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.
Freedom, without Power
Some Senses of Pan-Africanism from the South
Christopher J. Allsobrook
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.