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The Grammars of 'Power'

Between Contestation and Mediation

Mark Rigstad

In light of the pragmatic aspirations of ordinary language philosophy, this essay critically examines the competing grammatical strictures that are often set forth within the theoretical discourse of 'power'. It repudiates both categorically appraisive employments of 'power' and the antithetical urge to fully operationalize the concept. It offers an attenuated defense of the thesis that 'power' is an essentially contestable concept, but rejects the notion that this linguistic fact stems from conflict between antipodal ideological paradigms. Careful attention to the ordinary pragmatics of power-language evinces the prospects for integrating various context-specific aspects of power and mediating between traditionally divergent theoretical frameworks.

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Power and Freedom

Opposite or Equivalent Concepts?

Pamela Pansardi

The aim of this work is to offer an assessment of the conceptual relations between 'power' and 'freedom'. The two concepts are normally thought of as standing in a relation of mutual exclusion, and are often defined in reciprocal terms: while being free means not being subject to someone's power, to have power is to constrain someone's freedom. In this article I propose a more detailed interpretation of their conceptual relations, distinguishing between two different cases. In the case in which power and freedom are understood as properties of two different individuals involved in a social relation, I shall argue that they are not necessarily in a relation of mutual exclusion: power can be exercised in ways which do not reduce, and which might even increase, the power-subject's freedom. In the case, by contrast, in which they are understood as properties of the same individual, I shall claim that power and freedom show a significant degree of correspondence.

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Peter Morriss

In this article, I try to embark on an understanding of the work that the concept of freedom does, by distinguishing it from the concept of power. When we are interested in our power, we are interested in what we are able (and not able) to do; it is plausible to think that when we are interested in freedom, we are interested in something else. The article is largely concerned with looking for this 'something else'. I suggest that freedom differs from power in focusing on the constraints that we are (or are not) under. When we are interested in freedom, the importance of these constraints is not particularly that they stop us doing things, because that is covered by considering our powers. I suggest that the constraints are important - if they are important at all - because some constraints insult our dignity. This suggests an alternative approach to the current focus on freedom as a property of actions: that of freedom as a property of persons. This idea is explored and defended. In a final section on republican freedom, I argue, against Pettit, that there is no distinctive concept of republican freedom (as distinct from the standard liberal understanding of freedom); but that there is a different - and a highly attractive - political theory present in republicanism.

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Power

A Radical View

Laurence Piper

Power: a Radical View (Second Edition), by Steven Lukes. London: Palgrave, 2005. ISBN: 0-333-42092-6.

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Marta Nunes da Costa

Lawrence Hamilton. Freedom Is Power: Liberty through Political Representation . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. ISBN: 9781107062962 (hbk) Are South Africans Really Free? Setting the Stage for Hamilton’s Discussion Are South Africans

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Apartheid of Thought

The Power Dynamics of Knowledge Production in Political Thought

Camilla Boisen and Matthew C. Murray

In his book, Freedom Is Power (2015), Lawrence Hamilton argues ‘against those who de-politicise freedom through a romantic conception of ‘the people’ and faith in supposedly independent judicial and liberal institutions’ and makes the assertion

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Christopher J. Allsobrook

In two recent books – Freedom Is Power: Liberty through Political Representation ( FIP ) and Are South Africans Free? – Lawrence Hamilton has developed and elaborated what he calls a ‘radically new’ conception of freedom. He argues that this

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Lawrence Hamilton

This is the second of two special issues on freedom and power to be published seriatim in Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory. The contributors to this issue analyse the relationship between freedom and power in fascinating ways. Issue 131 was arranged in terms of intellectual historical chronology, focusing on the work of Hobbes, Spinoza, Hegel, Adorno and Arendt, amongst others. This time the contributors are concerned less with intellectual history and more with conceptual, exegetic and contemporary matters.

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Lawrence Hamilton

Ever since Livy proclaimed that ‘freedom is to be in one’s own power’, if not from long before and in other contexts, the relationship between freedom and power has been an enduring concern of social and political theorists. It has withstood even Isaiah Berlin’s sharp distinction between seemingly irreconcilable forms of freedom and much of the subsequent theoretical and philosophical debates that it spawned. The history of political thought is littered with thinkers who have opposed freedom and power, arguing that liberty can only be truly attained free from power and domination (republicans) or in the absence of external impediments imposed by other human beings (liberals); but there are also many examples of arguments that identify a close and intriguing link between them, especially in the sphere of politics, that emanate from radicals and conservatives alike, thinkers such as Machiavelli, Montaigne, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Arendt and Foucault. Moreover, those in the former camp tend to think of freedom in formal and abstract terms, while proponents of the latter eschew this now normal tendency in political philosophy and instead think of freedom in fully substantive, concrete and even materialist terms. Hobbes is an unusual and unique figure as his account of freedom inspires members of both parties, that is those concerned with the formal character of freedom and those troubled by its more substantive components and conditions, which is why it is only right that we start this special issue on freedom and power with an analysis of Hobbes’ account of freedom.

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Blackout

Freedom, without Power

Christopher Allsobrook

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.