Royal Institute of Philosophy Postgraduate Conference: Politics at the Margins: reason, stupidity, and alienness in conflict
– Prof. Maeve Cooke (University College Dublin)
– Prof. Robin Celikates (Freie Universität Berlin)
A consensus in political philosophy goes that democracy is the best regime for mastering conflict. While many authors highlight the procedural values of joint deliberation, inclusion, and equality, others (also) underline democracy’s capacity ‘to get it right.’ Such epistemic theories claim that democratic procedures produce the best results in conflict (Estlund 2009; Habermas 2006; Mouffe 2018; Schwartzberg 2014; Talisse 2009).
However, democracy’s pole position often comes with theoretical and practical caveats. In theory, authors usually limit the relevant citizenry to reasonable citizens (e.g., Rawls 1993; Quong 2011; McCabe 2010); in political practice, governments and parties appoint a battery of advisers and select candidates for office who rarely are not academics or when not, this is presented as an issue. This way, democracy seems to move closer to technocracy rather than being the rule of the many (Christiano 1996). On the other hand, there is a recent backlash against the idea of meritocracy (Markovits 2019; Sandel 2020). Reason and demos, it seems, stand in an ambiguous relationship to one another.
In this light, how are we to interpret recent epochal events such as Brexit and the Trump or Bolsonaro presidency? How are we to judge European, the US’s and Latin American responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice, or mass immigration? What are we to think of the rise of conspiracy theories and those who point at new technological avenues as inherently damaging to democracy?
All these events and developments present instances where democracy’s mechanisms of coping with conflict seem to prove ineffective. This workshop is dedicated to the question what this ineffectiveness is a symptom of: are current events proof that democracy’s institutions are too democratic and allow the ‘stupid’ to derail politics (Brennan 2016)? Or is the epistemic desire of current democratic regimes the sign of a neurosis that limit their legitimacy? Are current events reactions to past and ongoing injustices such as: epistemic injustices (Fricker 2007; Spivak 1988); social inequalities (Boltanski and Chiapello 1999; Bourdieu 1990; Fraser 2008); or discrimination (Davis 1989; Gordon 2021)? Is democracy sufficiently pluralist (Cooke 2006; 2019)? Or does it need to begin including voices alien to the language of politicians and experts (e.g., Young 1997, 2000; Waldenfels 1997)? Must we even learn to be more stupid?
The conference invites postgraduate students and early-stage academics from the UK, Europe and beyond to address the conflictual relation of reason, stupidity, and alienness in contemporary democracies, including the following themes:
-What is the idea of the demos and the conditions for democratic legitimacy?
-How do democracies attempt to resolve conflict? Are they successful?
-Do current democratic regimes implement repressive or marginalizing techniques? If so, what are they?
-What is the relation between politics as an open sphere of dispute and technocracy in politics?
-Is current democracy sufficiently pluralist? What is the relation between democracy and pluralism?
The conference brings together scholars from all areas relevant to the topic, such as, but not restricted to:
*Postcolonial, feminist, critical democratic theory/epistemology
Applicants are asked to submit an abstract (max. 300 words) suitable for blind review, along with a title page including your personal information (title, name, short bio, affiliation, technical equipment, and mode of participation) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Papers should be suitable for a presentation of no more than 20 minutes. The deadline for submission is 15/07/2021.
The event is funded by the Royal Institute of Philosophy. The conference will be hosted by the School of Philosophy and Art History at the University of Essex, with support from the Philosophy Department and the Philosophy and Public Affairs Research Group at the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis.
Modes of Participation:
The conference will take place at the University of Essex between the 7th and the 9th of October.
-UK participants: are invited to physically attend the conference at the university campus.
-EU participants: are invited to either physically attend the conference or participate online. Please state your mode of participation in your submission.
-International participants: we invite submission from international participants and arrangements for online participation will be made.