Monday, December 14, 2015

Crises Result in Dispossession of Former Liberal Guarantees, Including Free Speech, Happiness, and Democratic Government

The Intercept Reports State of Emergency Extended in France with possibility for permanent, constitutional enshrinement:
Martin Untersinger, “Emergency Measures May be Written into the French Constitution,” The Intercept, December 12, 2015, accessed December 14, 2015,  
JUST HOURS INTO A TERRORIST ATTACK that started on the evening of November 13, and would eventually claim 130 lives, Fran├žois Hollande announced that France was reestablishing border controls, and used a 1955 law to proclaim a state of emergency.

This 60-year-old law gives French law enforcement wide and sweeping powers, freeing them from much of the normal judicial oversight. The law gives prefects, the French government’s local representatives, the ability to place people under house arrest, based merely on the suspicion of the intelligence service that they pose a threat to national security. They can also order police raids targeting any place where they think information about terrorism may be found, without a warrant.

Initially intended to last 12 days, the state of emergency was extended on November 19 for an additional three months by both chambers of parliament. During the vote in the lower house, only six MPs voted against the extension.... (read full article at link)

The US extended its "state of emergency" because of terrorism in 2010

The Washington Post reported in 2014 that the US then was under 30 official states of emergency:

The primary research came from Gregory Korte at USA Today

I discuss how crises result in the dispossession of constitutional guarantees in chapter 1 of my current book project. Here is a relevant excerpt:

The Italian social philosopher Giorgio Agamben points out that sovereignty in the modern era is most aptly dramatized by the power of decision that emerges under conditions of crisis.[i] He describes sovereignty as arising from the decision to deny individuals full recognition of their rights, a kind of exclusion that he contends is in fact foundational to liberal principles of democratic rule. There is little doubt that liberal rights encoded constitutionally can be sacrificed during times of crisis. Indeed, many if not most governments in the world have exceptions built into their constitutions that afford executives inordinate emergency decision-making power. For example, fifty-three states of emergency have been declared by U.S. presidents since 1976 when the U.S. passed the National Emergencies Act and the majority of these declarations remain in effect.[ii] As of 2014, President Barack Obama had declared nine emergencies, allowed one to expire and extended 22 emergencies enacted by his predecessors.”[iii] These Executive Orders afford the president’s office special powers, including the capacities to declare martial law, seize property, call up the National Guard, censor sensitive information, and fire military officers, among other discretionary powers. Although state of emergency has been normalized in law, the disruptions in daily living caused by officially recognized “crises” provide insight into how the systematic dispossession of liberal rights – especially those of personhood, property and the pursuit of happiness - can occur under late neoliberal capitalism. Crises enable decision makers to avoid acknowledging the full scope of problems by delaying and censoring information, by increasing regulatory exposure levels, and by failing to prosecute clear wrong-doings and prevent similar catastrophes in the future.
All crises impacting humanity are influenced by technological, social, and economic systems. As explained by sociologists of risk, such as Kathleen Tierney, risk susceptibilities and forms of resilience are engineered into technological and social structures.[iv] Centralized power and energy amplify the potential for catastrophic risks, even while centralization may increase efficiencies. For example, in the past humanity might have survived a major solar pulse or meteorite impact, but today these hazards could produce globally catastrophic events in the wake of prolonged power outages by causing catastrophic loss of cooling in hot fuel in nuclear reactors and spent fuel pools. Moreover, the risks from both natural events, such as meteor strikes, and human-engineered hazards such as nuclear meltdowns, are not born equally across individuals. Individuals shoulder disproportionate risk contingent upon their age, socio-economic status, geographical localities, etc. The costs of human-engineered accidents are too-often externalized during crises as affected communities and individuals experience disrupted livelihoods and lives while responsible entities are absolved of criminal responsibility and reform.

[i]           Giorgio Agamben, Means Without Ends: Notes on Politics V. Binetti and C. Casarino, Trans. (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, 2000). p 32-33.
[ii]           Gregory Korte, “Special Report: America’s Perpetual State of Emergency,” USA Today, October 23, 2013, accessed October 23, 2014,
[iii]          Ibid.
[iv]           Kathleen Tierney, Producing Disasters, Promoting Resilience (Stanford: Stanford Business Books, 2014). 4-12.


  1. You might like this article majia. I really appreciate you but, I am terribly frustrated and sad for my numerous Japanese friends.

    1. It is a good article. I feel your pain. I think the only solution is global demands for transparency, followed by global cooperation on Fukushima Daiichi and every other human-engineered center of radiation risk

  2. The Real Deal Ep # 132 Ole on Paris & Allen on Boston

    After enough of these incidents, crises, persons who have looked carefully into them find inconsistencies which lead them to doubt what the News purports. Personally I think many of them are hoaxes designed to give more power to the gov. With Russia doing a first rate job in Syria the Paris event and then the one in San Bernardino made a reentry of forces into Syria seem like a practical move. NATO can't bare Russia appearing as the white knight. And why not use the no-fly list to ban gun ownership while we are it? As it has been said, Any lie will serve a tyrannt.