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The Art of Lawlessness – Part I

Justice Begins with Lawlessness

On the last day of the event in Athens, a spectator reacts to the intervention by Savvas Michael, a Trotskyist, Jewish political philosopher, and asks whether one could say that justice begins where law ends. Savvas’ intervention over the days of the event concerned the possibility to think justice beyond law and legislation and to rethink and reinterpret the relationship between law and justice drawing upon – amongst others – Pindar, Hölderlin and Benjamin. Savvas defended the idea of justice as free and emancipated law or as the state where the ‘law of freedom’ dominates – in the sense of a communist/utopian condition.

Τhis apparent contradiction of the ‘law of freedom’ as justice beyond the law was based within Savvas’ argumentation upon three images of duplicity supporting and underlying the contradiction. The first one refers to Friedrich Hölderlin and his attempt to think law as a ‘Mittelbarkeit’, a mediacy, between justice and the political actuality, which is not supposed to bring about the sublation of the contradiction, but is rather to be understood as a break, a ‘Zäsur’ that necessitates an actual ‘division of the mind’ in order to be perceived equitably. The second one draws upon Pindar’s famous fragment 169, in which the argument for the omnipotence of law relies upon an act of maximal lawlessness, namely the mythological episode of the stealing of Geryon’s cattle by Heracles. The third image, finally, refers to diverse religious traditions and relates justice to (divine) mercy – as for example in the Hebrew word ‘tzedek’ meaning justice and mercy at the same time –, reintroducing lawlessness into the context once more in the sense that mercy – and divine mercy, for that matter – operates precisely beyond legality and illegality.

This brings us back to the initial question that asked about an ontological relation between justice and lawlessness. By articulating the vision of (a) justice beyond law, Savvas postulated that justice could be considered to be quite the opposite of law. By suggesting that justice begins with a merciful gesture, he established a genuine negation within the very core of every discourse on just, droit, lawfulness, legality etc., which enables the lawless to forge an ontological relationship to what Derrida calls the “impossible desire”.



(July 2014)