The "outside yard" at Pelican Bay prison. Photo: Laura Sullivan for NPR

The prisoners in California aren’t asking for what the ACLU so eloquently describes as “bubble baths and afternoon tea”. The protest was started by inmates being held in a Secure Housing Unit (SHU) in the Pelican Bay institution. In these SHUs, human beings (it is important to remember that despite their crimes, these people are still human like the rest of us) are kept in solitary conditions locked in their cells for 22 1/2 hours a day, and reportedly are denied adequate food as a method of discipline. People are held in these conditions for years, even decades, without any other physical human contact. A federal judge, Warren Urbom, noted that conditions in SHUs – whilst also acknowledging that the effects of this treatment – were only known in people who had been subjected to it for up to a few years. The implication: it is not yet known if being held in extreme solitary confinement for decades of someone’s life may, in fact, amount to deep psychological trauma. John McCain described his time in solitary confinement as a prisoner of war as “awful” and the treatment was nearly declared to be unconstitutional in the 1890s (1). What has changed in the past 100 years to get us to the stage we are now, where people are kept in pens alone for many years at a time?

Inmates are asking that those extreme treatments be used as a last resort, and for much shorter periods than they are currently. They also request that gang labels afforded to prisoners are periodically reviewed, as perceived gang affiliation is a key reason for many men being placed in solitary confinement. These suspected gang members are judged on their tattoos and acquaintances within the prison, and condemned to a secure unit for seemingly indefinite amounts of time. It is worth noting that these dangerous gang individuals, who are kept in solitary conditions to prevent gang-based violence in the prison, have broken down gang lines to band together during this protest. However,that many people held in SHUs on account of being gang members, have never been found guilt of committing a gang-related crime: they just fit the label of what a gang member looks like. Release back into general prison population only comes after a process known as “debriefing,” which generally means giving officers information about other gangs which may be operating in the institution.

Inmates' supporters are calling for widespread awareness on the use of torture in Pelican Bay.

“This strategy ignores the plurality of purposes of punishment, and even abuses the intended purpose of imprisonment itself”

This whole process seems to distinctly follow Foucault’s premise:  in Discipline and Punish, he argues that the prison should be about creating ‘docile bodies’who learn to keep themselves under permanent surveillance, leading to their conformity to societal norms and values:

«What was then being formed was a policy of coercions that act upon the body, a calculated manipulation of its elements, its gestures, its behaviour. The human body was entering a machinery of power that explores it, breaks it down and rearranges it. A ‘political anatomy’, which was also a ‘mechanics of power’, was being born; it defined how one may have a hold over others’ bodies, not only so that they may do what one wishes, but so that they may operate as one wishes, with the techniques, the speed and the efficiency that one determines. Thus discipline produces subjected and practiced bodies, ‘docile’ bodies.»

Foucault thought prisons should be complete and austere institutions which should use isolation and solitude to create normal individuals. However, to many more modern criminologists, this strategy ignores the plurality of purposes of punishment, and even abuses the intended purpose of imprisonment itself. While prison is based on the theoretical concepts of retribution, denunciation and incapacitation (2), it is the act of imprisoning people itself which fulfills these. Solitary confinement for years at a time goes above and beyond the basic idea of incapacitating individuals for punishment. They are already being held away from their families and friends, kept to a strict routine which allows them no autonomy, and are at the complete mercy of those guarding them.
There is nothing to suggest that keeping people in isolation aids other principles of criminal sentencing, such as rehabilitation and restoration (3). If prisoners are denied human contact and education and food is used as a weapon against them, how can they be expected to be restored into law abiding citizens? This is before we even account for the effects of solitary confinement on their mental health. Ansuggests “the experience typically leaves them unfit for social interaction,” which is clearly not a positive characteristic one would hope for in a successfully rehabilitated individual. Admittedly, many prisoners held in Pelican Bay SHU are serving life sentences, however, rehabilitative measures would surely aid in allowing them to be better prepared for life with the general prison population.

“Prisons are becoming increasingly used as a form of social control, for cleaning away people that the system can no longer be bothered to deal with”

Prisons in California are notoriously overcrowded, with a judge ordering in May of this year that the state have two years to reduce their inmate population by 33,000, therefore it is perhaps not surprising that principles of rehabilitation and restoration may have fallen by the wayside. The state’s inmate population grew to 164,000; a rise of 556% in just 25 years. California has also embraced the leading to growing numbers of inmates who have been sentenced to longer periods of incarceration than they would have previously. Anyone who has been previously convicted of a serious or violent felony who then goes on to commit a second felony faces a sentence of double what is usually handed down. If an individual then goes on to commit a third felony, they face life imprisonment, with a minimum sentence of 25 years. The second and third “strikes” do not have to be for further violent or serious felonies can be sentenced to life imprisonment for a third offense which would usually only attract a two year jail term. The implication of this is that in 2004, 26 percent of California’s prison population were serving time under the three strikes law.

Three strike laws effectively say that once an individual has committed a violent or serious felony, there is little point in rehabilitating them should they choose to return to a life of crime. Once someone is on their third strike, even though they may one day be released, they have effectively been condemned to a life in prison. Prisons are becoming increasingly used as a form of social control, for cleaning away people that the system can no longer be bothered to deal with. Elected officials see no efforts to rehabilitate them, or even to treat them like basic human beings. The prisoners on strike at Pelican Bay are asking to be allowed more access to natural light, to have adequate healthcare, for more nutritious food. They would like to be allowed to complete educational courses, to be treated as individuals instead of punished as a group for one individual’s misdeeds. None of these demands would afford them a life of luxury, merely a more humane existence; one more in line with all alleged purposes of criminal sanctions. Mahatma Gandhi once said “a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” In the example of the United States, this cannot have particularly positive implications. Inmates in California’s prisons are committed to protesting their living conditions through a hunger strike, even as those with weaker health fall ill. Many have said they are prepared to starve themselves to death, and have refused medical treatment. Maybe these people have done ill deeds in their lives, but at the end of the day, they were sentenced to life, not death.

(1) Lobel, Jules. Prolonged Solitary Confinement and the Constitution, University of Pennsylvania, School of Law.

(2) Duff, R.A., and Garland, D. (1994) ‘Introduction: Thinking about Punishment’ in Duff, R.A., and Garland, D. (eds) A reader on Punishment, Oxford: Oxford University Press
(3) Villa-Vicenuio, C. (2006) ‘Transitional Justice, Restoration and Prosecution’ in Sullivan, D., and Tifft, L. (eds) Handbook of Restorative Justice: A Global Perspective, London: Routledge

 

 Sue Thomas is a graduate of the University of Hull. She obtained her Masters in Criminology in 2008 and specialises in incarceration and rehabilitation. She currently lives in York, United Kingdom.

Ever since Greece more or less collapsed in 2008, the country as a whole as become a major thorn in the European Union’s side. Perhaps the most glaring example of the devastating collateral damage caused by the financial crisis and the subsequent recession, the complete sell and dismantlement of a nation sees the citizens as its first victims. Erupting into riots and rarely ever emerging to catch a breath, Greek people are struggling to find solutions and alternatives to a very bleak future. Three years later, as the European Union is staring at Greece in horror, witnessing what could well be the last days of the EuroZone, a civil movement emerges, reaches far back into its democratic roots to redefine what democracy means, and what its identity could mean to a nation fighting for its right to live. Tasos Karakatsanis explains the concept of Plateia.

“The movement is an ongoing consultation in the pattern of the Athenian democracy, hereby giving a strong legitimacy to the movement”

I was very skeptical when I heard about the first protest opposing the memoradum in the square of “Syntagma” opposite the Parliament. The media first reported it as an answer to the Spanish “indignados”. I thought it would turn out to be a weightless, quick and meaningless demonstration imitating the “indignados”. However its endurance and gradual self-organization convinced me of two things: – First that the Greek movement of “Plateia” (1) represents a very strong leverage to the Greek ruling parties as an opposing force to the policies dictated by the memorandum that Greece was forced to sign in order not to bankrupt; -Second and most importantly the movement raises questions about the quality of today’s system of representative democracy. It calls for direct democracy. The movement is an ongoing consultation in the pattern of the Athenian democracy, hereby giving a strong legitimacy to the movement.

An ongoing consultation is held every evening, during which anyone can speak up and express their idea or point of view. Anyone can make a proposition that will be put to a vote. Minutes are kept and  a website (www.real-democracy.gr) is updated regularly. The whole process goes back to the very essence of direct democracy.  “Plateia” is pushing for a new meaning in civil society.

taken on February 23rd, 2011

“Plateia” vows for justice and democracy. Greek citizens refuse to pay the debt caused by the corruption and the waste of public wealth – nothing less than taxpayer’s money. The “PASOK” (PASOK “Pan-Hellenic socialist movement) and  “Nea Democratia” (Traditional right wing party) administrations have been holding onto power for thirty-seven years after the fall of the Junta in 1974. During these years both parties have been cultivating customer-like relations with their voters. Party voters would be offered a state job or funding through state-run or programs sponsored by the European Union. Furthermore both parties have been building networks between state organizations, party people and businessmen who would undertake state or EU-sponsored projects without clear and transparent procedures – just by nurturing special relationships with particular ministers and state officials. The lack of competition in the business sector and the lack of transparency have created a blurred and complex interdependency between state officials, who would get commission for their services, businessmen who would have “friendly” relationships with government and state officials, judges and barristers which would stay provocatively inactive over a long time to chase these scandals – and finally, the media which would spread false information as a distraction from the public opinion. In some cases even monasteries and members of the clergy would be involved in such scandals ( like the Vatopedigate). Greek citizens face the same situation in state owned universities where academic nominations, in vast majority, are made on the basis on who you know and what contacts you have with members from the ruling party.

The misuse of the Greek public sector is even worse and would take pages to give a detailed analysis. Plateia’s argument in the matter is not to trust the politicians negotiating and bargaining, if bargaining at all, with the IMF and the EU on the terms of the loans. Plateia stresses that Greek politicians have been unreliable. The heavy taxation  implemented by the Greek government in order to pay for the loan is targeting low-income workers and pensioners. The rapid privatization of Greek state organizations and property results in increasing unemployment rates, officially reaching 15%.


Greece has a long history in political rioting. The days before voting on the memorandum in the Greek parliament for the second loan by IMF and the EU, the rioting reached its climax on the 14th and the 15th of June when unions went into the streets
for a pan-Hellenic strike. “Plateia” joined in the protest with lots of singing and dancing. Although “Plateia” proclaimed they would circle the parliament so elected officials couldn’t come in and vote,  the full scale mobilization made it impossible for any such plans. Riots erupted pretty soon first from the “Bachalakides” (2) and later by political activists who believe that violence is the only way to overthrow the corrupted government. However , although the “Plateea” people remained peaceful and tried to stay within the “Syntagma” square, an unprecedented fire of chemicals from the police attacked non-hostile protesters with extreme violence in an attempt to destroy the very core of  “Plateia”. Yet protestors keep coming back when police retreated and never quit until the protestors themselves took over the square.

“Allegations came from different parties that extreme right wing members acted as provocateurs and had strong ties with Greek police”

The Greek media chronicled the first days of the movement with really positive commentary of “Plateia” across the country. However as the movement became “permanent” and seemed to causing problems to the government on passing the memorandum,  a strange silence hit the media. When “Plateia” joined forces with the syndicates for a pan-Hellenic strike and protest, the media turned around and against the movement blaming it for the violence. The public opinion would have been turned against the movement, but an amateur video which first was circulated in the web and finally went in air by a private channel showed two of the troublemakers which carried bats and have taken part in the violence to be smuggled by the police. Allegation came by different parties about extreme right wingers acted as provocateurs and having strong ties with Greek police. Although the government and the police leadership promised publicly that they would hold an investigation, the issue was buried quickly.

“It is a fact that the European Union paid little attention to dealing with democratic deficiencies caused by the regional state integration and chose to focus more on economic and technocratic issues”

If one must decipher the meaning of civil society to give Plateia its full importance, the official definition is as follows:

Civil society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values. In theory, its institutional forms are distinct from those of the state, and market, though in practice, the boundaries between state, civil society, and market are often complex, blurred and negotiated. Civil society commonly embraces a diversity of spaces, actors and institutional forms, varying in their degree of formality, autonomy and power. Civil societies are often populated by organizations such as registered charities, development non-governmental organizations, community groups, women’s organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, trade unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy groups. (3)

If the above quote is the definition of civil society then the scholar, expert in the building of social society, should focus on the phenomenon of “Plateia”: It is something new that brings the seed of direct democracy. Regardless of whether we agree with the advocacy of the “Plateia”,  one must keep the power of self-organization as a genuine, open and interactive consultation which has ceased to exist a long time ago in Western democracies. It is obvious the thirst of people for involvement and implication in political decision-making is a major concern. It is also a fact that the European Union paid little attention to dealing with  democratic deficiencies caused by the regional state integration and chose to focus more on economic and technocratic issues. However the call of “Plateia” is loud and clear: “We want real democracy and we won’t go until we get it”!

(1) Plateia Greek word for square, plaza

(2) Bachalakides ar apolitical groups aiming for violence, mostly organized in football clubs and aiming clashing among them or against the police

(3) as defined in Wikipedia, itself from “What is civil society?”. Centre for Civil Society, Philippine Normal University. 2004-03-01. Retrieved 2006-10-30.

Tasos Karakatsanis, PhD in International Relations, MA in Peace and Conflict.
Independent researcher focusing on political decision making within domestic and international institutions and democratic theories. Living in Athens, currently working in Plouto SA.