Christos Yannaras’ pioneering critique of the concept of the right of the individual is presented in English for the first time. This central aspect of political theory (since Hegel’s Philosophy of Right) summarizes the philosophical and cultural identity of the paradigm of modernity, but the philosophical assumptions underlying the concept of right have not hitherto been subject to scrutiny. Yannaras shows that the starting-point of the concept of right is a phenomenalistic naturalism, which presupposes an abstract concept of the human subject as a fundamentally undifferentiated natural individual. The question is also explored of how the priority accorded to this concept of right is related to the contemporary crisis of the modern politico-social paradigm, while a new preface from the translator underlines the continued significance of Yannaras’ proposal for Anglophone readers.
Against the modern concept of right with its illusion of objectivity, The Inhumanity of Right sketches out the basic lines of a political theory that prioritizes new social needs that reflect the relational character of the human person.
1. The Logical Image of Right
2. Consequences of the Logical Image of Right
(a) Defining acts and defining relations
(b) Defining truth and defining utility
3. The Political Hermeneutic of Right
(a) Right: a pre-political achievement
(b) The alienation of politics and the citizen
(c) The ‘homeopathic’ paradox of right
(d) The religious foundations of the utilitarianism of right
4. A Preliminary Theory of the Transcendence of the Logic of Right
(a) ‘Law’ (Dikaion) and ‘law’ (nomos): the ancient Greek version
(b) ‘Law’ (Dikaion) and ‘law’ (nomos): the Roman and Early Christian version
5. Cultural Resistance to the Individualism of Right
(a) The ‘culture’ of ecclesial Orthodoxy today
(c) Orthodoxy and nationalism
(d) Orthodoxy and political liberalism
6. The Inhumanity or the Humanising of Right?
(a) The dilemma of political anthropology
(b) Oughtness and isness
(c) The state and the community
(d) The consumer and the citizen
Endorsements and Reviews
During the long crisis of late modernity, future-oriented theorists are struggling to identify and to overcome the limits and design flaws of our era’s paradigm. Human rights form one of the pillars of this paradigm, and their inadequacy, even inability to deliver is by now clear to anyone with a modicum of discernment. Need one mention Guantanamo Bay, the weaponization of human rights in the context of the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine, the evidence published by Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, or the price they paid? In this prophetic book from the late 1990s, published here for the first time in English, Christos Yannaras speaks not merely of the inadequacy of individual rights, but even of their inhumanity and fatal design flaw: their inherent inability to reflect and safeguard the relational, communal nature of human society and fellowship. The unusual philosophical, political and theological genealogy painted by Yannaras will intrigue and fascinate anyone trying to make sense of our current deadlock’s origins – and anyone trying to find a way out of it.
Dr Sotiris Mitralexis, IOCS Cambridge & University of Winchester
Finally available to readers in a Western European language after more than a quarter of a century, The Inhumanity of Right is synonymous (and infamous) in parts of the contemporary Orthodox world with the widescale systematic critique and even rejection of the Western philosophical, political and legal traditions, including international juridical structures of human rights that underlie every aspect of modern secular life, from late capitalist economics to identity and sexual politics. With an often-terrifying and unremitting rhetorical barrage at the evil of the spiritual corrosiveness of the West, this important work is a deeply challenging refutation of what Yannaras regards as the individualistically atomizing, legalistically coercive, anti-personal, anti-communion, hyper-rationalistic and ultimately, consumerist ‘supermarket of political liberalism’ birthed by the rational system of human rights in its radical ‘inhumanity.’ At the same time, readers will find a positive and hopeful aspect of Yannaras’ unique vision: an attempt to reach out to the far shore beyond the inhumanity of right(s) to a ‘humanising’ political sense and function of rights. This vision emerges from a rediscovery of grassroots politics and the community of citizens, with accompanying new social forms inspired by religion as the source of life-giving relationality and personhood in the social event of ecstatic communion. This volume deserves to be widely studied and debated as one of the key texts in the present formulation of an Orthodox alternative modernity that re-envisions Western concepts and patterns of life in light of the traditions and contemporary experience of Eastern Christian civilizations past and present.
Brandon Gallaher, Senior Lecturer of Systematic and Comparative Theology, University of Exeter
In his book The Inhumanity of Right, Christos Yannaras explores the darker aspects of what initially seems like a conquest of our civilization: the concept of rights. Yet, as Yannaras demonstrates in this impressive and inspired analysis, the way rights are understood limits and imprisons us into a dehumanising, individualistic culture. Yannaras, in this far-reaching critique of the modern paradigm, invites us to rediscover the personal and truly social components of our common being, in the hope of redefining the foundational concept of rights.
Revd Dr Andreas Andreopoulos, Reader in Orthodox Christianity, University of Winchester