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Between Tyranny and Self-Interest

Why Neo-republicanism Disregards Natural Rights

David Guerrero and Julio Martínez-Cava Aguilar

The first contribution of this article is a politico-philosophical map that, drawing upon two common sets of arguments against modern natural rights, might help to explain the prevailing neo-republican position on natural rights. Under the label ‘abstraction argument’, we explore the view that natural rights are a metaphysical construct that usually ends in a violent application of speculative principles to society. Under ‘self-interest argument’, we discuss the notion that natural rights endorse an atomistic and selfish conception of the human being. Second, we show how Cold War authors replicated these two arguments, conveying a biased, largely anti-republican and anti-democratic view of natural rights to the twentieth century. Third, drawing on these two arguments, we critically assess the narrow view of natural rights inherited by neo-republican scholars.

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Concepts, Beliefs, and Their Constellations

A Proposal for Analytical Categories in the Study of Human Thought

Ilkka Kärrylä

The article argues that all disciplines examining human thought could use certain shared analytical categories. This would not mean eradicating all differences between various approaches such as intellectual history and discourse analysis, but acknowledging that they are examining partly the same basic entities. The article argues that ideational entities in human thought could be understood as concepts, beliefs, and their constellations. The article discusses the views of scholars who have theorized similar categories and shows how these can be studied through historical language use. Shared analytical categories would enhance interdisciplinary dialogue between scholars of human thought and allow more rigorous debates on issues that truly divide different disciplines, such as the explanatory values of human agency and structures.

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Benoît Godin

Innovation is a key concept of modernity. It acquired its lettres de noblesse in the twentieth century, thanks to or because of economics and technology. However, for centuries the concept was essentially pejorative. How can we explain this connotation? This article suggests that one of the crucial moments is the Reformation. Using official documents of the time, the article studies the vocabulary of the English Reformation and documents the meanings and the uses made of innovation. The article suggests that innovation served two functions or purposes: an injunction (not to innovate) and an accusation of non-conformity. Thereafter, innovation became a linguistic tool of polemic.

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Freedom, Autonomy, and (Inter)dependency

Feminist Dialogues and Republican Debates on Democracy

Ailynn Torres Santana

This article starts from the analytical disconnection between feminisms and republicanism and investigates the potential of an academic and political conversation between them. The text takes up some of the intersections between feminism and republicanism over the past few decades and draws attention to the greater interest that has been verified recently. Furthermore, the article proposes spaces where potential conversation between feminism and republicanism can take place: examining the relationship between material dispossession, dependence, and freedom; across the public, private, and domestic spheres; and the implications of extending autonomy to consider bodily autonomy. It ends with a brief reference to political participation as a feminist and republican virtue. Finally, the article stresses the need to produce a republican feminist revival.

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From Femicide to Feminicidio

Latin American Contributions to Feminist Conceptual History

Camila Ordorica

Feminisms in the second half of the twentieth century were reshaped by the efforts to end violence against women. Feminist activists in national and international settings invented concepts to refer to previously unquestioned societal practices as oppressive to women and changed the world by naming them. In this article, I engage with the concepts of femicide/feminicidio (f/f): the murder of women for gender reasons. I follow the history of this concept and its incursion into the broader political and public sphere in Latin America. Focusing on the Mexican case, I show how the study of national feminist histories is relevant to the history of women’s activism in the international arena. This article contributes to the history of concepts by showing the linguistic distinctions and connections of feminist concepts in different sociocultural environments. Overall, this research argues in favor of studying feminist concepts with Latin American perspectives to articulate the complexity of the world today.

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From Illiberal State to Christian Values

Naming the Current Politics of Hungary

Heino Nyyssönen and Jussi Metsälä

This article examines the problematic phenomenon of political naming through conceptual history. It is evident that illiberal is an ambiguous term and determining what it means is challenging, not to mention the political aspects of the name itself. We claim that naming is a political act par excellence and test our hypothesis by examining Viktor Orbán’s Băile Tuşnad speeches between 2014 and 2019 and the annual State of the Nation speeches between 2015 and 2020. We claim that even Orbán has difficulties in naming his political system. Moreover, we link naming to discussions concerning democracy. In Hungary, this “illiberal” position enables a ruling party to act in accordance with a purely majoritarian form of democracy, that is, to implement legislation with very little regard to the opposition, and by concentrating power to the party and especially to its leader.

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From Neo-Republicanism to Socialist Republicanism

Antonio Gramsci, the European Council Movements and the ‘Second Republican Revival’

Andreas Møller Mulvad and Benjamin Ask Popp-Madsen

This article engages with socialist republicanism, which is preoccupied with extending freedom as non-domination, central to the neo-republican revival, from the political sphere of formal democracy to the economic sphere of capitalist production. Firstly, we discuss the transition from neo-republicanism to socialist republicanism. Secondly, we reconstruct the socialist republicanism of Antonio Gramsci, who was involved in the council movements in Turin in 1919–20. We argue that Gramsci applies the republican vocabulary of servitude to describe the capitalist workplace and analyse the workers’ councils as republican forms, allowing for popular self-determination in the economic sphere. Consequently, we contribute to the ongoing exploration of the historical, political, and conceptual affinities between republicanism and socialism and inscribe Gramsci as a key thinker in this endeavour.

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Ekaterina Smirnova

Why, for a long time, was there no linguistic means to distinguish between the concepts experience and experiment in many European languages, such as Italian, French, and Russian? Was the Russian case influenced by French culture? This article addresses these issues. The most important finding of the study is that no idea of personal experience existed in Russian literature before the second half of the eighteenth century, and the word opyt was later borrowed from the scientific lexicon for expressing the meaning of experience. This is the opposite of what happened in other European languages. This suggests that the concept of experiment is more basic in the Russian mentality. Experience grows from experiment but not vice versa. All these aspects of the semantic history of “experiment” and “experience” are illustrated with extensive textual citations found in the Russian National Corpus and in the electronic library of Institute of Russian Literature.

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M. Victoria Costa

This article considers why the influential neo-republicans Philip Pettit and Richard Bellamy tend to minimise or deny the role that natural or moral rights play in republican thought. It argues that their specific views about the theoretical role of such rights are motivated by methodological commitments. In Pettit’s case the commitments are to consequentialism and formalism, while in Bellamy’s it is to proceduralism. But these commitments get in the way of providing a fully adequate account of the value of freedom as non-domination: one that allows us to determine when citizens actually enjoy this kind of freedom. Finally, the article argues that a full explanation of what it means to enjoy freedom as non-domination must unavoidably appeal to normative notions.

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Private, Public and Common

Republican and Socialist Blueprints

Bru Laín and Edgar Manjarín

The conception of property is usually moulded upon diverting historical and political-philosophical frameworks. The current interest on the commons illustrates these divergences when they come up between a ‘pure’ public and a ‘pure’ private form of ownership. This conceptual triad misleads by conflating private property with an absolute property right while equating public property with a centralised political regime. This article traces the republican conception of property in order to show how it draws a legal and philosophical continuum around different forms of ownership, based on a fiduciary principle underlying the relationship between the sovereign or principal (trustor) and its agent (trustee). Despite modern socialism apparently left aside the question of the commons, the republican-fiduciary rationale was reformulated according to the modern industrial capitalist society.