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Freedom, without Power

in Theoria
Author:
Christopher Allsobrook

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This article attributes the conception of 'freedom-without-power' which dominates contemporary Western political philosophy to a reification of social agency that mystifies contexts of human capacities and achievements. It suggests that Plato's analogy between the structure of the soul and the polis shows how freedom is a consequence, rather than a condition, of political relations, mediated by inter-subjective contestation. From this basis, the article draws on the work of Raymond Geuss to argue against pre-political ethical frameworks in political philosophy, in favour of a more contextually sensitive, self-critical approach to ethics. Such reciprocal ethical-political integration addresses problems of ideological complicity that may arise if freedom is discretely abstracted from history and power in political philosophy. Finally, the article roughly reconstructs a critical account of African identity from writings of Steven Biko to illuminate symptoms of 'meritocratic apartheid' in South Africa today which Thad Metz's influential pre-political conception of ubuntu obscures, by abstracting the figure of African personhood from politically significant historical conditions.

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Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

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