Dr Joanna Kusiak is the winner of the 2022-23 Nine Dots Prize. The Nine Dots Prize is a prize for a book that has not yet been written. Every two years, its Board sets a question and invites people to respond with a 3,000-word essay and a book proposal. The winner receives a financial award which enables them to spend time researching, developing their ideas, and turning their essay response into a full-length book which is published by Cambridge University Press.
Kusiak’s winning essay argued that the rule of law has always been fragile, a result of its paradoxical foundations which bind together law and politics. Taking the case of the 2021 Berlin referendum, in which voters decided to expropriate more than 240,000 properties from corporate landlords into public ownership, Kusiak demonstrates the potential of radically legal politics as a path to deepen our democracies and renew the rule of law through the following topics:
- The story of the Berlin movement and its daring attempt to take housing back from corporations, leveraging the German constitution.
- The relationship between law and justice, and the misuse of the law by powerful forces including financial capitalism.
- How Jungian psychoanalysis can reveal the rule of law’s ‘midlife crisis’, presenting politics as the ‘shadow’ of the law.
- The tension between private law and Germany’s constitution, which protects fundamental rights over the needs of any economic system.
- How radically legal tactics can redirect the conservative nature of the law towards a progressive future, achieving progressive change within and beyond the law.
- Kusiak’s personal experience as a scholar-activist working in Berlin and Warsaw to contribute to the development of progressive social movements.
- What Berlin could look like through deprivatising housing – an inclusive vision of a liveable city that unlocks creativity and freedom.
Joanna Kusiak is a scholar-activist who lives in Berlin and works at the University of Cambridge. Born in Poland, she has been equally shaped by the emancipatory tradition of the Solidarność movement and by the brutality of the neoliberal transformation. Her work focuses on urban land, housing crises, and the progressive potential of law. In 2021 she was one of the spokespeople of Deutsche Wohnen & Co enteignen, Berlin’s successful referendum campaign to expropriate stock-listed landlords. She also writes and performs poetry.