Posts Tagged

Political Theory

We are facing, not a simple trade-off between liberty and public health, but a more complex challenge to maintain liberty as non-domination, despite the erosion of liberty as non-interference.   The coronavirus pandemic has led to the severe curtailment of civil liberties and the lockdown of billions of people worldwide. Some states’ reaction to the pandemic has been seen as more effective than others. In particular, authoritarian governments, such as China, boast about their efficient management of the crisis and are now providing support and advice to European and other nations. Consequently, many citizens are questioning the purported advantages of democratic governance. As both democratic and authoritarian states have imposed exceptional measures restricting political and civil liberties, there is a nagging …
Man walking along in fog against backdrop of a cityscape.

In 2013, as two Fellows at New York University, we embarked on an “eruv tour” of Manhattan. Created through almost invisible strings attached to poles that envelope part of the city, this imaginary enclosure serves to delineate a religious space in which it is permissible to carry out the Jewish Sabbath. Today, we contemplate this almost invisible boundary running down Sixth Avenue with new appreciation of the insights it may yet bring to our current predicament as a pandemic of unprecedented proportions forces us to reinvent our common space, the boundaries which define it and the ways we can and should interact within it. The eruv was introduced in Roman Palestine around 50AD for a Jewish community where many of …
Supporters holding signs that read "Bernie or BUST".

The #BernieOrBust slogan was widely adopted in the 2016 Presidential Elections by ardent supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders. These devotees insisted that they would not vote for any candidate (namely Hillary Clinton, the eventual Democratic Party nominee) in the eventual general election showdown with Trump. Four years later, the slogan has resurfaced as a credible threat directed toward what many perceive to be a recalcitrant Democratic Party establishment. In what follows, I do not claim that “#BernieOrBusters” are morally justified (all things considered), but merely offer a possible defence for why some #BernieOrBust advocates are behaving in a rationally justified manner.  I grant two premises amenable to most critics of #BernieOrBusters: first, Trump is a highly problematic candidate in his actions and dispositions; second, whilst not …

In many of the standard narratives that political theory tells about its history and origins, Plato’s Republic stands out as a kind of foundation text of the discipline itself. As Plato’s most celebrated work of political theory, it is usually the first text taught in introductory surveys of the history of political thought. It is safe to say almost all political theorists – if not most political scientists – have had to study it over the course of their education and training. Yet despite its canonical status and familiarity, the Republic is not always a straightforward text. Plato was, on top of being a philosopher, a master prose stylist who paid great attention to the literary construction of his dialogues. Nowhere in the Republic is this …

When political theorists debate the nature of the ‘political’, it strikes the ear as strange. Conventionally, we understand politics in a general sense to mean the practice of power relations, or the relationships between people and governing institutions, or the discursive distribution of power and resources, and although there are often disagreements about the precise definition, there is sufficient overlap that academics understand one another when they talk about politics as a subject of inquiry. However, when talking about ‘the political’, as it is so abstractly articulated in certain areas of the literature, there seems to be far more debate, with supposedly more at stake. ‘The political’ appears to denote some sort of primordial state of things, or an ingredient …

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 …

It is slowly dawning on us all that Donald Trump was right when he said that the American election day ‘will be Brexit times 10’. In my experience, 4,000 miles across the Atlantic, people looked ten times more shocked when they saw Trump give a victory speech than when it became clear that their country had decided to leave the European Union. Much has been written about Trump’s hateful rhetoric, which has offended 282 people and places on twitter alone, and the possible ramifications of his breaking long-established domestic norms. But it is the global implications of a Trump presidency that worries people across the globe. If he makes true on his campaign promises, we would see a large-scale withdrawal …

The key principle of Republicanism is to minimise domination wherever it is found. The Zapatero governments in Spain, for example, showed how this idea can shape the policies of nation states. Is it possible to extend Republican principles to the global arena? I’ll start with what everybody knows. We live in hard times. There is much more suffering in Europe right now than just five years ago – much more domination too. Arguably, a sort of global redistribution is benefiting ‘developing’ countries to the detriment of the ‘developed’ world. But Western democracies are doing badly, and their prospects are not promising. [This post is part of the Democratic Wealth series, hosted by Politics in Spires in partnership with Our Kingdom.]