Sunday, December 27, 2009
PERDIDO STREET STATION
Perdido Street Station is the second published novel by China Miéville, and the first in a series that is set in the fictional world of Bas-Lag, a world where both magic (referred to as 'thaumaturgy') and steampunk technology exist. Perdido Street Station is set in Bas-Lag's large city-state of New Crobuzon.
In an interview, Miéville described this book as "basically a secondary world fantasy with Victorian era technology. So rather than being a feudal world, it's an early industrial capitalist world of a fairly grubby, police statey kind!"
In Between Equal Rights, his only major political writing, Miéville advocates a revised version of the legal theory of the Russian Marxist Evgeny Pashukanis, as applied to international law and synthesized with ideas drawn from the Critical Legal Studies movement, particularly Martti Koskenniemi, as well as U.S. international legal theorist Myres McDougal. Miéville argues that the form taken by the law, a process of deciding disputes between abstract, formally equal subjects, can only be explained as essentially related to capitalism's system of generalized commodity exchange, which requires participants with equal rights to property. However, he argues, just as the symmetry of commodity exchange conceals class division and exploitation, the symmetry of law conceals violent power relations. Law is structurally indeterminate as applied to particular cases, and so the interpretation which becomes official is always a matter of force; the stronger of the contesting parties in each legal dispute will ultimately obtain the sanction of law. International law, therefore, is not only genuine law despite the lack of an overarching sovereign, but is a more basic type than domestic law, with states taking the role of individuals, with "property rights" in their territory. This analysis leads Miéville to be skeptical that international law can ever live up to its promises; rather, he concludes, "The attempt to replace war and inequality with law is not merely utopian but is precisely self-defeating. A world structured around international law cannot but be one of imperialist violence. The chaotic and bloody world around us is the rule of law."