In this week’s meeting of the Political Theory Research Group, we discussed a draft on “Judging violent resistances: Camus, Fanon and the grey zone of rebellion” by our group member Maša Mrovlje. In this paper, Maša sets out to discuss two things: first, she criticises current transitional justice scholarship for failing to attend to the complexities of violent resistance that cannot be understood in terms of victim-perpetrator dichotomies. In order to make sense of this ‘grey zone’, she introduces the reader to the ‘artistic inside’ the works of Albert Camus can offer. In contrast to Frantz Fanon for whom violence is needed — and justified — to counter the violent system of colonialism, Maša argues, Camus emphasises that this violence is necessarily an “involvement in the very injustice that needs to be overthrown” (9). In a second step, and with this perspective in mind, the paper turns back to questions of transitional justice by looking at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Through the analysis of three artistic examples — the novels David’s Story (Zoe Wicomb) and The Innocents (Tatamkhulu Afrika) as well as the film Homecoming (Norman Make) –, various problems of the judgment of violent resistance regarding the Apartheid regime are pointed out. Continue reading
Last week we had the pleasure of hosting Cian O’Driscoll from the University of Glasgow, presenting a draft of his latest intervention in just war theory. Below, I recollect the basic moves of his paper.
Cian O’Driscoll sets out to redress one of the dangers of locating oneself within the tradition of just war theory: of lapsing into a kind of traditionalism that contrives a fixed canon around which all debate must orbit. This is not only an artificial self-limitation, but one which can lead to a kind of intellectual conservatism. How do we preserve the wisdom congealed within the recognised tradition of just war theory, but avoid the pitfalls of traditionalism? O’Driscoll offers a simple solution: we must extend its ambit to include previously neglected thinkers. In this paper, he looks to the figure of Xenophon, with two key provisos. First, Xenophon did not write in the first-person. His writings offer a rich collection of observations of ancient Greek thought and practice. Second, clearly Xenophon antedates the actual ‘just war tradition’ – however fragile a historical basis that tradition has – and cannot be directly read through its categories. O’Driscoll reveals that Xenophon’s observations do, however, have a startling affinity with just war thinking. The one complements the other. We find in Xenophon a highly agonal conception of war that, in contrast to modern incarnations of just war theory, places especial weight on the restraint of force – not simply the enactment of justice.
Written by Louis Fletcher.
The first PTRG meeting of 2017 saw a discussion of Chiming Zhong’s ‘On the Legal Methodology of Rights Theory’. In this paper Chiming looks to move beyond what he sees as conventional, philosophical approaches to understanding rights, focusing instead on more practice-oriented models derived from legal theory. A particularly important example of the latter is found in H.L.A. Hart’s methodology of rights theory and the first half of Chiming’s paper is dedicated to clarifying Hart’s position with regards to rights, as well as legal theory more broadly, and defending both from various challenges. Continue reading
On the 13th of January 2017, doctoral students from Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities met in Edinburgh University’s School of Social and Political Science for the day-long collaborative PhD Political Theory Workshop. We covered a wide range of issues in political theory including genealogy, intellectual history, gender and moral agency, methodology of political theory, global justice and responsibility, caring cosmopolitanism and narratives, issues in liberalism, and rights theory. Continue reading
PTRG seminar series: 14 Dec 2016
The last Political Theory Research Group seminar of 2016 brings Nicola Perugini and Neve Gordon’s interesting paper The Apparatus of Distinction and the Ethics of Violence into discussion. At the very beginning of the paper, the authors quote that “Enemy Leaders look like everyone else. Enemy combatants look like everyone else” and it is this new reality of modern wars that challenges the notion that we are able to make distinctions between combatant and non-combatant, and military and civilian sites. In this paper, they argue that, due to the introduction of the new technology, a status of liminal subjects and spaces is created to legitimize the violence in war. Continue reading
On 13 January, our Edinburgh-St.Andrews PhD Political Theory Workshop is taking place. This is an opportunity for PhD students across the two institutions to present and receive feedback on their work. The programme is below. Interested guests are welcome to attend, although please note this is a pre-read event. A write-up of the workshop will be published next week.
PTRG Write-up: December 7
In “Needing and Necessity,” Guy Fletcher argues that we can better understand thought and talk about ‘needs’ if we learn from recent work on modal terms ‘ought’ and ‘must.’ Further, once we understand what is going on in much of existing needs theory, we have reason to be skeptical of the added value of talking about ‘needs’ rather than the more fundamental moral concept of ‘harm.’ Continue reading
This is a write-up of the meeting of the Political Theory Research Group, 30th November 2016.
The Political Theory Research Group was delighted to welcome Duncan Bell, University of Cambridge, who provided a paper on the English writer J.G. Ballard entitled Scripting the City: J. G. Ballard among the Architects. Continue reading
PTRG report, 23 November 2016
In this week’s PTRG meeting we discussed Mathias Thaler’s paper ‘Hope Abjuring Hope’. In this paper Mathias seeks to demonstrate the role which radical, utopian thinking ought to play within ‘realist’ political theory. Continue reading
PTRG seminar: Can Benign Leverage Be Relied On to End Global Poverty? 9 November 2016
Should people maximize the good they can do by earning much money as they can, so they can donate as much as they can to charitable programs? This is the argument of Effective Altruism. This view seems perfectly right to us, but Professor Tim Hayward holds the opposite view. The theme of his paper Can Benign Leverage be Relied on to End Global Poverty is to challenge benign leverage, the assumption of Effective Altruism and to show that it is a problematic solution to overcoming global poverty.