10 December 2010

CFP: freedom and power

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

‘Freedom and Power’ Call for Papers

Ever since Livy proclaimed that ‘freedom is to be in one’s own power’, if not from a long time before, the relationship between freedom and power has been an enduring concern of political theorists. It has withstood even Berlin’s sharp distinctions between seemingly irreconcilable kinds of freedom and the subsequent diversion via debates about ‘negative, ‘positive’ and ‘republican’ freedom. With greater historical purview it is possible to see that the fault line between various competing conceptions of freedom is clearest with regard to how social and political theorists conceive of the relationship between freedom and power. While some thinkers 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), others have identified a close and intriguing link between them, especially in the sphere of politics. A motley crew of radicals, Marxists and conservatives occupy the latter camp, including Livy, Machiavelli, Montaigne, Marx, Nietzsche 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 in this debate.)

Several important questions arise concerning freedom and power:-
  • What is freedom?
  • What is the relationship between freedom and power?
  • How, if at all, are freedom and domination related?
  • Is there a categorical or insurmountable conflict between freedom and discipline?
  • Does freedom depend upon being free from interference or being able to achieve certain desired or desirable goals or ends?
  • Are these two conditions – freedom from interference and the ability or power to achieve certain ends – related in some sense?
  • Can we measure freedom, and, if so, how?
  • What forms or degrees of freedom are possible in modern representative democracies?
  • How does representation affect freedom?
  • Is our freedom dependent on the power of our representatives?
  • How does the degradation of the planetary environment affect our views on freedom?
  • Given the dire need for self-control and self-discipline, especially regarding levels of consumption in the developed North, is the concept of freedom even still relevant?
  • Does the concept of freedom need to be reconfigured to accommodate constraint, austerity and self-control? If so, how?
  • What do the experiences of relatively recently liberated states teach us about freedom?
  • What is the relationship between freedom and power in the ‘Global South’?
  • How, if at all, does poverty affect freedom?

The editors of Theoria ask contributors to think about these questions in and of themselves and in the light of the various arguments from any of the proponents of the various conceptions of freedom. These can be written about in term of furthering our understanding of the nature of personal and political freedom within modern representative democracies or in order to develop novel arguments that propose conceptions of freedom for different possible future political organizations and forms of power. While abstract theoretical insights and arguments are welcome, we urge contributors to try and think about freedom and power within and between particular political contexts, especially within the ‘Global South’, where often freedom is a nascent and precarious achievement, and sometimes only for the lucky few, and between the ‘Global South’ and the ‘Global North’, either in relational or comparative terms. Given the changing power relations that exist within and between existing states, there is also much room for utopian thought regarding new forms of freedom in as yet un-experienced contexts of political power and moral conflict. 

Submissions must be sent in MSWord format to the Managing Editor, Ms Sherran Clarence (sherranclarence@gmail.com) on or before the 31st of August 2011.

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