Author Archive

David Owen

David Owen is Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the University of Southampton.

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The republican commitment to the view that people can be at liberty only when they are secure – and equally secure – from the exercise of arbitrary power, has significant implications for the ‘domestic’ political economy of states. But it also bears on issues of what we may broadly call ‘transnational’ political economy. That is, that the decisions of actors beyond a democratic state may have important consequences for that state’s establishment, capability and even civic disposition. For classical republicans, the root of popular sovereignty is not democratic rule but freedom from ‘alien’ rule. This is, indeed, how the republican concept of freedom emerged in ancient Greece – with the political prospect of rule by Persians motivating a focus on the value of being a free people who rule their own city. The most obvious threat here is being subject to the dominion of another people (direct imperial rule) but as republicanism widens its view of domination from the paradigmatic legal form of the master-slave relation, so ‘alien rule’ comes to encompass other possibilities such as political or economic dependency (indirect imperialism).