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Andrew Benjamin and Francesco Borghesi

This special issue arose from a workshop on “Peace and Concord from Plato to Lessing”, organised by the editors and which took place at the University of Sydney on 18 and 19 September 2017. Central to the work of both the editors is the relationship between the concepts of ‘concord’, ‘peace’ and ‘dignity’ within a setting created by a concern with the development of a philological anthropology. Their work combines both intellectual history and philosophy, a combination that is reflected in the contents of the special issue of Theoria. The importance of these terms is that they allow for another interpretation of the ethical and the political. Central to both is the location of human being within a larger cultural context. That context demands an approach in which philosophy does not exclude history, and history recognises that it is already informed philosophically. If there is a unifying term, it is ‘culture’. The approach taken within the larger project starts with the centrality of culture as that which demands to be thought. And yet culture is neither tranquil nor unified. As Walter Benjamin argued, there ‘is no document of culture which is not at the same time a document of barbarism’. Allowing for culture’s centrality entails a reconfiguration of both philosophy and intellectual history.

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Daniel Canaris

A persistent feature in Jesuit reports about the late Ming and early Qing was the notion that an enduring peace and concord pervaded the Chinese political system. Although the Jesuits did not invent this association, which was rooted in Greco-Roman historiography, the Jesuit encyclopaedist Antonio Possevino (1533–1611) was the first to link the ‘perpetual peace’ (perpetua pax) and ‘supreme concord’ (summa concordia) of the Chinese state to the Confucian intellectual tradition. As the Jesuits’ missionary strategy developed under the tutelage of Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), ‘public peace’ (pax publica) and ‘the calm of the Republic’ (Republica quies) came to be perceived as the ultimate purpose of the Confucian precepts and one of the hinges on which the aims of Christianity, Confucianism and natural law can be reconciled. The supreme expression of the link between Confucianism and peace can be found in the Confucius Sinarum philosophus (1687), which presented for the first time an accessible translation of three of the four Confucian classics. Yet while retaining the view that pre-Qin Confucianism espoused peace as a central political aim, the Confucius Sinarum philosophus challenged the view that contemporary China could be regarded as a utopic actualization of Confucian peace. This paper will discuss this shift as an attempt to coopt the Chinese political experience as an argument against the pragmatic political philosophy known as ‘reason of state’, which was perceived by Jesuit thinkers as atheistic and immoral.

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Plato's Conception of Peace

A Preliminary Exploration

Rick Benitez

This article examines some of the ways in which Plato conveys a concern with peace and what conceptions of peace he has a concern with. I first consider Plato’s attitude to war (πόλεμος) and its conventional opposite, peace (εἰρήνη). In this context we find very little concern with peace at all and, by contrast, a somewhat disturbing emphasis on the importance of war. However, if we turn from war to a different type of conflict, faction (στάσις), we find a distinct difference. Plato considers faction unproductive because of the internal divisions it sustains. Yet Plato does not specifically call the opposite of faction ‘peace’; instead, he uses terms that have different extensions for us, such as δικαιοσύνη (‘justice’). Nevertheless, it is possible to outline a positive Platonic conception of peace by tabling a set a of peace-related terms. I distinguish three categories of terms that describe (1) conditions of peace (or negative peace), (2) dispositions of peacefulness, and (3) relations of peace, where such relations result from the expression of peaceful dispositions. My examination suggests that positive peace, for Plato, is founded on the unity and integrity of character. Only when individuals are at peace with themselves can peace within society be achieved.

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Rights and Duties in Menkiti

A Response to Masaka's Objection of Menkiti

Vitumbiko Nyirenda

Dennis Masaka argues that individuals have rights outside those conferred by the community. The argument is a critique to Ifeanyi Menkiti’s view of personhood. He argues that Menkiti uses the word person and personhood as synonymous. Masaka makes a distinction between the two, where person is an ontological concept, and personhood is a normative concept. For Masaka, individuals have rights by virtue of being persons and not personhood. My approach to the paper is therapeutic. I argue that Masaka misinterprets Menkiti’s views. I argue that Menkiti does not allocate rights in his idea of personhood and as something conferred by the community as proposed by Masaka. This implies that Masaka’s view is not radically different from Menkiti’s.

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Who Were the Faithful?

Nicholas of Cusa's <em>De Pace Fidei</em>

Andrew Benjamin

The aim of this paper, which more generally is a contribution to political theology, is to show in what way the conception of peace in Nicholas of Cusa’s De Pace Fidei is dependent upon a specific philosophical anthropology. Within it any link between human being and law is replaced by the subject of faith. Central to the argument is demonstrating the ways in which this anthropological position is necessarily interarticulated with the larger metaphysical positions that are advanced across a range of Cusanus’ texts.

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Bongani Nyoka

This article attempts a preliminary discussion of the three clusters of Archie Mafeje’s work. While Mafeje called for ‘non-disciplinarity’, as against ‘interdisciplinarity’ or ‘disciplinarity’, this article makes a case for why he should be read as a revolutionary sociologist. In so doing, the article pieces together some of the key elements of his oeuvre. The article consists of four main parts. The first part provides some background and contextualises this article. The second part deals with Mafeje’s programmatic critique of the discipline of anthropology and other social sciences. The third part discusses his work on land and agrarian issues in sub-Saharan Africa. The last section focuses on his work on revolutionary theory and politics, with specific reference to his assessment of the responsibility of the African intellectual.

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Samuel Kahn

In this article I defend the traditional interpretations of Kant’s Formula of a Law of Nature from recent attacks levelled by Faviola Rivera-Castro, James Furner, Ido Geiger, Pauline Kleingeld and Sven Nyholm. After a short introduction, the article is divided into four main sections. In the first, I set out the basics of the three traditional interpretations, the Logical Contradiction Interpretation, the Practical Contradiction Interpretation and the Teleological Contradiction Interpretation. In the second, I examine the work of Geiger, Kleingeld and Nyholm: these three commentators reject the traditional interpretations entirely, but I argue that this rejection is ill-founded. In the third and fourth, I take a detailed look at Furner’s work, work in which he seeks to revise (rather than reject) the traditional interpretations. I argue that, despite his more modest aims, Furner’s revision is also ill-founded.

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Queering Lucrezia’s Virtú

A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Radical Machiavelli

Andrés Fabián Henao Castro

This article argues for a feminist reinterpretation of the ‘radical Machiavelli’ tradition which pushes Machiavelli’s performative theory of power towards emancipation. I base my argument on a rereading of Niccolò Machiavelli’s Mandragola, whose historical use of the mandrake legend, I claim, symptomatizes historically gendered forms of labour expropriation characteristic of early modern capitalism. Against the background of that historical contextualisation, I then argue against James Martel’s interpretation of Machiavelli’s theory of open secrets, as one that remains unable to extend to Lucrezia the democratic insights that he identifies in Callimaco and Ligurio’s textual conspiracies. Dialectically relocating the political heroism of this play in Lucrezia’s performance, I conclude, Machiavelli’s comedy becomes nevertheless useful for a subaltern theory of democratic action.

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Republican Freedom in the Labour Market

Exploitation Without Interpersonal Domination

Fausto Corvino

In this article, I query whether participation in the labour market can hinder neo-republican freedom as non-domination. I briefly present the view of Philip Pettit on the topic, based on the distinction between offering a reward and threatening a punishment. I compare it to the analysis of labour republicans, recently reconstructed by Alex Gourevitch, according to whom, the exclusion of a group of individuals from the control of productive assets represents a form of structural domination. Then, I explain why I take a position that is different from both. I hold that capitalist structural domination leads only to exploitation, not interpersonal domination. In doing this, I consider two objections that might be raised against my argument. The first one is based on incomplete contracts and on a possible ideal benchmark for job offers. The second one challenges the supposed arbitrariness of unequal property relations within the capitalist social system.

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Kari Palonen

This article is a thought experiment. It constructs ideal types of political representation in the sense of Max Weber. Inspired by Quentin Skinner and others, the aim is to give a rhetorical turn to contemporary debates on representation. The core idea is to claim an ‘elective affinity’ (Wahlverwandschaft, as Weber says following Goethe) between forms of representation and rhetorical genres of their justification. The four ideal types of political representation are designated as plebiscitary, diplomatic, advocatory, and parliamentary, corresponding to the epideictic, negotiating, forensic, and deliberative genres of rhetoric as the respective ways to plausibly appeal to the audience. I discuss historical approximations of each type of representation and apply the combination of representation and rhetorical genres to the understanding of the European Union’s unconventional system of ‘separation of powers’. I conclude with supporting parliamentary representation, based on dissensus and debate, with complements from other types.