Protesters in San Francisco International Airport. Photograph: Josh Edelson.
By Alvaro Candia Callejas and Andrew Mousseau
Recently, we had the opportunity to welcome Professor Chandran Kukathas to discuss a chapter from his new book project, Immigration and Freedom with our class Contemporary Political Theory: Engaging with Current Research. In his book, Kukathas gives a new perspective on familiar moral and political problems. He argues that immigration control undermines—and perhaps even threatens—the ‘rule of law’. This causes significant social problems that must be addressed regardless of one’s personal views on immigration. Continue reading
PTRG 3 May 2017
Photo: Garry Knight
Today’s Political Theory Research Group seminar brought Dr. Matthew Chrisman’s paper The Speech Act of Protest. The paper aims at examining the conditions under which protests, as a speech act, are felicitous by deploying the speech-act theory. The paper argues that there are three constitutive norms of the speech act of protest: first, the act must aim to express disapproval of something; second, it must aim to demand some change in response to this disapproval; third, it must do both of these things by appealing to some presumed shared conception of what is fair. Because of these conditions, a protest which indicates insincerity or hypocrisy. The paper ends with comparing the liberal and republican accounts of civil disobedience, but Chrisman argues that the speech act theory developed above is a more general and neutral alternative to both liberal and republican accounts. Continue reading
By Ankaret EL HAJ
At a time when English is spreading faster than ever, equality between languages has become a particularly pressing issue. Should one language have priority over another? Should we let minority languages die out? These are important questions and are often discussed in the field of interlinguistic justice. Further to this, Dr Helder De Schutter, an accomplished scholar of political philosophy from the Catholic University of Leuven, is working on the separate but connected issue of intralinguistic justice. This topic concerns the relationship between standard languages and dialects. In a paper he presented to our class on Contemporary Political Theory, he argues that while we consider the relative status of standard languages, we also need to consider the interface between the standard languages and the dialects over which they have, as an “internal monster,” gained political priority. Continue reading
PTRG 10 May 2017
Photo: Glenda Alvarez
Summary of the paper
The economic premises of the Western liberal democracies are unsustainable in the light of social justice and ecology. This indicates the ‘necessity’ of conceiving of an alternative to the existing global economic institutions. The global financial system, too, needs to be reorganised and reoriented. But how? Answering this question may indicate the ‘possibility’ of conceiving of alternative constitutional arrangements concerning global finance. Continue reading
This academic year, a collective of staff and students have continued the Political Theory Reading Group initiated by Mihaela Mihai. We have made good progress: Beginning with Antonio Negri’s early book Insurgencies, we then read Twenty Theses on Politics, one of the most important books by Latin American philosopher Enrique Dussel. This was followed by reading On the Postcolony by one of the most influential African and postcolonial philosophers, Achille Mbembe. We are currently reading a series of texts by Amy Allen, in preparation for her visit the University of Edinburgh in May. After this we will most likely read Friedrich Nietzsche.
This is a write-up of the meeting of the Political Theory Research Group, 15th March 2017.
(Photo: Zeinab Mohammed, CC-BY)
In what ways do theories of property and the social contract affect an individual’s freedom? Are members of a reasonably just society morally obliged to contribute to its economic system even in ways they might not want to, and within structures they might not agree with?
These are the questions that stand at the centre of Karl Widerquist’s exploration of freedom in capitalist societies, laid out in his book Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income – A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No. Continue reading
“Tetanus of the Imagination”: Violence, Imagination and Memory. Soldiers’ Testimonies of the Algerian War of Decolonisation. 1954-1962, in Les Temps moderns and Esprit
FLN soldiers (photo in public domain)
For this week’s seminar, Hugh McDonnell presented a paper on the testimonies of soldiers during the Algerian War of Decolonisation, 1954-1962. In this paper, Hugh seeks to capture the relationship between violence, imagination, and memory, with a particular focus on how imagination helps make sense of violence, but also how it is impeded, breaks down, and facilitates violence. He draws on two influential journals of the time, which reproduced these testimonies and played an important role in providing an alternative narrative to the general French disengagement with the cruelties committed in Algeria. For this, Hugh identifies two central strategies, firstly, mobilisation of imagination by connecting the occurrences in Algeria with the painful memory of German occupation for the French population during World War II. Secondly, the production of imagination, by actively analysing and challenging the institutionalisation of a culture where violence became normalised. Hugh is thus able to build a complex picture of the various instances of imagination surrounding the Algerian war on the French side, and thus the limitation and potential of imagination and memory in responding to violence.
The ensuing discussion covered a wide variety of topics and drew attention to many of the insights this paper provides. Questions focused among other things on the broader context of the testimonies considered in the paper and the role of testimony more generally. Further, on the story about imagination it may provide beyond the concrete context of the Algerian war. Lastly, the discussion considered wider methodological questions about approaches to history and the value of comparative analysis.
Written by Gisli Vogler
Hugh McDonnell is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, working on the Greyzone project.
Statue of Hume on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh (Photo: Yukinori Iwaki)
This week’s PTRG session discussed ‘The Tory Consequences of Whig Foundations’ by Chandran Kukathas. In this paper, Chandran defends David Hume’s critique of social contract theory and demonstrates the broader implications this has for certain strands of liberalism today. He begins with a historical account of the emergence of the modern nation state before discussing attempts at its justification by social contract theorists. What unites the disparate theories provided by thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant is the idea that the legitimacy of the state comes from its embodying the abstract, collective will of the citizens who comprise it. Chandran contrasts this with the approach taken by Hume who rejects the idea of such a will and bases the endurance of the state on its ability to satisfy particular interests. This latter perspective is beneficial in outlining a more realist account of politics which acknowledges the sectional nature of society as a contest between competing interests. In attempting to justify the state in terms of the collective will of the governed, social contract theory can serve to obscure the particular interests which underpin the governance and institutions of the state. Continue reading
Source: Vinoth Chandar (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
This week the PTRG welcomed Anca Gheaus from Universitat Pompeu Fabra. In her paper, ‘The Best Available Parent’, Anca argues against the widely-held assumption that children’s biological parents have an automatic moral right to
exercise exclusive parental control over their children. Her argument rests on the liberal assumption that it is only justifiable to exert control over another individual when that individual has given their consent or, if consent cannot be given, when it is in the controlled individual’s best interests. Given that children fall into the latter category it is necessary that any controlling action is conducted in their best interests, which entails giving parental control to the best available parents.