entitled ‘Normfest’. It was heartening, especially for his family, to observe that the camaraderie and warmth that accompanied Geras during his life was also present at his premature death at the age of seventy.
It was during this period that the idea for this anthology first crystallised. From different vantage points – Eve Garrard had worked closely with Geras, including several guest contributions on Normblog, while Ben Cohen had studied with him at Manchester University during the late 1980s – we both came to the same conclusion: there was room for, and indeed a
’, in Ralph Miliband and Leo Panitch (eds), Socialist Register 1994: Between Globalism and Nationalism, London: The Merlin Press, 1994, pp. 32–59.
14 CMI, pp. 40–41.
15 See CMI, pp. 49–77, where I do address this question.
16 ‘Philosophy and Critical Theory’, in Herbert Marcuse, Negations: Essays in Critical Theory , London, 1968, pp. 142–143.
17 The positions taken in this essay draw on long (mostly email) discussions and disagreements with my friend Eve Garrard, whom I accordingly thank.
the most powerful anti-war novels I’ve ever come across. I wanted to see if it held up as being this. It does. Not only that, but it’s an ingenious piece of fiction in the unique and terrifying inner world of its protagonist that it imaginatively creates for the reader. Johnny Got His Gun was inspired by the experience of World War I and was first published, in 1939, on the eve of World War II. In an introduction written last year for the Penguin Modern Classics edition, E.L. Doctorow says: ‘During World War Two Trumbo withdrew his novel from publication as an
Norman Geras's work on the subject of Karl Marx's antisemitism involved significant dissent from the Marxist tradition in which he located himself, precisely because unvarnished honesty prevented him from glossing over the many troubling ideas and notions that, simply, are there. His Normblog demonstrated how Geras, as a Marxist, took on the shibboleths of the postmodern left, and in particular the relativism whose malign influence he had noted when writing his book on Marx's conception of human nature. 'The principle of self-emancipation', wrote Geras in 1971, 'is central, not incidental, to historical materialism.' This book shows how the materialist usage of 'powers of human nature', 'natural desires', 'natural character' play an important role in the formulation of Marx's theory of history. It explores Richard Rorty's various usages on the question of human nature and the tensions and anomalies as well as then theses on utopia. The book also reviews a fast-growing sector of the current literature on Karl Marx, i.e. whether Marx condemn capitalism in the light of any principle of justice, and the controversy that has fuelled its growth, and distinguishes three meanings (personal, intellectual and socio-political) of 'being a Marxist'. It discusses the significance of the Euston Manifesto, antisemitism on the left anti-Jewish stereotypes, and Marxism before the Holocaust. The book concludes with insights into the 9/11 incident, the principle of humanitarian intervention and international law for military intervention.
There is an aspect of the unconditional in the duty to come to the help of people in danger. This has about it the pull of an irresistible demand. A sense of its unconditionality suffuses the literature of catastrophe. This chapter looks for it first in what may appear the least likely of places. In the general theoretical sense our responsibility for all of humankind and our guilt for the ills befalling others are universal and unlimited. However, it is different with respect to the amount of help any single person's duties can be thought to encompass. Within general moral code, we should not be drawn into a moral absolutism, permit ourselves a standard fit only for saints. This is for metaphysical and anthropological reasons, and it is also for reasons straightforward humanity in the ethical sense. The chapter considers these three kinds of reasons in turn.
The principle of humanitarian intervention stands not only at the origin of the offence of crimes against humanity, but also on the other side of its arriving at maturity, so to say, in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The question of humanitarian intervention is posed when crimes against humanity, crimes according to jus cogens norms are being widely committed. In this chapter, Geras addresses two questions pertaining to the existence of a scale threshold for humanitarian intervention. The first of them tests whether such a threshold is relevant in every instance, and suggests that sometimes, for atypical cases, it may not be. The second question asks whether, even in the case that a scale threshold is relevant, it needs to be set as high as it conventionally is. There are a number of requirements standardly held to constrain the would-be intervening power or coalition of powers.
There is a certain historical past of the left referred to loosely under the name 'Stalinism', and which forms a massive blot on this commitment and these values. In this article, which was first published on 'Normblog' in 2003, Geras sketches some important features of the broad picture, citing the 9/11 incident and the liberation in Iraq. It focuses on a couple of dimensions. First, there is a long tradition in the literature of international law that, although national sovereignty is an important consideration in world affairs, it is not sacrosanct. If a government treats its own people with terrible brutality, massacring them and such like, there is a right of humanitarian intervention by outside powers. Second, the good and bad consequences of war, which are illustrated here by offering a few examples.
An article by Mark Mazower for the journal World Affairs characterizes the concept of humanitarian intervention as 'dying if not dead'. Mazower's approval of the demise of humanitarian interventionism has been made explicit. There's a 'new realism', he says, that is welcome; again, the 'new maturity in international relations' is to be viewed positively. Since it is an elementary truth that an intervention that fails or makes things worse will not effect a rescue of those in need of one, accounts of the principle of humanitarian intervention invariably emphasize that unless there is a good prospect of success, intervention cannot be justified. But Mazower writes as if part of the new and welcome 'pragmatism', 'realism', 'maturity', is the wisdom 'that without willing the means, intervention leads to political and moral failure'.
This is a short article which was originally published on 'Normblog' in 2013. Geras here speaks of how Washington and other Western powers, including Britain, were considering military action against Syria on account of the regime's apparent use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. The article focuses on three types of issues that are centrally involved in the debate whether such action be justified: whether there is a basis in international law for military intervention; whether it is likely to do any good; and whether it might be merited in any case on retributive grounds.
This chapter reviews a fast-growing sector of the current literature on Karl Marx, i.e. whether Marx condemn capitalism in the light of any principle of justice. It surveys the case for thinking he does not and the case for thinking that he does. Beginning with a preliminary sketch on the general lines of Marx's account of capitalist exploitation, the chapter reviews the texts and arguments put forward by those who deny that Marx condemned capitalism as unjust and the texts and arguments put forward by those who claim he did so condemn it. It also offers some conclusions, and argument in support of them. Marx's impatience with the language of norms and values is global in range. And yet he himself, despite it, does plainly condemn capitalism; for its oppressions and unfreedoms and also, as the argument of this chapter has been, for its injustices.