Sunday’s images were shocking: polling stations stormed, elderly voters with bloodied faces, fire fighters (of all people) beaten by police. Coverage in the press and widespread sharing on social media ensured a PR disaster for Spain. Catalonia’s separatists have, for the moment at least, gained the world’s attention and a share of its sympathy. But how far should this sympathy extend?
One can condemn the violence and leave it there (as, for instance, Belgium did). But the more fundamental question is whether Catalonia has a right to secession. That is not just a question about Sunday’s poll. Even if one rejects the legitimacy of that poll, one still faces the question of whether another should be held. There is no reason why Catalonia could not hold an orderly referendum of the Quebec and Scotland kind. What has been stopping it so far is Spanish opposition. So, must Spain give way? Continue reading
Call for Applications – Summer School
Navigating the Grey Zone:
Complicity, Resistance and Solidarity
University of Edinburgh, 25-27 June 2018
In June 2018 the University of Edinburgh is hosting an interdisciplinary Summer School entitled “Illuminating the Grey Zone: Complicity, Resistance and Solidarity.” This event targets PhD students and early career researchers (within 4 years of obtaining their doctorate). We will explore the complexities of complicity in and resistance to systemic human rights violations. Moreover, we will consider the ethical and political value of art for shedding light on the ambiguous reality of political responsibility and fostering relations of political solidarity. The Summer School is part of the interdisciplinary ERC research Project GREYZONE, and we aim to bring together perspectives from political theory, political science, law, history, sociology, cultural studies, aesthetics and art. The main goal is to give participants the opportunity to interact across disciplinary boundaries with several international experts and to receive critical feedback on their own projects. The Summer School will Continue reading
Opening this academic year’s Political Theory Research Group on 20 September, we had the pleasure to discuss Mathias Thaler’s paper Peace as a Minor, Grounded Utopia: On Prefigurative and Testimonial Pacifism. Here, Thaler utilises the distinction between two types of utopias, minor and major, to advance a (minor) utopian argument for pacifism. According to how Just War Theory, the most influential strand of the ethics of violence, understands pacifism, it is variably immoral, inconsistent, and impractical. Thaler draws on two examples, radical US postwar pacifism and Amnesty International, to show how minor, grounded utopias can be politically powerful. Both of these show that pacifism is not simply a means-oriented strategy. Therefore, we should not judge the success of pacifism along the lines of its short-term, practical political impact, but in how it can envisage and embody alternative worlds. These worlds are not fully detached and wholly imaginary: utopias are always formed from existing social structures and situations.
PTRG 27 Sept 2017
Photo: Glenda Alvarez
This week Political Theory Research Group welcomed back Professor Tim Hayward’s book chapter: Constituting Finance as a Global Public Good. Continue reading
Here’s a thought many of us find uncomfortable. When we tally up the ways our individual behaviour increases carbon emissions – flying, driving, eating animal products – there’s one thing we should put at the top of the list: having babies. Each time you do that, you effectively create another lifetime’s worth of pollution. On one estimate, the average US woman increases GHG emissions by 5.7 times her own lifetime average by having a child. Continue reading
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.