Political Possibility

Conveners: Gunnar Björnsson (Umeå U., U. of Gothenburg) and Kai Spiekermann (LSE)

Talk about what is politically possible plays an important role in our everyday political discourse, in political strategy, and in arguments over what political persons, parties, or governing bodies ought to do or to have done. However, such talk lacks proper theoretical foundations. Our workshop will investigate to what extent political possibilities can be clarified by philosophically informed analysis.

Political theorists refer to what is politically possible in many contexts. For example, recent research in “non-ideal theory” suggests that our duties of justice should in some way be responsive to what is politically possible or feasible. Similarly, invocations of the “ought-implies-can principle” in political theory suggest that, given a certain context, there exists a set of feasible or possible actions, and that this set constrains our moral obligations. What is politically possible is also important when analysing political power, since power is plausibly a measure of what it is possible for agents to achieve (and not just what they actually achieve). The same is true for many conceptualizations of political freedom, such as Pettit’s freedom as non-domination; whether one is free may well depend on whether a sufficiently large and robust set of possible actions is available (and not just that actual actions remain unconstrained).

The central goal of this workshop is to improve our understanding of political possibilities, through discussion both of conceptions or analyses of political possibility, and of how different conceptions of possibility affect the descriptive and normative implications of political theories.

We invite submissions of extended abstracts of no more than 1000 words. Please send your abstracts to politicalpossibility-2012@yahoo.co.uk no later than May 28. Notification of acceptance will be sent before June 15.


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