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Protesilaos Stavrou

P. S.


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Articles by P. S.

The shadow play of “populism”

August 29, 2019

2019-08-29

I listened to the Project Syndicate podcast Understanding Economic
Populism
(published on 2019-08-27). The title is misleading because it does
not offer any real insight into the specifics of the topic at hand.
The discussion revolves around the tenuous binary of liberalism vs
populism, where the former ostensibly represents prudent policy-making
with an eye for its longer-term implications, while the latter stands
for opportunistic measures that simply feed off of people’s fears.

The impression I got out of listening to this episode is that I have
heard these same arguments a hundred times over. As such, the present
essay will address the topic without being limited to the specifics of
the given podcast. Here are some general remarks before I delve

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No optimism for the European Union

July 5, 2019

2019-07-05

A euro-optimist is someone who may have certain reservations about the
course of the European integration process, who will not hesitate to
criticise policies that run contrary to the greater good, but will
ultimately accept the status quo in the hope that it will adjust at
some future point. This is the kind of person who expects better
things from the EU; who believes that a Europe-wide democracy is both
possible and desirable for the moral progress of the continent.

Examined in abstract, euro-optimism looks like a sensible position.
You do not take everything at face value, while still expressing your
support for the potential benefits of “ever-closer union”. As such,
you can dismiss everything that transpired during, say, the years of
the economic

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Against the secularised theology of statecraft

June 14, 2019

I reject nation-statism

2019-06-14

This article is a continuation of my previous posts. Read them to get
a sense of the context:

The central ideology of statecraft and of international relations in
general is nation-statism, i.e. the conferral of personhood to the
construct of the nation-state. Nation-statism combines the three
present entities of the nation, the state, the homeland into an
imaginary being. The nation-state is thus perceived as the unit of
international affairs, the bearer of sovereignty, the embodiment of
popular will and the incarnation of the national interest.

The nation-state is thought as having a personality of its own, as
expressed in quotidian language where “America demands”, “Germany
intends”, etc. Against this backdrop,

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After Capitalism

May 31, 2019

No more delusions of progressivism

2019-05-31

In a May 30 column for Project Syndicate titled “After Neoliberalism”
eminent economist Joseph Stiglitz propounds a view of reforming the
established political order in an effort to address its failures. The
alternative is touted as “progressive capitalism”. It hinges on the
basic idea that the state shall have a one-way relationship with the
market, manipulating it without ever succumbing to its pressures.

While I appreciate Mr. Stiglitz’s observations about the state of
affairs, I find the essence of “progressive capitalism” fundamentally
flawed. It does not deviate from the core tenet of conventional
statecraft: gigantism.

Progressives delude themselves into thinking that the problems in the
current order

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The extreme right is the new right

April 23, 2019

The conservative life cycle is in its authoritarian phase

2019-04-23

Virtually every day there some analyst raising the alarm about the surge
of the far-right. While there is much to worry about, the phenomenon
itself should surprise no one who sees the bigger picture. The
cumulative effect of social, economic, and technological change points
to the inexorable shift of conservative forces rightward, as they
enter the repressive phase of their life cycle.

To begin with, the ultimate telos of conservatives is the preservation
of the capitalist organisation of society. Capitalism is the political
order that is designed to promote the interests of the capital

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Note on supporting free culture

April 1, 2019

Do not allow copyright to be a tool for tyranny

2019-04-01

I get asked to comment on the EU’s copyright reform, specifically the
infamous “Article 13”. Because I think the legal technicalities might
obscure the broader issue at play, I will address not them—we already
know they are bad. Instead, I share my thoughts on copyright itself and
why we should support free/libre culture as an antipode to proprietary
tyranny.

Please bear in mind that this is a mere “note” and that I plan to
revisit the topic at greater length once I have enough time at my
disposal.

The backlash to “Article 13” has revealed the pitfalls of
propertarianism which, in this case, manifests as

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On Gigantism

February 27, 2019

Against the core belief of conventional statecraft

2019-02-27

Conventional wisdom holds that centralised control can yield efficiency
gains without any noticeable downsides. It facilitates decision-making
at scale. It opens up possibilities of horizontal integration, of
drawing linkages between different phases of the distribution mechanism,
to deliver a singular, more coherent offering. Going big{-er} is always
better.

This is gigantism: the belief in the inherent value of aggrandising
the scale of operations while concentrating control. Everything should
ultimately be determined at a single locus of authority or, at least, as
few as possible. Corporations

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Changing ways: the real bread paradigm

February 3, 2019

You too can help reform the world

2019-02-03

We must stop with our busy schedules and think things through for
a while. Our choices as consumers have a profound effect on how the
economy works. You keep buying a product, then the company selling it
grows stronger. Lower your demand for it and the producer has to adapt
accordingly or go out of business.

You as an individual control a fraction of the total power consumers can
wield. So if you alone change your ways, nothing noticeable will
happen. But if you can coordinate your efforts with your local
community or people online, things will start moving.

This is another way of thinking about the re-institution

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Changing ways: the real bread paradigm

February 3, 2019

You too can help reform the world

2019-02-03

We must stop with our busy schedules and think things through for
a while. Our choices as consumers have a profound effect on how the
economy works. You keep buying a product, then the company selling it
grows stronger. Lower your demand for it and the producer has to adapt
accordingly or go out of business.

You as an individual control a fraction of the total power consumers can
wield. So if you alone change your ways, nothing noticeable will
happen. But if you can coordinate your efforts with your local
community or people online, things will start moving.

This is another way of thinking about the

Read More »

Sovereignty and debt in the modern era

December 4, 2018

Independence and self-determination come first

2018-12-04

We have gone through several years of economic crisis. The chilling
effects are still felt across the population, especially those on the
lower end of the income distribution. The debt hangover will persist
for decades to come, limiting the capacity of governments to meet social
needs. Meanwhile, the relocation of educated people in search for
stable employment—brain drain—leads to a permanent loss for the country
of origin.

Europe’s response to its sovereign debt crisis was to protect the
interests of international lenders over those of public borrowers.
Rather than cancel debt, the establishment

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Sovereignty and debt in the modern era

December 4, 2018

Independence and self-determination come first

2018-12-04

We have gone through several years of economic crisis. The chilling
effects are still felt across the population, especially those on the
lower end of the income distribution. The debt hangover will persist
for decades to come, limiting the capacity of governments to meet social
needs. Meanwhile, the relocation of educated people in search for
stable employment—brain drain—leads to a permanent loss for the country
of origin.

Europe’s response to its sovereign debt crisis was to protect the
interests of international lenders over those of public borrowers.
Rather than cancel debt, the

Read More »

Leviathan, Sovereignty, Anarchy, and Peace

May 31, 2018

The polity takes us from the state of nature to prosperity
Special issues of Political Realism (POL422)

31 May 2018

Hello, my name is Protesilaos Stavrou. This seminar is the third entry in a series about Realism in international relations. The first item was about the myth of the Ring of Gyges and exceptionalism in world politics. The second was about the Melian Dialogue, Power, and Justice. I recommend you study these two before following this presentation, as I will be making references to them.

Today I will talk about the relationship between sovereignty and peace. The main argument is that peace depends on the universal recognition of a supreme political authority by all members

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The Melian Dialogue, Power, and Justice

May 24, 2018

Order requires a balance of power
Special issues of Political Realism (POL421)

24 May 2018

Hello, my name is Protesilaos Stavrou. This seminar is the second entry in a series about Realism in international relations. The first item was about the myth of the Ring of Gyges and exceptionalism in world politics. I recommend you study that first, though it is not strictly necessary.

In this episode I will discuss the relationship between the balance of power and the system of justice in international affairs. The main argument is that inter-state conventions are upheld when no side overpowers the rest, in context-dependent or absolute terms. An uneven distribution of power and control

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The Ring of Gyges, Realism, Exceptionalism

May 17, 2018

On the behaviour of states and international law
Special issues of Political Realism (POL420)

17 May 2018

Hello, my name is Protesilaos Stavrou. This seminar launches the new series on Political Realism in the domain of International Relations, which will consist of three or more episodes. Today I will discuss a topic found in Plato’s Republic that concerns human nature, social convention, and the application of justice. Based on that, I will draw parallels with phenomena that occur between states to see how international covenants come about and what is the essence of international law. Part of the analysis is to understand exceptionalism, or else the idea that one can escape the law

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On the geopolitics of the nuclear deal with Iran

May 9, 2018

Trump’s decision must be seen in its broader context

9 May 2018

President Trump did what was expected of him regarding the nuclear deal with Iran. His allies in Europe have not followed along what seems, on the face of it, an ill-thought decision. While the USA President’s rhetoric and demeanour are a departure from his predecessor’s, his policy on Iran and the Middle East does not really upset expectations. To appreciate Trump’s stance on Iran nuclear outlook, we need to account for the geopolitical dynamics in the broader region surrounding Iran, in particular as concerns the shifting positions on Syria.

What follows is an overview of the forces at play.

Iran’s form of control

At first, Iran’s

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Who can change Europe?

April 29, 2018

EU reform is a complex, multi-faceted series of tasks

29 April 2018

In certain pro-Europeans circles there is this recurring theme of identifying the statesperson who will spearhead the thoroughgoing reform of the European Union. For many, this figure currently is French President Macron, probably with German Chancellor Merkel being his closest ally.

Changing the EU is a proposition many agree with. How to go about it and what to pursue is where things get complicated.

Incremental reforms happen within the ordinary legislative procedure. There the focus has to be on the right coalitions within the European Parliament and the Council, as well as ambitious action by the Commission. But these are not the

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EU integration and “German Europe”

April 12, 2018

We should always keep things in perspective

12 April 2018

Hans Kundnani has a thoughtful analysis of what he perceives as the troubling transformation of the EU (March 28, 2018). The crust of his argument is that reforms in recent years have amplified the influence of Germany, while the EU is being refashioned as an IMF-like body for rule enforcement. Pro-europeans, he opines, need to be aware of the content and consequences of the European integration process. Clinging on to the simplistic narrative of “more Europe” as a necessary good in itself, does not help the cause of a united Europe, because it ultimately benefits German interests.

Kundnani’s advice for looking into the specifics is sound. It

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Thoughts on a New Left

April 4, 2018

Progressives must change with the times

4 April 2018

I read with great interest Rui Teixeira’s Five Theses for a New Left (April 4, 2018). The author argues forcefully for a holistic rethink of the left’s role in modern politics. And while broadly in agreement, I think the left needs a bit more than what he proposes.

At first, we are experiencing a systemic shift in our economies, with services becoming the most important sector. The irreducible factor of this industry is data. Whether we speak about financial services, where information and timeliness make all the difference in investments, or the rise of corporate behemoths such as Google and Facebook, data is the new quintessential enabler

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New publication: Structured Text on Sovereignty, Nationhood, Statehood

March 29, 2018

On the abstract structure of the core tenets of modern politics

29 March 2018

I just updated the books’ section of this website to include my latest work on political philosophy.

The Structured Text on Sovereignty, Nationhood, Statehood (STSNS) explores the core tenets of modern politics—sovereignty, nationhood, statehood—in an attempt to form a better understanding of the bigger picture of political phenomena.

This short book seeks to provide an impetus for further reflection on a series of issues that relate to the following metapolitical research questions:

Who governs?
Where is the locus of power?
Now, you may wonder why bother with political philosophy in the age of ephimeral interest

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ECB reshuffle and the outlook of monetary policy

February 1, 2018

The Executive Board must be representative of the euro area

1 February 2018

The process has already started for the replacement of the current members of the European Central Bank’s Executive Board. There seems to be a lot of inter-governmental bargaining behind the scenes, though nothing specific for legislators to examine. The standard procedure for appointing the new Executive Board is opaque and deprives the European Parliament from adequately scrutinising the nominees.

In a January 23, 2018 article for the civil society platform QE for People, Stanislas Jourdan argues forcefully that the the election of ECB board members is in urgent need of reform:

The nomination process of ECB board

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What positive agenda for EMU reform?

January 30, 2018

Progressives have to take the initiative

30 January 2018

In a January 22, 2018 article for Social Europe,1 László Andor takes a closer look at the vague concept of “austerity”. Its polysemy creates confusion and obfuscates the truth of what policy mix is being pursued or implemented. Austerity means different things to different people and, consequently, is an inappropriate term both for formulating policy as well as criticising certain measures or the conventional wisdom.

Mr. Andor’s scintillating analysis can be read as a partial critique of the powers that be, though it applies just as well to people on the left of the political spectrum. Progressives could not put forward a credible

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Overview of EU legislative priorities for 2018-19

January 28, 2018

Important reforms on the horizon

28 January 2018

Towards the end of 2017, the presidents of the three EU institutions involved in law-making—Commission, Parliament, Council—signed a Joint Declaration on the EU’s legislative priorities for 2018-19. This is the second time in a row such a document is agreed upon. It signals the commitment of the institutions to complete ongoing initiatives in line with the Union’s current objectives before the conclusion of the current parliamentary term (new elections in May 2019).

The accompanying working document encompasses seven areas of policy and includes proposals that are carried over from the previous declaration, as well as some new ones. The domains

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On refocusing European integration

January 23, 2018

EU must do more in key areas and leave the rest to the Member States

23 January 2018

On January 18, 2018 the European Commission appointed six members to its task force on subsidiarity and proportionality.1 The purpose of this working group is to develop proposals in line with scenario 4 of the Commission’s White Paper on the Future of Europe.2 This is about the EU level being involved in fewer areas of policy, but becoming more effective at its tasks.

The working group will deliver its findings by mid-July of this year. The expectation is that EU policy priorities will be reordered accordingly. Power over certain issues may be re-delegated to the Member States. The resulting resource savings

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Against economic populism

January 16, 2018

Legitimate criticism should not be grouped together with demagogy

16 January 2018

In a January 9, 2018 column for Project Syndicate, Dani Rodrik makes a strong case for what he terms “economic populism”.1 Populists, he argues, are united by their universal opposition to constraints on the executive. The will of the people, which the government represents, is considered absolute, boundless. Couched in those terms, Rodrik starts by describing the dangers of “political populism”, such as the erosion of the rule of law and the dismantling of fundamental rights. Political populism is a form of tyranny. He then examines the pros and cons of economic populism, to ultimately suggest that there are

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Thoughts on the 4th South EU Summit

January 12, 2018

Pro-europeans must make a strong case for European democracy

12 January 2018

The Summit of Southern European Union countries consists of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Spain. It is an informal platform for coordination on European policy. These states face many common challenges and are united by their largely pro-European ambition to work towards a stronger Europe.

Given the option for differentiated integration (multi-speed Europe),1 it is refreshing to have a group of states make concrete steps towards ever closer union. Pro-europeans have been on the defensive for far too long, having to resist demagogues and reactionaries of all sorts. The future of Europe cannot be

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Differentiated integration and its challenges

January 11, 2018

Complexity favours inter-governmentalism

11 January 2018

The idea of a multi-speed Europe is not new. In fact, it is not just an idea but a general description of the current state of the integration process. We have euro and non-euro countries. Those who are members of the passport-free Schengen Area and those who are not. And so on. More recently, there have been breakthroughs in European defence policy, with an agreement on establishing a Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). This too is among a subset of all EU Member States.

The trend will not be reversed any time soon. Differentiated integration is considered standard practice. The Treaties themselves recognise as much, with their

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Why EU financial union is not enough

January 9, 2018

Effective sovereignty must have normative qualities

9 January 2018

There is this view, mostly among economists, which holds that Europe’s real problem is the lack of financial integration. Private capital remains intimately linked to its domestic economy and, by extension, to the nation state. The two become inter-dependent. The resulting feedback loop was evident at the height of the eurocrisis and remains a major concern to this day due to its pernicious side effects. As such, the thinking goes, financial integration at the European level will sever the link between domestic public finances and private capital. Nation states within the EU will no longer find themselves tied to the fate of

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Sovereignty and the vertical separation of powers in the EU

December 31, 2017

Distribution of competences in the EU federal system
Advanced issues of political organisation (POL413)

31 December 2017

Hello, my name is Protesilaos Stavrou. In this seminar I will talk about the European Union’s vertical separation of powers. It is based on the legal principles of conferral, subsidiarity, and proportionality. These govern the distribution of competences in the EU. They do, in other words, regulate which level of state does what over any given area of policy covered by the European Treaties.

Drawing from the last three seminars on the interlocking aspects of sovereignty and statehood, I will critically assess the function of these principles in relation to the key

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The page you’re looking for could not be found (404)

December 8, 2017

The page you’re looking for could not be found (404)

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Factors of statehood and the EU as a republic

October 24, 2017

What constitutes a state, federal system, and republic
Advanced issues of political organisation (POL412)

24 October 2017

Hello, my name is Protesilaos Stavrou. In this seminar I will talk about what makes up a state and what is the impact of its recognition by third parties. Then I will apply the analysis to the case of the European Union, to examine whether it is a state or a “sui generis” entity as some experts suggest.

It should be noted right at the outset that the term “state” is polysemous. In this context, it is used to signify a political order that can ultimately act as a player in international politics. This would typically rule out administrative units of federal systems,

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