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Protesilaos Stavrou

P. S.


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Articles by P. S.

Communitarianism and the self-institution of divinity

6 days ago

A new left can be pro-religion in the context of autonomy

2020-08-01

A thoroughgoing re-institution of society will inevitably have to deal
with the issue of religion. The revolutionary platform must formulate a
stance that stands as an antipode to the machinations of the ruling
class while providing an alternative for the longer term success of the
cultural shift such re-institution would both partially presuppose and
provide the impetus for.

Should we break with tradition or insist on the methods of earlier
social movements? Is religion itself a convention that humanity can
live without, or must there always be some form of religiosity in every
society, no matter the particularities?

The old left has historically held an outright atheist view of the world

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Protesilaos Stavrou

May 29, 2020

Jekyll2020-05-28T06:23:51+00:00https://protesilaos.com//Protesilaos Stavrou: Political writingsProtesilaos StavrouComment on resisting techno-digital dystopia2020-05-21T00:00:00+00:002020-05-21T00:00:00+00:00https://protesilaos.com/politics/comment-anti-techno-dystopiaI was asked for my opinion on the challenges raised by potentially
repressive technologies. The idea is how can one protect themselves
from the seemingly omnipotent state, especially in light of the
technological means at its disposal.

The following is my initial take on the subject. I am sharing it with
the proviso that I do not consider it a comprehensive analysis and may
still elaborate further in some future essay.

I think we need to frame dystopia that is powered by digital technology
as yet another form of

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Comment on resisting techno-digital dystopia

May 21, 2020

2020-05-21

I was asked for my opinion on the challenges raised by potentially
repressive technologies. The idea is how can one protect themselves
from the seemingly omnipotent state, especially in light of the
technological means at its disposal.

The following is my initial take on the subject. I am sharing it with
the proviso that I do not consider it a comprehensive analysis and may
still elaborate further in some future essay.

I think we need to frame dystopia that is powered by digital technology
as yet another form of tyranny. This is not to trivialise it—if
“trivialising” can ever apply to tyranny—, nor to downplay its
potential for destruction or otherwise equate it ideologically with
other totalitarian regimes. By understanding it as a tyranny, we
provide

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Comment on elections in general

May 10, 2020

2020-05-10

In a private exchange I was asked for my opinion on the act of voting.
The following is my basic idea about the subject. Some parts have been
edited in the interest of privacy. Note that I am posting this with the
proviso that I do not consider it a comprehensive take on the matter and
may still elaborate on it in some future essay.

I have never voted. I am not against it per se. It just seems to me
that elections cannot deliver auto-nomy (self-government), because the
“constitutional subject”, the people, is nothing more than an
abstraction.

Party politics are an integral part of representative democracy, which
in turn is a facet of a system of centralisation of authority. When the
nation-state started taking form, this centralisation meant that

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Crises, transnationalism, and the demi-state

May 1, 2020

2020-05-01

In an April 29, 2019 article titled The Virus that Changed the
World,
Joschka Fischer highlights the shortcomings of the international
institutional architecture, while pointing at the supposedly pressing
need to rekindle the spirit of transnationalism. As the author puts it:

While nation-states will remain indispensable in providing good
governance and contributing to global efforts, the principle of
nationalism will only exacerbate future systemic crises. The pandemic
must be followed by a new age of international cooperation and a
strengthening of multilateral institutions. This applies to Europe,
in particular.

Now more than ever, we need to reclaim the spirit of 1945. We need
the twenty-first century’s two superpowers, America and China, to

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On crisis and statecraft

April 1, 2020

2020-04-01

The polity can be understood as a system of rules. An architecture that
consists of tacit and explicit codes that govern, regulate, frame, or
otherwise influence the behaviour and expected role of their subjects.
The polity is a superstructure of rules with a global or local scope:
those that apply to particular cases and those that perform a
foundational function of delineating the scope of other rules.

Humans institute their polity in pursuit of a set of ends. The midpoint
or common denominator of all rules within each given scope is the
scenario, narrative, idea, phenomenon that compels, determines, or
informs the process of polity-institution in its totality or in parts
thereof.

This object of reference has to be interpreted as external to the

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More ECB QE will not stop the Coronacrisis

March 21, 2020

2020-03-21

On March 19, 2020 the European Central Bank announced a new round of
asset purchases (Quantitative Easing or QE) that are specifically
intended as a response to the economic downturn caused by the
coronavirus pandemic. From the
announcement:

[…] the ECB’s Governing Council announced on Wednesday a new Pandemic
Emergency Purchase Programme with an envelope of €750 billion until
the end of the year, in addition to the €120 billion we decided on 12
March. Together this amounts to 7.3% of euro area GDP.

[…]

We are making available up to €3 trillion in liquidity through our
refinancing operations, including at the lowest interest rate we have
ever offered, -0.75%. Offering funds below our deposit facility rate
allows us to amplify the stimulus from

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On trust, global inter-dependence, and sustainability

March 17, 2020

2020-03-17

The pandemic has highlighted two truths about politics that are
otherwise easy to overlook, underestimate, or altogether ignore:

Political organisation rests on trust. Without it we have no
institutions, no law and order, no money, no morality, nothing.
Our lives on this planet are intrinsically inter-linked.
Isolationism is an illusion, as you are never truly sheltered from
externalities.
We know at least since the time of Thucydides (see the Milean
Dialogue) or Plato (refer to Book II of the Republic on the Ring of
Gyges, etc.) that the human animal is contained and rendered moral by an
equilibrium of power. What we experience as peace and prosperity is a
state where no person or group thereof is preponderant. Otherwise we
default to the state of

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I signed the Public Domain Manifesto

January 10, 2020

2020-01-10

All my works, whether they are writings or programs, are provided under
terms that respect your freedom.1 The rights of end recipients
to use, modify, share each work or its derivatives are prerequisites of
decentralised and interpersonal creativity; of culture at-large.

I believe that many of the problems in our economy or politics in
general spring from the misinterpretation of intellectual property and
its consequent weaponisation by oligopolistic interests. The logic of
exclusivity and the concomitant practice of artificial scarcity force
people towards becoming individualistic, which ultimately benefits the
establishment that wants us weak and divided. Cooperation is
discouraged so that corporations can further increase their profits,
typically to

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The untenable capitalist case against billionaires

December 30, 2019

2019-12-30

In the historical case for abolishing
billionaires,
Linsey McGoey formulates a capitalist argument against inequality and
billionaires, by alluding to the relevant views of intellectuals of yore
such as Adam Smith. While I appreciate any effort that undermines the
conservative narratives, and am aligned with McGoey’s underlying values,
I am not convinced this approach can be effective.

The fundamental problem is the very notion of a capitalist critique of
billionaires. I hold that, upon closer inspection, it leads us to the
untenable position of a “capitalist critique of capitalism”, because it
ignores the political dynamics at play.

The quintessential institution of capitalism—the conditio sine qua non
of this system—is property rights. No rich person,

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Technocratic communism is not the answer

December 29, 2019

2019-12-29

I read with great interest the December 27, 2019 Project Syndicate
column of Yanis Varoufakis, titled Imagining a World Without
Capitalism.
While I think that Varoufakis’ heart is in the right place, and his
critique of capitalism as essentially anti-market is spot on, I cannot
subscribe to his technocratic outlook.

What Varoufakis outlines as an alternative to the established order is
yet another form of gigantism. It requires a massive, omnipotent state
apparatus that would need to have access to vast amounts of data in
order to perform the function of ironing out inequalities between
people. The notion of a central bank overseeing everyone’s income
implies that there must be commensurate checks in place: a counter-party
treasury, a government, a

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Notes on the “Joe Rogan Experience” episode #1393

December 7, 2019

On being dubitative and inquisitive

2019-12-07

I watched with great interest the entirety of the Joe Rogan Experience
episode that features James Wilks and Chris Kresser talking about the
documentary The Gamechangers. That is episode
#1393.
In this post I want to share some thoughts and observations with regard
to what I feel is an inconclusive debate.

In terms of appearances, James is the clear winner of the debate. He
was more prepared, had references for all his arguments and, most
importantly, found Chris to be downright wrong on a number of issues.

Chris’ own credibility started to fall apart when he admitted to not
know a particular research method: how to read a “forest plot”. This
made him look like a charlatan, which allowed James to attack him on

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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

Read More »

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

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

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »