Methods in Practice

Methods in Practice

Convenor: Jens Olesen (Oxford)

Methodological discussions in Political Theory are often unduly abstract, concentrating almost exclusively on epistemological issues that are said to lie at the heart of the method under investigation or on inconsistencies in its underlying philosophy of language. Whilst being aware of these issues is no doubt necessary, the danger is that methods are being treated as ends in themselves rather than as means to a certain end. As the proof of the pudding lies in the eating rather than in the recipe, in this workshop we will judge methods in Political Theory according to their merit, or lack thereof. That is to say, we will analyze what methods can or cannot claim to be able to show when they are being implemented. Thus, we shift the focus away from methods’ theoretical underpinnings to methods in practice. In doing so, we seek to redress the imbalance between the analysis of methodological claims, on the one hand, and of their substantive outcomes on the other, which characterizes most of the existing literature. This division of labour is detrimental to scholarship because the way in which theorists choose to, say, interpret a text is inextricably linked to the outcome of their analysis.

The theme of the workshop may be broadly construed, and include any of the following:

  • Methods of Interpretation and their application to texts in the History of Political Thought (for instance, Gadamer, Derrida, Strauss reading Plato; Strauss, Skinner on Machiavelli or Hobbes; Feminist or Postcolonial attempts at re-reading the canon)
  • Gender Theory and Feminist ‘Interventions’ (Butler, Fraser)
  • Critical Theory: Habermas and beyond (Forst, Fraser, Honneth)
  • Deconstruction (of core concepts in Political Theory, such as authority or power) and Postmodern Approaches to political theorizing (Deleuze, Lyotard, Rancìere)
  • Genealogy (tracing the evolution of concepts à la Foucault or Skinner; writing conceptual history like Koselleck)
  • (Re-)Writing the History of Political Thought (Oakeshott, Wolin, Lovejoy)
  • Studies of Ideology (Liberalism and its discontents)
  • Marx and Marxian Political Theory

Advanced graduate students, early career and senior researchers are invited to submit paper proposals for this workshop by Sunday 10 June 2012. Please submit your abstract of up 500 words, along with your name, educational status, and institutional affiliation to jens.olesen@politics.ox.ac.uk. Abstracts will be accepted on a rolling basis. Last year’s workshop on “Methods of Interpretation and the Politics of Hermeneutics” attracted over fifty submissions, of which eight high-quality papers were selected. For more information on the MANCEPT Workshops, refer to https://manceptworkshops2012.wordpress.com/

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