Lecture: Is Justice an Option? Politics After Evil // Robert Meister

  • Wilder House 5811 South Kenwood Avenue Chicago, IL, 60637 United States

Description: Professor Meister will argue that the discursive modes used by mainstream human rights to speak about evils such as the Holocaust, slavery, or apartheid situates them solidly in the past.  Moreover, elaborate techniques of 'transitional' justice encourages future generations to move forward by creating a false assumption of closure.  Meister criticizes these methods for their deferral of justice, suggesting they lead to cumulative and compounding gains for those beneficiaries of past evils who are no longer viewed as perpetuating such acts.   Meister will then discuss ongoing gains from past evils by focusing on the vehicles through which their resultant wealth is preserved and accumulated.  He will consider ways to harvest and redistribute the benefits of deferring an option of justice, and what it means for justice to remain an option in post-conflict society.  Lastly, he will sketch out a concept of inter-temporal justice in which politics is about who benefits from rolling over the option of justice now.

Bio: Robert Meister is professor of social and political thought in the Department of History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz.   He is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory (3CT).  An active participant in California higher education politics, he is director of the Bruce Initiative on Rethinking Capitalism at UCSC and the author of Political Identity: Thinking Through Marx. Professor Meister's recent work has focused on the moral relations between the beneficiaries of social and political injustice and its victims. After Evil: A Politics of Human Rights (2011) is a critique of the global discourse of humanitarianism that followed the fall of Communism in 1989. He is a contributor to Derivatives and the Wealth of Society (forthcoming, University of Chicago Press), which is about the global discourse of financialization, and aftermath of the near-fall of capitalism in 2008. His next book is tentatively titled Just Optionality. Previous writings were on Marxian theory, political jurisprudence and political theology.

This event is co-sponsored by the Human Rights Workshop Series.