Thomas Fossen – Portraying Power

This is a write-up of the meeting of the Political Theory Research Group, 15th March 2017.

(Photo: Zeinab Mohammed, CC-BY)

The Political Theory Research Group was delighted to welcome Thomas Fossen, Leiden University. He provided a chapter for discussion from a book project which seeks to develop a pragmatist approach to political legitimacy. To contribute to this larger project, the chapter first identifies a standard picture of political judgement, implicit in normative theories of legitimacy, which separates the question of legitimacy from practical judgements about legitimacy. This means that judgement of legitimacy is reduced to the application of moral criteria to pre-given facts. In contrast, Thomas shows how practical judgements are necessarily involved both in the representation of facts and of criteria of legitimacy. Neither can be adequately addressed separate from practical judgements, and this picture thus obscures and misplaces how the object of political legitimacy is constituted. The chapter thus sets out to consider what the practice of portraying power involves and its implication for the quality of judgements.

The ensuing discussion covered a wide variety of topics to capture the problem of legitimacy addressed in the book project. These included the continued relevance of the standard model of judgement, as introduced in the chapter. Furthermore, the value of substantiating the discussions with theorising on power, particularly as found in the works of Pierre Bourdieu, to capture the relationship between perception, positionality, and judgement.

Thomas Fossen is assistant professor of political philosophy at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands.


Written by Gisli Vogler.