Hello WordPress etc.

I’m going to use this blog as a repository of things I say. Watch this space for political rants and rambles.

So far I’ve migrated all the posts I’ve made on Tumblr (over 7000 :/ ) and am currently in the process of trimming out the reblogs and chatty stuff so that it’s just longer, more carefully written, original ideas stuff that’s left.

Negative and Positive Rights

Good afternoon! I came across one of your posts and thought you would be the perfect help. I come to ask for some insight on the basics of what positive and negative freedoms/liberties/rights are and which amendments/articles in the Bill of Rights and UDHR represent the positives and negatives. Thank you for even reading this and thank you in advance if you can help me out!

Right, a number of terms have been thrown out in general so we need to make sure we dealing with each of them correctly.

The positive and negative most simply breaks down into a “to …” and a “from …”. So a positive freedom is one where you have a freedom to (be able to do X) and a negative freedom is one where you have a freedom from (the state or others doing Y that would affect you). This can be further understood as a positive creating an obligation of action in some regard, and a negative creating an obligation of inaction in some regard.

Then there are three further things thrown out: rights, freedoms, and liberties. Before going further it’s necessary to point out that I’m speaking to these ideas in respect to how I understand them to have developed within ‘Western’ political philosophical discourse. It must be recognised that while the Universal Declaration of Human Rights universalises this mode of thinking in many ways, it does so at the same time as also universalising an approach which has developed from African and Asian political cultures, which can be seen through the inclusion of the concept of an inherent human dignity from the very outset. My knowledge on this aspect if the UDHR is much weaker so I’m not claiming to speak to that.

Rights discourse developed from the idea of natural rights, exemplified in Locke’s Two Treatises on Civil Government and were codified in the US Declaration of Independence and the amendments in the constitution which constitute the Bill of Rights, and similarly in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. They’d seen earlier stages of recognition such as in the Magna Carta, but it wasn’t until the late 18th century that they really took root as something people fought and died for across Europe and the Americas. Initially rights were recognised as something endowed by God or a Creator. They are inherent to all human beings (initially just men …) and it is treated as such that each person is retains their rights regardless of whether or not they know of them, they have been breached, they live in a state which does not recognise them, and so on. While rights discourse has largely been secularised (the necessity of a God or omnipotent being has declined) the same recognition of function (that rights are inherent and inalienable) remains. Nominally, rights are those which have been codified in constitutions, legal documents, international conventions however the language within which they exist is phrased in such a way to recognise that if those documents did not exist the rights would continue to do so.

Freedom is the ability to make choices and exert agency based upon one’s own choices without coercion. Liberty is the recognition that this happens within the confines of a political/social grouping, such as a state with its judicial system, where your actions affect others. I don’t know a great deal about positive and negative liberties, but positive and negative rights I have a much better grip on, so I’ll go into more depth on those.

Negative rights therefore compel the state to not do something to you, without compelling you or the state towards a specific action. Freedom of speech, conscience, or religion is a perfect example. You do not have to say something, think something, or believe something. But if you choose to do so the state is compelled not to intervene. Amendment 1 of the Bill of Rights states “Congress shall make no law respecting …”.

I would’ve said the other rights in the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments) are phrased as negative rights, with the exceptions of 6 and 7 – the right by which the state is compelled to provide a speedy trial, and a trial by jury. They give you the right to something which must be provided for you.

With regards to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a similar approach can be applied looking at each article to assess the framing used as to whether or not they’d apply as negative or positive. So Articles 4 and 5, freedom from slavery and torture, are clearly negative rights. Article 25 is clearly a positive right:

“(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.”

However, in 1993 the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was passed which states that “All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated.” This recognises that you cannot have one human right without the other. You can’t pick and choose which rights are applicable: if you prefer only the negative rights, they cannot be fully appreciated, enjoyed, or exercised without also involving the positive rights.

There are also arguments that the separation of negative and positive rights is a false separation that exists only within the framing of the document as opposed to something inherent to the nature of the right itself, which is an approach that I prefer. You cannot have freedom from censorship without the freedom to say what you want. It is the unsaid that at the same time must also be true.

That’s without getting into why I reject human rights as natural or universal. I think they’re a tool within the current society, but not something that exist as an abstract.

Hope that helps?

Does power corrupt?


imagephilosophy-of-praxis replied to your post: Revolutionaries have the potential to…

I’m not entirely comfortable with the power corrupting paradigm, but the former is certainly true.

I couldn’t come up with a better idea for “corruption” but one of containment/control? Not too sure, but I agree with you with the usage here, my mistake.

I was, coincidentally, thinking about the “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” truism earlier. I came to the conclusion (albeit after two minutes of musing rather than deep philosophical exercise) that what’s happening is more of a:

Power (economic/social/political influence) accumulated creates the desire to be preserved (that such power be maintained). The more power accumulated then the more dispossessed of power. The more you dispossess of power (through accumulation) then the more power (power can only exist through its exercise or crystalisation?) that is needed to preserve the accumulated power (through dispossessing others of power their desire to preserve power is breached).

Which I’m still not entirely comfortable with. The whole power usage itself feels a little abstract, but less abstract than “corruption” in the context. Also need to get around to reading Foucault on biopower.

It isn’t a very catchy slogan either.

Save UWE PaIRs!

Why is the Politics and International Relations department so important to keep at UWE? Hear from the students themselves!

Petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/defend-politics-and-international-relations-at-uwe/

If you’re a UWE student, don’t forget to be at the general meeting on how we can build to save the course. Monday at 6pm in 2Q51 on Frenchay campus.


UWE is engaged in a “portfolio review” which is looking at the potential closure of the undergraduate courses of: Politics; International Relations; History and Politics; Politics and International Relations, along with the postgraduate course in Human Rights. While I’m completely biased by being a student on the politics course in thinking that these are excellent and should be well supported, my opinion is shared in the student satisfaction responses. The courses also have an excellent intake of new students. Campaigning to keep humanities degrees available at universities which cater predominately to working class students is of such vital importance and the more support we can build while this is in its early stages the better!

Please take 2 minutes to sign and share the petition:


UWE students can also get more involved by joining the facebook group:


and attending the general meeting on how we intend to fightback, which is this Monday at 6pm:



Politics and International Relations courses under threat at University of the West of England! Oppose course closures, sign and share the petition!


“Head of Medusa”, c.1640, unknown Flemish artist.



A Typology of Violence, from Galtung, J. (1969). Violence, Peace, and Peace Research. Journal of Peace Research6(3), 167–191.

I was looking for this image to insert into my research slides and found it on Tumblr of all places. (Didn’t want to take a screenshot of the PDF I have… Even though it’d turn out like this? Anyway.) This is probably one of my favorite ideas in social justice/peace and conflict and reading this paper for the first time was one of the rare occasions where I was really excited about theory.

You should definitely check out Achille Mbembe’s article Necropolitics. I’m not on my laptop at the moment so I can’t check out the details but he brings in Foucault and Bataille in regards to violence and it’s really good. Very different style to Galtung’s but you’re missing out if you don’t read it.


meadowtea:Rinaldo Carnielo (1853-1910).

… well being, happiness, work that is well paid and satisfying, and the enjoyment of all types of advantages for those who live in the Marxist paradise. … reality is, nevertheless, very different. … the shortages in the production of goods and the low material and spiritual level of [society], the situation of women and children is dramatic and frankly tragic. … Russian women are to carry out tasks that are extraordinarily hard for them, ones which no civilized country makes people of their sex perform. … don’t worry about women’s lower [than men’s] physical resistance … [women are made to work in] highway [construction] or heavy work on the trains or preparing the fields for cultivation. … women’s physical makeup is not made for these tasks. … [women] have to leave their homes for many hours, leaving their children with other people or with State functionaries. … [Communist women cannot] dedicate themselves to the care and education of their children, who are taught to inform and spy on their parents. Do the women of this country want this paradise for themselves and their families?

Anti-Communist propaganda used by the CIA in the 1964 Chilean election, which saw Allende narrowly defeated for Presidency by the Democratic Christian candidate Frei Montalva.

Quotes taken from:

Power, M. (2008) The Engendering of Anticommunism and Fear in Chile’s 1964 Presidential Election. Diplomatic History, 32(5), pp.931–953.

It is essential to destroy the widespread prejudice that philosophy is a strange and difficult thing just because it is the specific intellectual activity of a particular category of specialists or of professional and systematic philosophers. It must first be shown that all men are “philosophers”, by defining the limits and characteristics of the “spontaneous philosophy” which is proper to everybody. This philosophy is contained in: 1. language itself, which is a totality of determined notions and concepts and not just of words grammatically devoid of content; 2. “common sense” and “good sense”; 3. popular religion and, therefore, also in the entire system of beliefs, superstitions, opinions, ways of seeing things and of acting, which surface collectively under the
name of “folklore”.

GRAMSCI, Antonio. Notebook 11, paragraph 12 (Some preliminary notes of reference)


Is this that twerking thing the kids are talking about?

This gif was like 10x better because when I scrolled across it I had this playing in the background.

Liam Burns (NUS UK President):

One thing we’ve got to understand and get better at is our campaigning techniques. Don’t get me wrong, I do not deride what Quebec students managed to pull off, I’m not saying that the actions in Chile weren’t powerful and inspirational but they are in very, very different political and economic climates. … We are not going to deride those tactics but we need to have 21st-century campaigning when dealing with 21st-century problems …

Patrick Kingsley:

The Chilean movement only became so radical through a similarly lengthy debate, she says. “2011 was the product of 10 years of debate,” adds Paul Floor Pilquil, Vallejo’s colleague at the University of Chile student union (Fech). A decade ago, he says, Chile’s main student bodies were as bogged down in the smaller issues as they are now in Britain. “But then we started to connect all the specific problems.”

Liam Burns essentially says that Chilean students only saw success because they’re living in some backwards state. Leaders of the Chilean student movement say we’re basically playing catch up with how the NUS is attempting to deal with the issues students in the UK are facing.
I know who I’d rather pay attention to (not the one from the organisation that’s leaving UK students out to dangle over access to free education but the one that’s actually forcing ministerial resignations.)
Quotes taken from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/nov/21/student-march-eggs-anger and http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/20/chile-student-rebel-camila-vallejo respectively.


Gustave Klimt – “Pallas Athene”


“Death of a Cyborg”, (2010) by Shorra

The First Mourning, (1888) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


I Dream In Infrared by Midnight


Inquisitor Tannenberg


“The Battle of Stokes Croft”

The eviction of our anti-Tesco occupation was dubbed “The Battle of Stokes Croft” by the local newspaper, The Evening Post Pest. We even made it to the national news!

You can see a full rundown of the press coverage here.

iustum enim est bellum quibus necessarium et pia arma ubi nulla nisi in armis spes est
[Only those wars that are necessary are just, and arms are sacred when there is no hope except through arms.]

Machiavelli – The Prince, XXVI (quoting Livy 9.1.)

“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”

Terry Pratchett, Men At Arms (via eibmorb)