Defense of what he calls a ‘neo-Jacobin’ conception of democracy and political will is increasingly urgent today, argues Professor Peter Hallward. A Canadian political philosopher whose published work includes a sophisticated and morally enlightening analysis of the postcolonial oppression in Haiti since the US invasion in 1915 and a despicable neoliberal assault on Haiti’s economy, Hallward’s conviction and intellectual vigour is hard to ignore even by those who persistently deny the American betrayal of democracy.
In a recent talk on ‘the will of the people’ he gave at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, Hallward argued that the idea of democratic political will, understood as an ‘emancipatory practice of collective self-determination’, must be brought to the forefront of our political and moral consciousness, especially in a contemporary context marked by ‘ever more brazen exercise of unilateral financial or military power’ as well as ‘the ever more ‘automatic’ or involuntary nature of accelerating social and technological change’ notably systemic and globalising ‘reforms’ that are coordinated only by the blind, compulsive forces of commodification and the market’. As he reminds us, we only need to think about ‘rescue’ packages dictated to supposedly sovereign governments by the bankers in and after 2008, or the wars of aggression waged against Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan to get the picture.
Hallward’s lecture starts with a sharp critique of the various ways that a voluntarist conception of popular empowerment has been rejected or dismissed across the modern European philosophical tradition. In Hallward’s words:
‘In the philosophical circles I’m familiar with, voluntarism remains little more than a term of abuse, and an impressively versatile one at that: depending on the context, it can evoke fascism, idealism, obscurantism, vitalism, infantile leftism, petty bourgeois narcissism, neocon aggression, folk-psychological delusion…In a European context, of all the faculties or capacities of that human subject who was displaced from the centre of post-Sartrean concerns, none was more firmly proscribed than its conscious volition. Both structuralist and then post-structuralist thinkers, by and large, relegated volition and intention to the merely ‘psychological’ domain of deluded, imaginary or humanist-ideological miscognition. In particular, Rousseau’s notion of a general will, with its unsettling invitation to ‘denature human nature’ and its threat to ‘force people to be free’, has long figured as the prototype of a fascist Volkswille at worst, or as fictional if not utopian escapism at best.’
To illustrate the point, Hallward briefly evokes a few recent examples, from a list that could be easily expanded:
‘Nietzsche’s whole project presumes that ‘there is no such thing as will’ in the usual (voluntary, deliberate, purposeful…) sense of the word. Heidegger, over the course of his own lectures on Nietzsche, soon comes to condemn the will as a force of subjective domination and nihilist closure, before urging his readers ‘willingly to renounce willing.’ Arendt finds in the affirmation of a popular political will (‘the most dangerous of modern concepts and misconceptions’) the temptation that turns modern revolutionaries into tyrants. For Adorno, rational will is an aspect of that enlightened pursuit of mastery and control which has left the earth ‘radiant with triumphant calamity.’ After Nietzsche, Deleuze privileges transformative sequences that require the suspension, shattering or paralysis of voluntary action. After Heidegger, Derrida associates the will with self-presence and self-coincidence, and strives to open up a self-questioning space in which ‘freedom is no longer determined as power, mastery, or force, or even as a faculty, as a possibility of “I can” [je peux]’. After these and several other philosophers, Agamben summarises much recent European thinking on political will when he effectively equates it with fascism pure and simple. Tiqqun and some of the currently fashionable theorists of ‘communisation’ now follow Agamben’s example, as they explore various forms of a merely ‘destituent’ power.’
The aversion to a voluntarist conception of political action, Hallward suggests, ‘includes even some of those who, against the grain of their times, have insisted on the primacy of self-determination and self-emancipation. Sartre and Badiou, for instance, still tend ‘to do so in ways that devalue political will per se, and along with it the whole ‘psychological’ domain of motives, intentions and purposes.’ It’s telling, for instance, that
‘like Agamben and Žižek, when Badiou looks to the Christian tradition for a point of anticipation he turns not to Matthew (with his prescriptions of how to act in the world: spurn the rich, affirm the poor, ‘sell all thou hast’…) but to Paul (with his contempt for the weakness of human will and his valorisation of the abrupt and infinite transcendence of grace). As for the two other great post-Maoist philosophers of Badiou’s generation, Jacques Rancière and Guy Lardreau, they too have only managed to remain faithful to the ideals of equality and popular revolt in terms that dilute their contemporary political purchase.’
So where do we go from here? What might an alternative conception of ‘popular empowerment’ and ‘free will’ promise? As a starting point, Hallward argues, we need to dissociate the idea of ‘free will’ from a mere whim, wish or desire, and affirm it as ‘a concrete capacity to realise one’s own consciously chosen end or purpose, free from constraint, coercion, or submission to another’s will’.
Crucially, he suggests, if we care about the value of a participatory and deliberative democracy grounded in the assertion of the people’s will, we should take as our foundation the philosophical perspective that originates mainly with Rousseau and his Jacobin followers, ‘and then continues via different deflections through Kant, Fichte, Hegel and Marx, before arriving at a tacit synthesis in the theory and practice of Lenin, Gramsci, Mao and Che’.
Hallward proposes four main dimensions of practice that might lend a political will the means it needs to act as a form of genuine self-determination, in keeping with his general association of will and capacity:
‘1. The first and most basic capacity of any collective will is, by definition, a capacity for association and assembly, an ability and a readiness to gather together as a group with some sort of common interest or purpose.
2. A second capacity implied by the idea of political will involves informed or ‘educated’ deliberation and critique. Every modern revolutionary mobilisation has been anticipated and accompanied by an explosion in the available means of communication, from the cafés and pamphlets of the Palais Royal in the 1780s to the blogs and online communities that helped sustain the 2011 Arab Spring and anti-austerity movements. Voluntary action (as opposed to unconscious, instinctive or habitual reflexes) presumes awareness or ‘enlightenment’ by definition, and it’s no accident that the question of consciousness, and the education of consciousness, has been a central and divisive issue of emancipatory politics since Rousseau’s Emile and Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.
3. An ability to lend an organised and coherent shape to the informed and critical collective it assembles. This is a capacity for deliberate orientation or direction, i.e. a capacity for discipline, leadership, planning, and decision. These are the concrete powers or ‘virtues’ that, for Rousseau and the Jacobins, invest the people as an actually sovereign, law-giving power.
4. A capacity to determine one’s own ends remains indeterminate if it lacks the means of achieving them, and so the fourth point I want to emphasise, in closing, overlaps with a cliché that echoes across the voluntarist political tradition. ‘Quiconque accorde la fin ne peut refuser les moyens‘ (Rousseau); ‘whoever aims at the end cannot reject the means’ (Trotsky); ‘whoever genuinely wills an end must also will the means’ (Gramsci). If what distinguishes will from wish is its potential to realise its end and to achieve its goal, then this necessarily involves those further capacities required to overcome the obstacles or resistance that might obstruct this achievement. […] What distinguished Robespierre and Marat from most of their contemporaries during the first years of the French Revolution, for instance, is that they knew that the course of the revolution would depend entirely on the capacity of the people to formulate and impose their collective will as sovereign command, and to oblige their former rulers to respect it.’
At this point, Hallward reminds us aptly of the case of Haiti:
‘The victor of Haiti’s long struggle for emancipation, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, was eventually driven to accept a similar logic to that of Robespierre, and to take the severe steps that would ‘forever assure the empire of liberty in the country of our birth’, by depriving the colonial powers of ‘any hope of re-enslaving us.’ When Haiti’s Cuban neighbours won their own war of national liberation, in 1959, Che recognised that ‘the basis, the essence of guerrilla struggle’ lies in the fact that ‘each guerrilla fighter is ready to die not just to defend an ideal but to make that ideal a reality.’ From Danton to Che, through Engels and then Lenin, one and the same principle animates the difficult ‘art of insurrection’, the principle of courage and lucid perseverance: ‘de l’audace, de l’audace, encore de l’audace!’’
Hallward knows that recent geopolitical and ‘technological developments have rendered old notions of armed struggle tactically obsolete, of course’, and that ‘today’s oligarchs have much more to gain than to lose by deflecting political conflict onto militarised terrain. Rarely has a democratising threat been contained as ruthlessly and effectively as in Syria, Libya and Egypt, in the wake of 2011’s Arab Spring.’ One of the many challenges that confronts our generation is then ‘how best to continue with the demilitarisation of our means of popular empowerment without abandoning the end of victory itself, and without simply reducing the sphere of struggle to one of more or less futile ‘protest’ or ‘resistance.’
Finally, Hallward concludes:
‘To affirm the practice of political will as a practice of autonomous self-determination, then, is also to affirm the capacities that alone enable such practice to become actual or determinant: a capacity for association and combination, for informed deliberation and critique, for organisation and leadership, and for imposition or realisation, no matter how daunting the obstacles that might stand in our way.’
Peter Hallward teaches at Kingston University’s Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, and is best known for his work on Alain Badiou and Gilles Deleuze. He has also published works on post-colonialism and contemporary Haiti.
 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Social Contract 2:7; 1:7.
 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, ed. Walter Kaufmann, Vintage, New York, 1968, §488, cf. §666; cf. Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals I §13, in Kaufmann ed., Basic Writings of Nietzsche, Modern Library, New York, 2000, p. 481; Twilight of the Idols, trans. R.J. Hollingdale, Penguin, London, 1968, p. 53.
 Martin Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking, Harper & Row, New York, 1969, p. 59; cf. Bret Davis, Heidegger and the Will: On the Way to Gelassenheit, Chicago, Northwestern University Press, 2007.
 Hannah Arendt, On Revolution, Penguin, London, 1990, p. 225; cf. pp. 156-157, 291n.24.
 Derrida, Rogues , Stanford University Press, 2003, p. 40.
 Cf. Agamben, ‘From the State of Control to a Praxis of Destituent Power’, Athens, 16 November 2013.
 Cf. Hallward, ‘The Will of the People’, Radical Philosophy 155 (May 2009), pp. 17-29.
 Rousseau, Discours sur l’économie politique, p. 263; Trotsky, Terrorism and Communism , Verso ed., p. 25; Gramsci, ‘Workers’ Democracy’  Pre-Prison Writings, p. 99.
Reflecting on the revolution of 1789, Blanqui recognises how the privileged classes resisted it every step of the way, and sought every opportunity to reverse it. ‘The scaffold alone demonstrated to them the legitimacy of the Revolution; before then, they had treated it as nothing more than a mutiny of school children […, but] they recognised, respectfully, the sovereignty of the axe’ (Auguste Blanqui, Manuscripts [Bibliothèque Nationale], vol. NAF9581, p. 167).
 Dessalines, Declaration of Independence, 1 Jan 2014, cited in Berthony Dupont, ‘Revolution vs. Counter-Revolution’, Haiti Liberté 7:51 (2 July 2014); cf. C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint l’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, Random House, 1963, p. 357.
 Guevara, Guerrilla Warfare, p. 20tm.
 Danton, speech in the National Assembly, 2 September 1792, cited in Engels, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany , ch. 17, and in Lenin, ‘Advice of an Onlooker’ (8 October 1917), Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 149f.
The Secret Gender plague: How The World’s Men Hate Women
In the now famous and well-recognized #MeToo era in America, the call to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace and beyond has brought much needed new attention to gender issues in the United States, with more than a few prominent firings and public humiliations of celebrities within media and entertainment. While there is no doubt this movement was long overdue in high-level boardrooms and executive ladders across America (and still needs to continue its corrective cleansing), it is not a misdirection to remind people that the fight for gender ‘decency’ still remains woefully under-covered and under-recognized by most of the Western world. This is not a misnomer: before we can begin to discuss gender equality, there are still too many places that do not even come close to having gender decency.
Perhaps even more disturbing, when one does a simple but powerful examination across many different human rights, philanthropic, and security organizations, is that we find a plethora of ratings in which the horrible plight of women around the world have been categorized and assessed. What has not been done up to now is an amalgamation of many of these rankings to try and give a more complex and holistic 50,000-foot view of women around the world. Unfortunately, this amalgamation paints a rather stark picture that few people seem to be aware of. Even more depressing, when the ranking categories are allowed to be truly diverse, the dark richness of countries represented is shocking: most in the West will not be surprised to find certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa or Islamic authoritarian states to make lists that lament the plight of women as concerns gender equality. But the following rankings show that this problem is by no means an African or Arab-dominated issue. It is truly a global plague that seems stubbornly resistant to remedies, let alone cures. So, let us take a view at the dark side of the gender fight, for only in recognizing the severity of the problem will true resolutions ever come to light.
One of the more famous human rights organizations in the world, this Amnesty International ranking was a good place to start simply because it emphasizes the most explicit and disturbing form of gender inequality: direct violence perpetrated against women. This list is also something of a ‘Western conventional wisdom’ baseline, in that the so-called usual suspects are on it, including Afghanistan, the DRC, Pakistan, and Somalia. Perhaps the one ‘surprise’ on the list for those not truly investigating the issue would be the inclusion of India. It is an important inclusion, however, given the sexual and family violence issues that still plague many areas of India, especially rural and semi-rural areas. It is also good for people to realize that the worst places for women are not just automatically the places torn apart by war, anarchy, or corruption.
Amnesty International (via Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Gender violence
2.Democratic Republic of Congo
A relatively new but influential player on the gender issue scene is Georgetown’s Institute for Women. Its ranking for health and safety is important because it is more inclusive of female health problems in their totality. Not surprisingly, these rankings reflect countries that have seen a total breakdown of societal welfare because of war, internal strife, corruption, and health epidemics.
Georgetown Institute for Women – Health and safety
5.Central African Republic
The Global Citizen political freedom rankings are interesting because of two entries that do not often make the usual discussions: Honduras and Egypt. When you examine the details of why these two countries made it, it is clear that both have for too long been excluded from serious gender discussions. It is also important, as we shall see below, to know that many countries within Latin America need a brighter light flashed upon them for their increasingly shoddy treatment of women across numerous categories.
Global Citizen – Political freedom
3.Democratic Republic of Congo
While most are familiar with Marie Claire as a women’s magazine with a long history of less-serious discussions, it did nevertheless come out recently with its own gender equity ranking for countries around the world. It was included simply because of its rather novel interpretations of how to recognize and evaluate inequality, focusing on more subtle discrimination rather than on more direct and explicit forms. With this done, a rather fascinating list emerges, with countries like Nepal, Peru, and Turkey making the list (something we rarely see for any of these countries in other rankings).
Marie Claire – Gender Equity
While few know about the WEF organization, its focus on education and how it impacts gender issues and female opportunity is especially pertinent. The ability for women to grow, prosper, and lead independent financial lives is a crucial element often neglected around the world because of more pressing immediate concerns for physical safety and political equality. But when the issue of education is examined through a gender lens, we once again find a mix of the usual suspects with relative newcomers not often found on gender watchdog lists, in this case Chad and Iran.
World Atlas’ female political representation rankings were fascinating largely because of the fact that it was the one list that was largely made up entirely of countries very few people know about and rarely see connected to major gender issues. Of the six below, only Yemen is a common entrant (and honestly some might find that entry somewhat mitigated by the internal war going on there which has resulted in an almost complete shutdown of regular governmental and societal welfare institutions/services), with Qatar being joined by countries from the South Pacific: Palau, Micronesia, Tonga, and Vanuatu. Most depressing, it does not mean regions like the Middle East and Africa are doing a great job at female political representation. It just means another region of the world few know about is doing even worse.
World Atlas – Female Political Representation
5.Yemen and Vanuatu
Perhaps the most controversial ranking was left for last, the Small Arms Survey for femicide (the purposeful and blatant murder of women on account of gender). While it may not surprise everyone to finally see the Russian Federation appear on this list, given common Western media portrayals of that society as being particularly harsh and unforgiving towards women in general, it should be a shock to see so many Latin American countries dominate the list. The reality is that countries like El Salvador and Guatemala are not alone, with many other Latin American countries making the list in the 6-15 spots. But perhaps most disheartening of all, this ranking achieves the greatest global diversity, with Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa all represented by individual countries.
Small Arms Survey – Femicide
In a way, the femicide rankings are a microcosm of the gender issue overall: it is truly a global affliction that needs more recognition and more serious warriors willing to engage the fight. This affliction knows no geographical boundaries and is not exclusive to a particular culture, religion, economic status, or political system. It seems uniquely universal, in that men the world over seem united in expressing their hatred or disdain for women in devastatingly rich and comprehensive ways. Ultimately, our failure to produce these new gender warriors (and they need to be from both genders, not just women, to be sure) is not just a failure for women or for gender equality. It is a failure of us all as a society when it comes to human compassion and dignity. It is a core failure of human decency. It is the failure to be human.
Work or Family: Sri Lankan Women Shouldn’t Have to Choose
Only 3 years separated the births of Fazeela Dharmaratne’s son Nethwin, and her daughter Pravindi. However, in just that time a lot of things changed for their mother. “When I had my kids, I somehow managed to devote a lot of quality time to my son, but when it came to my daughter, I was so busy I felt I ended up neglecting her a little.”
As a young woman, Fazeela joined a bank in Colombo straight out of school, securing a position as a banking assistant. Over the course of 17 years on the job, she climbed up the ladder till she was a Regional Manager, responsible for a cluster of branches.
In 2012, determined to spend more time with her children, she eventually opted for a voluntary separation scheme and went to work on something new – she bought her first preschool and day-care. It was a small home-based operation with only four or five children, but it was a start. It gave her a chance to learn the business from the ground up.
Reliable Childcare Makes a Huge Difference
Today, Fazeela is the director of the CeeBees pre-school and childcare centres and operates corporate crèches for clients like MAS Kreeda, MillenniumIT and WSO2 in Colombo.
The crèches allow employees to access childcare services so that mothers can breastfeed their infants, or stay late to participate in a conference call; when the school holidays are on, the crèche lets the older siblings join in and the staff are willing to accept kids who aren’t regulars during emergencies, such as when a caregiver at home falls ill.
Fazeela offers these uncommon services because she understands intimately what working parents have to deal with. “I have gone through the same thing, holding down a position with a lot of responsibility and having to manage while trying to not feel guilty about my kids,” she says.
In fact, so great are the pressures, that having a child under age five at home makes Sri Lankan women 7.4 percent less likely to join the labour force than women without young children. A 2017 World Bank report Getting to Work: Unlocking Women’s Potential in Sri Lanka’s Labor Force, noted that this association is larger than it was in 2013, when childrearing meant women were 6 percent less likely to participate in the workforce.
Revealingly, the same study found that having young children had no significant effect on men’s prospects in the labour market.
Societal Attitudes Do Not Favor Working Mothers
At just 36.6% percent, Sri Lanka’s female labor force participation rate—a measure of the proportion of females above 15 working or actively looking for work—is discouragingly low.
Among the many challenges experienced by Sri Lankan women, household responsibilities, and especially childcare, remain significant deterrents.
As nuclear families become more common, women are less likely to have extended family living with them who can help raise their children. In addition, societal attitudes often do not favor working mothers.
“It can be a cost-benefit thing for women,” says Dileni Gunewardena, a Professor of Economics at the University of Peradeniya, adding, “sometimes the costs are not monetary – for instance a woman might have to deal with in-laws who disapprove of her working or she might be afraid of leaving her children with strangers.” Dileni thinks one solution is to challenge traditional, deep rooted ideas of what is seen as men’s work and women’s work, and to find ways to share the load.
Families also have to be able to trust crèches and day care centers enough to leave their children for the day. Sri Lanka’s expanding program of early childhood development centers could offer some women short-term relief, and a good accredited system could allay concerns around the quality of childcare offered.
What the Business Community Can Do
At MAS Kreeda Al Safi-Madaba in Jordan, absences due to sick leave have fallen by 9 percent after only 8 months since the on-site crèche was opened, according to IFC’s Tackling Childcare research. MAS co-founder Ajay Amalean says that providing childcare facilities has helped retain experienced employees, reduced absenteeism, and boosted employee satisfaction and loyalty, helping make his company a preferred employer for men and women both.
Amalean understands that having a crèche works for both parents, and even more so for single ones. Aside from the losses associated with absenteeism, high staff turnover is also a costly affair. Companies routinely underestimate the cost of replacing a trained and experienced employee, failing to account for separation, recruitment and selection, training and productivity costs such as the loss of institutional and client-network knowledge.
To address this, companies like Mindtree in India, have chosen to offer a range of childcare solutions. As a result, over 90 percent of Mindtree’s female employees return after maternity leave and over 87 percent of mothers are still with the company a year after their return, even though India has one of the lowest labor force participation rates for mothers in the world, including for highly educated women.
What can Sri Lankan corporates learn from such success stories?
Chiranthi Cooray, Chief Human Resources Officer, Hatton National Bank and Chairperson, Prime Minister’s Task Force for the FLFP Strategy pointed out that going forward it is critical for both the private and public sectors to implement regulations and provide incentives for the provision of high quality crèche and childcare services.
The task force noted that the law should be amended to allow for both maternal and paternal leave after childbirth, while public-private partnerships were essential to make sure that employers did not have to bear the full burden of the costs of offering such benefits. Research shows that where governments publicly provide or subsidize childcare for children under the age of primary education, women are more likely to receive wages. Support for parents—such as tax credits and the availability of childcare for young children—can increase women’s participation in the labour force.
Meanwhile, Ceebees is in its fifth year of operations. Fazeela says when a corporate client first approaches her, she tells them that supporting working parents needn’t be complicated. Companies can set up an infant crèche, for instance, that just takes one room but allows mothers to visit and feed their kids during the working day.
“There’s a lot that can be done. It’s just that decision-makers have to be passionate about supporting diversity,” says Fazeela. “It can’t be just about looking good on your HR awards application, you have to genuinely want to make a difference.”
Study: At least 2.5 million migrants were smuggled in 2016
According to the first ever Global Study on Smuggling of Migrants, released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Wednesday, at least 2.5 million migrants were smuggled during the course of 2016.
Migrant smuggling occurred in all parts of the world, generated an income of up to $7 billion – equivalent to the amount the United States or the European Union spent on humanitarian aid that year – according to the UN agency that fights drugs and crime.
“This transnational crime preys on the most vulnerable of the vulnerable,” said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, UNODC Director of Policy Analysis and Public Affairs.
“It’s a global crime that requires global action, including improved regional and international cooperation and national criminal justice responses,” he added.
The study describes 30 major smuggling routes worldwide and finds that demand for smuggling services is particularly high among refugees who, for lack of other means, may need to use people-smugglers to reach a safe destination fleeing their countries of origin.
Data suggests that many smuggling routes include unaccompanied or separated children, who might be particularly vulnerable to deception and abuse by smugglers and others.
According to the UN migration agency IOM, smuggling results in thousands of deaths each year.
Many smuggled migrants die from drowning, whereas others perish due to accidents or extreme terrain and weather conditions. The Mediterranean appears to be the deadliest route, statistically, accounting for around 50 per cent of the total number of deaths.
Not only have some migrants been murdered along smuggling routes, they are also vulnerable to a range of other crimes, including violence, rape, kidnapping and trafficking in persons.
Turning to the gender composition, the study found that smuggled migrants are often influenced by the conditions they faced at home. Although most on the move are relatively young men, in parts of South-East Asia a large proportion are women.
According to the report, smuggling networks often engage in systematic corruption ranging from the local to the international level, and operate a range of schemes, including fake marriages or employment rackets; counterfeiting travel documents and the corruption of senior officials.
Smugglers often advertise their business in diaspora communities, refugee camps or through various social networks online, involving migrant groups.
Smaller-scale smugglers are either ethnically linked to their operating territories, or share ethnic or linguistic ties with the migrants they smuggle. Moreover, some successfully smuggled migrants, then become smugglers themselves.
When it comes to better strategies for reducing migrant smuggling, the report recommends that a holistic approach must go beyond geographical measures, and include making legal migration opportunities more accessible in origin countries and refugee camps; tackling smuggling networks; and raising awareness in origin communities are just a few ways to combat the scourge.
While data collection, analysis and research on migrant smuggling remain in their infancy, there is a clear need for a solid international body of knowledge to support policy making on migrant smuggling, along with improved data collection systems at the national, regional and international levels, according to the study.
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