Monthly Archives: March 2016

Euan MacDonald – Legitimacy as Liberty

Political Theory Research Group seminar series:  23 Mar 2016

Photo: William M. Connolley

Photo: William M. Connolley

“People often talk about ‘legitimacy’ without knowing what it exactly means”, said Euan MacDonald at the very beginning of the PTRG seminar last week, and this is exactly what motivated him to write the paper ‘Legitimacy as Liberty’. His aim, in short, was to specify as precisely as possible what this word means, rather than engaging in the substantial discussion of what makes something legitimate. Continue reading

Mathias Thaler – Genealogy as Critique: Problematizing Definitions of Terrorism

Political Theory Research Group seminar series: 16 Mar 2016

Photo: Flickr

Photo: Robert

Mathias Thaler observes how the term ‘terrorism’ is used by individuals and groups to denounce or delegitimise their opponents. These frequent and varied rhetorical uses of terrorism pose a problem for political theorists who want to better understand terrorism and the moral wrongs associated with it. One response to this, from what Mathias terms the ‘moralist’ position, is to abstract away from the complex reality of terrorism and attempt to formulate a definition of it which is independent of politically-charged rhetoric. Such a definition can then be used as a yard stick for measuring real-world cases. Alternatively, ‘realists’ move in the opposite direction, seeing the power-laden usages of terrorism as evidence of its essentially political and manipulative character. Rather than evaluating the appropriateness of different definitions of terrorism realists instead look to better understand how all evocations of ‘terrorism’ are used to further hegemonic interests. Continue reading

Hugh McDonnell – Jean-Paul Sartre’s Europe

Political Theory Research Group seminar series: 9 Mar 2016

Photo: Government Press Office (GPO)


“To shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, doing away with oppressor and oppressed at the same time”. This provocative defence of violence as not only compatible with but essential to the liberation of the colonial subject – made in the Preface to Frantz Franon’s Wretched of the Earth at the height of the Algerian war of independence – has long coloured the reception of Jean-Paul Sartre’s conception of Europe. On the strength of this Preface alone, critics have charged Sartre with irresponsible Third Worldism, a wilful ignorance of the achievements of Europe, and a failure to care for his own continent. Whilst not denying that Sartre’s oeuvre contains imprudent and reckless judgements, Hugh McDonnell attempts to rehabilitate this image of Sartre through a skilful reconstruction of his wide-ranging statements about Europe throughout the course of his life. For McDonnell, Sartre’s idea of Europe is best understood according to the metaphor of a knot, bringing together four related but interweaving elements around a core, existentialist philosophy of freedom. Continue reading

Ashwini Vasanthakumar – On the moral permissibility of outsourcing border control

Political Theory Research Group seminar series: 2 Mar 2016

Photo: Jason on Flickr

Photo: Jason

In her paper ‘On the moral permissibility of outsourcing border control’, Ashwini Vasanthakumar (York) argues against privatisation in immigration enforcement. Her argument proceeds as follows: Outsourcing immigration enforcement is justified exclusively on efficiency grounds, and although these can be challenged, the major challenge to privatisation is associated with fundamental moral problems stemming from relinquishing public sovereignty over border control to private bodies. Hence, because border control is an inherently public good that only the state can provide, the involvement of both private contractors and civilian gatekeepers (e.g. university lecturers and medical practitioners) is wrong. Continue reading

Luís Duarte d’Almeida – Arguing A Fortiori

Political Theory Research Group seminar series: 24 Feb 2016

Photo: Thinkstock

Photo: Thinkstock

Lawyers and courts frequently deploy a fortiori arguments, but rarely disclose the inferential steps on which they are made. This has created opaqueness in the law, and made it difficult to parse valid from fallacious cases of a fortiori reasoning. In his paper, d’Almeida attempts to build a general framework against which potential cases of a fortiori argument can be tested. Continue reading