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Political Theory

Since the 2013 Snowden revelations, public concern over privacy issues has reached a shrill register, regularly amplified by periodic new scandals. Anxious computer owners, following the lead of Mark Zuckerberg, have taken to covering their cameras with bits of tape. Messaging services tout their end-to-end encryption. Researchers from Harvard Business School have started investigating the effectiveness of those creepy online ads that seem to know a little too much about your preferences. And behind all of these trends sits an uneasy public: according to a 2014 Pew Research Center Poll, fully 91% of Americans believe they have lost control over their personal information. Ian Bogost in The Atlantic names the enemy behind the assault on our privacy: It’s “a hazy …

Cosmological assumptions and breakthroughs have had their fair share in influencing conceptions of human life and politics. Over the years, many scientists have argued for a more harmoniously ordered state of affairs based on observations of the natural world. For instance, Albert Einstein commented on the idea of a world government: “Mankind’s desire for peace can be realized only by the creation of a world government. With all my heart, I believe that the world’s present system of sovereign nations can only lead to barbarism, war, and inhumanity.”[1] Recently,Glen T. Martinhas argued in favour of a world government by drawing on parallels to the evolution in our understanding of the universe.[2] Martin attempts to prove the plausibility of establishing a …

A performance featured during the summer at the Manchester International Festival attempted to tackle the following timeless question: if women ruled the world, would they confront pressing social and political issues – such as climate change, military escalation and mass migration – in qualitatively different ways? The notion that the world would look different under female leadership assumes a “differentialist” approach to gender issues. This article, on the one hand, questions the underlying assumptions of that widespread belief, and, on the other hand, sketches out an alternative approach to progressive change in general and, more specifically, for women. Why we should be sceptical about differentialism in debates on gender A first and still very common version of differentialism is the …

Should the liberal state be secular? Does liberalism demand strict separation between state and religion? The issue is not merely a theoretical one. Most western states are secular states, even as they accommodate various forms of religious establishment and accommodation. Yet the great majority of people in the world live under regimes that are either constitutional theocracies – where religion is formally enshrined in the state – or where religious affiliation is a pillar of collective political identity. In countries otherwise as different as Egypt, Israel, Turkey, India, Indonesia, Poland, and many others, politics and religion are interconnected in ways that belie any simplified model of secular separation. Many such states, for example, appeal to religious tradition in making the …

Many interpretations of international conflict share common assumptions regarding the default oppositional nature of states or cultures.  According to Realism, the predominant theory of International Relations, conflict arises inevitably, and is a natural outcome of a highly competitive international environment.  It is also a reflection, and extension, of the competitive, selfish and power driven nature of man. In a larger sense, “man” can refer both to individuals and to larger communities (or tribes, in ancient times) that one belongs to and toward which one feels protective – by virtue of sharing an in-group identity. For some thinkers, including some Realists, the origin of this perpetual conflictual mode can be traced to irreconcilable cultural differences. Samuel Huntington’s well-known “clash of civilizations” …

In politics and elsewhere, women’s voices are still less loud, less audible and less influential. In the workplace, the public sphere or in private conversations, women rarely speak up for themselves, tend to avoid conflicts and are less confrontational. And when they do speak up, their voice is often treated with contempt or blatantly ignored.[2] In this post I want to query how women could develop original forms of communication that would allow them to express their own interests in an assertive way, while also keeping some of their ‘feminine’ characteristics. In particular, if women want to become more numerous and influential in political spheres, it is vital for them to elaborate more efficient ways to communicate. Female vs. male communication …

The vote to leave the EU was an outcome which surprised most commentators, bookies, and even those who voted for the winning side. In the aftermath of the result, John Gray, a popular political theorist, wrote that ‘voters inflicted the biggest shock on the establishment since Churchill was ousted in 1945’. It is hard to think that he is wrong. The only social classes which predominately voted Remain were ABs (affluent and middle-class voters), whereas C1 C2 DE (lower middle-class and working-class) voters all delivered majorities for Leave. As I predicted on this blog in January and contrary to many commentators’ expectations, the referendum engaged more voters than recent general elections. It generated the highest turnout in a UK election …

In the spasms of defeat following the EU referendum, some Remain commentators have suggested that Brexit was a fundamentally racist choice. Indeed, one of the most forceful was Richard Elliot’s assertion on this blog that Brexit supporters are ‘the Cecil Rhodes of the twenty-first century’. Elliot’s article reflects the stifling academic consensus which cannot even comprehend how ‘good people’ could vote to Leave. This breathtakingly simplistic analysis amounts to little more than the assertion that clever, open-minded people voted to Remain whereas stupid, backward people voted to Leave. It echoes the debate over joining the Euro fifteen years ago when, as Larry Elliot reflected, ‘People who liked the Euro were civilised, supported the arts, went to Tuscany or the Dordogne …