Normally something by China Miéville will be ingested by me in a matter of a couple of evenings. This one however, I’ve started three or four times, before putting it aside for more pleasurable books. So I begin again. Between Equal Rights – A Marxist Theory of International Law is exactly what the title says. No Bas-Lag here.
Why would I read such a thing? International law isn’t exactly an obvious fit with my other non-fiction reading, and as for Marx … he’s as wrong as Freud. A statement which I wanted to be able to elaborate on a little more, hence reading this. As for the international law, I think to some degree this underlies all my interest in China, East Asia and Central Asia; the history of how these places became countries with defined borders is one of imperialism then (messily) transitioning to a kind of jurisprudence.
But Marx. I’m finding Emma Goldman’s Anarchism useful for pointing out succinctly some of my problems with the bearded man. I tend to think that Marxism always devolves to some form of revolutionary dictatorship, with the commensurate suffering that goes with both revolutions and dictatorships. And even if this were not the case, as a system based on dialectical materialism, it is wrong from its very foundations.
As for that last thing, dialectical materialism, Miéville starts in the introduction by declaring unambiguously that this is the correct model, and this entire work of critiquing international law is done through this framework. In my currently anarchist-ascendent tendencies (I’m not really, but I do prefer it over any other socio-political philosophy), wherein I think quite seriously and neither idealistically or utopian that the end of the nation-state is highly desirable for the vast majority of humanity and all that isn’t human, reading Marx is an exercise in patience.
Luckily, Miéville is an excellent writer of both fiction and international law, and despite my snail-like pace, I’m finding it a very worthwhile and enjoyable read.