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Apartheid of Thought

The Power Dynamics of Knowledge Production in Political Thought

Camilla Boisen and Matthew C. Murray

Abstract

In engaging with Lawrence Hamilton’s Freedom Is Power and its position in the lexicon of academic production from the Global South, this paper explores how Hamilton’s claim about institutions utilising idealised concepts that can have counterproductive social effects is also broadly observable in knowledge production itself. This paper draws in broad and brief terms how representation of ideas has been an issue at the heart of political thought historically before discussing how ideas from the South and other under-represented areas now serve to counter not just a hegemony of power but of ideas themselves. This is a necessary extension of the theory to consider, in order to have its desired effect as ideas are perquisites to actions. The paper also challenges the reader with their role in idealising the production of knowledge and the underlying social pressures and political power relations that shape the ideas that motivate ‘real’ political structures and institutions.

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Lawrence Hamilton

Abstract

I make two main points in response to the two great articles on my book Freedom is Power: Liberty Through Political Representation (FIP) published in this issue of Theoria. First, I assess the power of ideas, especially vis-à-vis the important imperative to decolonise knowledge production, taking on board much of Boisen and Murray’s arguments while qualifying their tendency to overstate the case for the power of ideas. I then comment on Allsobrook’s criticism of my attempt in FIP to marry Foucault’s view of power with my genealogical account of needs. I take on board his main concern and then argue – all too briefly – that his alternative ‘rights recognition thesis’ fails to escape his own critique of my needs-based view of freedom as power aimed at overcoming domination.

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Christopher J. Allsobrook

Abstract

This critique of the theory of freedom and power, which Lawrence Hamilton advances in Freedom is Power (2014), maintains that Hamilton’s appeal to a genealogy of needs - (established in his earlier work, The Political Philosophy of Needs (2003)) to distinguish power from domination – is inconsistent with the theory of power he advocates. His account of needs is no less vulnerable than that of rivals to the problem of power he identifies. I advance a rights recognition theory, which is compatible with this theory of power and I argue that it helps to provide support for the distinction, which Hamilton wants to make, between power and domination, which one cannot obtain from his theory of needs.

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Marta Nunes da Costa

Abstract

What does it mean to be free? How is freedom related to power? How does the concept of freedom shape our conceptions of democracy? Lawrence Hamilton’s book entitled Freedom Is Power: Liberty through Political Representation offers an alternative conceptualization of freedom to the republican and liberal traditions. Hamilton delineates his framework of analysis starting from a realpolitik approach, with Machiavellian and Foucaultian inspiration: first, by conceiving politics via the lens of conflict instead of consensus; second, by conceiving freedom in terms of power (relations). In this paper we offer an overview of Hamilton’s argument, exploring the steps that lead us to a reconceptualise freedom in terms of power, needs and interests and to rethink the significance, meanings and practices of political representation in a democratic context.

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’Tis but a Habit in an Unconsolidated Democracy

Habitual Voting, Political Alienation and Spectatorship

Anthony Lawrence A. Borja

Abstract

The electoral process can be considered as one basic component of a democracy and for this reason one way to evaluate the progress of a democratisation project is by looking at the development of this civic practice in terms of both quantity (voter turnout) and quality (voters’ preferences). Focusing on the former, specifically the impact of political alienation on electoral participation as voter turnout this article will look at the challenges to democratisation posed by electoral politics. From the case of electoral participation in the Philippines, I ask the question: What is the relationship between political alienation and voter turnout in the context of the latter enjoying relatively high and sustained rates? Through a synthesis between the notions of political spectatorship, habitual voting and the learning approach towards analysing voter behaviour, I argue that electoral participation is a disempowered mode of participation resulting from the interdependence of sustained spectatorship and habitual voting.

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Joan Vergés-Gifra

Abstract

In a famous passage in A Theory of Justice, Rawls had an interesting view on fraternity. However, he did not develop it further. The first aim of this article is to show that there are at least two possible interpretations of what Rawls wrote about fraternity: the narrow interpretation and the wide interpretation. We will focus on the narrow interpretation and attract attention to the kinds of problems it presents. In the last section we will assert that there are different ways of conceptualising the ideal of fraternity and that Rawls’s general approach to the issue was just one of them and maybe not the most attractive one.

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Matthew Bradney

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Creating the People as ‘One’?

On Democracy and Its Other

Marta Nunes da Costa

Abstract

It is common sense today to say that ‘democracy is in crisis’. This apparently obvious crisis of democracy has several aspects: it is a crisis of its representative dimensions; it is a crisis that exposes the tensions and intrinsic contradictions between the political and the economic and financial orders; but it is also a crisis that begins to question the actual future of democracy, announcing the possibility that democracy may be replaced by something else for which we don’t have a name yet. In this article I start by looking at the modern (re) invention of democracy, trying to grasp the ways in which ‘the people’ has been theorised. After, I look at the challenges Europe is facing today, mainly in what concerns the economic and financial crises on the one hand, and the refugees and humanitarian crises on the other. I conclude by showing how and why democracy can only be defined as ‘crisis’ and why ‘the people’ must remain simultaneously invisible and un-bodied, in order to fight current populist threats.

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Bertjan Wolthuis

Abstract

Recently several political theorists have argued that mainstream political theory, exemplified by John Rawls’ political liberalism, is based on such idealist and moralist presuppositions, that it cannot be relevant for real politics. This article aims to show that the criticism of these ‘realists’, as these critics are referred to, is based on an incorrect reading of Rawls’ work. The article explains that there are three ways in which his political liberalism can be said to offer a realist understanding of politics: (a) political liberalism interprets the morality inherent in engaging in politics; (b) it acknowledges reasonable disagreement about justice; and (c) it develops standards of public reason, with which to assess the legitimacy of political compromises. The article recovers the realism of political liberalism and indicates new sites of discussion between political liberals and political realists.

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Revisiting the Menkiti-Gyekye Debate

Who Is a Radical Communitarian?

Motsamai Molefe

Abstract

In this article, I intervene in the debate about the nature of Afrocommunitarianism between Ifeanyi Menkiti and Kwame Gyekye. I contend that Menkiti’s talk of ‘personhood’ entails a perfectionist moral theory to the effect that one ought to lead a morally excellent life in a context of ‘being-with-others’. Secondly, I deny that Menkiti’s political theory rejects rights per se; rather, I submit, a more charitable reading would recognise that he takes an agnostic stance towards them and that he conceives of an African political theory as one that is duty-based (and if it considers rights at all, these are secondary to duties). I also highlight that Menkiti’s contribution poses a challenge to African philosophers to justify their ontological commitment to rights. I conclude by drawing our attention to the fact that Gyekye’s in his latter political philosophy writings endorses Menkiti’s duty-based political theory, that rights take secondary consideration to duties.