Does not every rule, every law, every command and regulation imply a violation of human autonomy? Are they not insults to humanity? Is there a way to escape from power?
In this course, power, the mother of all political concepts, receives our full and well-earned attention; it is a concept that is too easily taken for granted or ignored by political scientists, political theorists and politicians.
The course opens with the discovery that authority and autonomy are mutually exclusive. This is a highly abstract problem with highly practical consequences, since it wrecks the foundations of laws and regulations, not to mention supposedly desirable collective ideals such as tolerance and democracy, leaving anarchy as the only legitimate political 'order'.
Next, we discuss a representative selection of answers to the anarchist challenge - answers that turn out to be only halfway successful, at best in legitimising the use, or threatened use, of force or power. These more or less classical answers all originate in the Anglo-Saxon tradition in political philosophy, where an equally classical conception of power is presupposed: the Weberian 'making someone do what she/he would otherwise not do'. The Anglo-Saxon tradition seems to be inspired by a desire for liberal tolerance, a desire to protect and make room for, a diversity of individuals and of views on the good life. Sooner or later, however, ideas of the good life contradict one another, and one idea has to give way to the other, either under political pressure or through 'reasonable' argument. But doesn't the appeal to reason already imply the exclusion of some theories of the good life? Thus, is this another appeal to authority denying autonomy?
In the Continental philosophical tradition, other, more subtle theories of power have been developed. Using the three conceptions of power of Steven Lukes, combined with Foucault's notion of discursive power, we re-examine the problem of the incompatibility of power and morality. As illustrations, we look at a number of highly original responses to three 'hot topics': global justice (possibly Pogge), multicultural coexistence (Kukathas, Barry), and gender (TBA).
Students should be aware that this is a fairly demanding course: you should not miss any of the sessions, and we expect you to actively participate in each and every session, to have read all the literature before each session, to cooperate with, and support, your fellow students when preparing for sessions, to give multiple presentations during the course, and to hand in a number of assignments on time.