Professor Renate Holub
Director of Interdisciplinary Studies

269 Evans Hall
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720
Phone: (510) 642-0110
Mailbox: 235 Evans Hall


  • In preparation: Uneven Developments: Intellectuals, Rights, and States. Vol I. Human Rights before the State: On Vico's Theory of Global Justice [Brief Description Below]

    Human Rights before the State: On Vico’s Theory of Global Justice
    Renate Holub
    December 2011

  • The purpose of this book on the New Science of Giambattista Vico [1668-1744] is to retrieve an important ‘minority tradition’ in European philosophy. Since in pre-19th century  Europe predominant philosophical thought is inseparable from questions pertaining to the principles which regulate human transactions in and between local and trans-local [international] spaces, the ‘minority tradition’ I am tracing in this book constitutes a philosophy of jurisprudence,  or a ‘philosophy of rights.’  The essence of this tradition as represented by Vico’s science consists in the elaboration of a philosophical foundation of the principle of  human rights to non-violence. Vico established these principles on the basis of his study of the evolution of the human capacity to invent  institutions and ideas morally anchored in rules of cooperation.  These tended towards a diminution of violence in human relations and interactions, and not towards a necessary expansion or an immutable existence of the facts of violence presumably dictated by the ‘laws of nature.’  This ‘minority tradition,’  generating both a ‘philosophy of non-violence,’  and a ‘theory of global justice,’ has to a large extent been overlooked in the systematization of the formation of the  organization of the predominant transatlantic knowledge and morality regimes in the area of political philosophy, international relations theory, and international law, a systematization which decidedly occurred over the past few hundred years. To be sure, the modern democratic constitution, as supported by modern political theories of liberalism, does reflect an evolutionary tendency towards a diminution of violence in the ordering of the relations between citizens and states. But the state’s monopoly on legitimate violence invariably renders precarious the principle of the right to non-violence, including the right to non-violent resistance, as the modern democratic nation state intermittently assumes the power to declare the illegitimacy of the practice of such principles.   Thereby, it does not accelerate, but decelerates the tendencies towards a diminution of violence in national spheres. In international spheres, the systematization in the 19th century of important branches of predominant international law incorporated  the legitimacy of a principle of violence into its architecture.  This legitimacy was largely based on a concept of ‘ontological difference,’ suitable to 19th century state politics of colonialism and imperialism: it distinguished between civilized and uncivilized peoples.  Throughout the 20th century, important branches of predominant international relations theory were equally hesitant in minimizing, much less in abolishing,  a legitimacy of the principle of violence. Vico wrote his ‘theory of global justice’ 300 years ago. As we enter the first few decades of the twenty-first century, the moment seems apposite to retrieve his theory:  Global promoters of a ‘philosophy of non-violence,’ have, by calling for a ‘jurisprudence of conscience,’ begun to withdraw their support to a principle of violence  as embedded in predominant international moral theory. Newly emerging global institutions of justice, such as the International Criminal Court [2002], or the various tribunals of conscience, organized in all global regions, may also contribute to an acceleration in the expansion of the rights of global citizens to pursue a ‘jurisprudence of conscience’  in practice, through the courts, that is, as well as in theory through public debates in a global public sphere. This book on Vico’s science will assist, I believe, in placing such contemporary ‘ideal’ and ‘institutional’ efforts  into the historical flows of global imaginations of justice in the context of which moral principles remain unified rather than hierarchized.   The outcomes of such efforts remain today, as in Vico’s epoch, undetermined. But given the expanding conditions of global interdependencies and interconnectedness under which we now live, international systems of morality can only gain in coherence, integrity, and dignity, it appears to me, by emancipating themselves from a set of philosophical foundations which already seemed outdated 300 years ago. That nations are capable of initiating self-determined and non-violent emancipatory processes has been vindicated by the Egyptian Spring of 2011.  If individual societies possess the capacity to live up to norms and standards of non-violence in their struggle for the expansion of rights, for how long will global societies be able to acquiesce to sustaining their submission to their dispossession of their transnational moral capacities? Is it a ‘law of nature’ to find it difficult ‘to characterize international life as an authentic society with requisite elements of civil community and social solidarity?’

    Vol II Multicultural Rights in Europe and North America: 1962-2012
  • Vol III The Rights of Muslims in the European State.
  • In Search of New Identities and Social Policies:
  • Secularism and Religion in the New Europe
  • The Geography of Intellectuals
    Fieldwork in: Europe (1996,1997), Canada (1998), Egypt (1998-99), Australia, New Zealand (1999), Thailand (1999), India (1999), Brazil (1999), Egypt (2000), Brazil (2000, 2001), Mexico (2001), Russia (2001), South Africa (2002), China (2002), South Korea (2002), Japan (2002), Iran (2003), New Zealand (2003), Egypt (2003), Kenya [2006], Sardegna [2007], Sicily [2007], UK [2008] Egypt, Lebanon [2008-2009] UK, Germany [2010-2011]