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Book workshop on Thomas Fossen’s Facing Legitimacy
9 June 2017 @ 13:00 - 17:30
The Institute for Philosophy is proud to host a book symposium on Thomas Fossen’s draft manuscript Facing Authority, as part of the OZSW reading group in political philosophy. Sofia Näsström (Uppsala University) and David Owen (University of Southampton) and James Gledhill (UvA) will comment on Thomas’ work.
The workshop is open to all, but please register at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chair: Rutger Claassen (Utrecht)
13:00 – 13.15 welcome
13.15 – 14.00 intro + chapter 1 Commentator: tba.
14.00 – 14.45 chapter 2 Commentator: James Gledhill (UvA)
14.45 – 15.00 break
Chair: Gijs van Donselaar (UvA)
15.15 – 16.00 chapter 3 Commentator: David Owen (University of Southampton)
16.00 – 16.45 chapter 4 Commentator: Sofia Näsström (Uppsala University)
16.45 – 17.30 closing remarks.
This book develops a new philosophical approach to political legitimacy. Political authorities profoundly affect our lives in manifold ways: they regulate our behavior, provide education, raise taxes, control borders, and grant or withhold citizenship. These authorities purport to be entitled to rule us. But are they? And should we behave as loyal, obedient citizens, or take to the streets and demand the fall of the regime?
Facing Authority approaches the question of legitimacy as a problem of judgment. How can we distinguish in practice whether a regime is legitimate or not—even though it might appear and claim to be so? Contemporary philosophers usually treat legitimacy as a problem of moral knowledge, asking which moral principles (such as consent, democracy, or human rights) authorities must meet in order to count as legitimate. Judgment is then no more than an afterthought, a matter of applying the principles provided by philosophy. Yet despite the best efforts, criteria of legitimacy remain subject to profound disagreement and uncertainty. This book questions the assumptions underlying this prevalent approach, by shifting attention from the justification of principles to the practice of judgment, in the face of disagreement and uncertainty. This raises fundamental questions. What does it mean to call a regime legitimate or illegitimate? How does the question of legitimacy manifest itself in practice, from a first-person perspective? And how can it be addressed?
Facing Authority offers a complex account of what is involved in judging the legitimacy of a regime. Building on the insights of philosophical pragmatism, it argues that judgment involves practical engagement in a particular situation; it is not just a matter of applying given principles. The book explores three distinctive forms of activity that constitute judgment in contexts where legitimacy is in question. It argues that judging legitimacy is a matter of representation: how should the relations of power be portrayed? It is also a question of identity: who am I, in relation to others? And it is a question of the meaning of events: what happened here—a coup, or a revolution?
Addressing these questions is a matter of engagement and contestation with others. In this sense, political reality resists the attempt to specify criteria of legitimacy once and for all.
Facing Authority proposes a new way of thinking about political legitimacy,interweaving systematic philosophical analysis with examples of struggles for legitimacy, from the extra-parliamentary opposition in Europe and the United States to the protests at Tahrir Square. In the process, the book aims to advance methodological disputes about realism and idealism in political philosophy, and offers original insights into the normative significance of representations of power, political identities, and historical events.
This Workshop is financially supported by the OZSW and by the Veni project ‘Critical moments: How do events affect how we should judge the legitimacy of political authorities?
About the OZSW event calendar
The OZSW event calendar lists academic philosophy events organized by/at Dutch universities, and is offered by the OZSW as a service to the research community. Please check the event in question – through their website or organizer – to find out if you could participate and whether registration is required. Obviously we carry no responsibility for non-OZSW events.