We Do Not Yet Know What the Law Can Do

Contemporary Political Theory 5 (1):52-67 (2006)
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A recurrent problem in Spinoza's ethical and political philosophy is what beings can do, what their affects are, and how these affects may be diminished or enhanced. This paper focuses on Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise to examine how natural and positive law engages a constitutive relationship with our affective capacity or, in Spinoza's language, our modal power and conatus. This paper begins with a critique of interpretations of Spinoza as a precursor of liberal political and juridical philosophies, and proceeds to argue that far from grounding a stable polity in individual right, law and natural right, Spinoza establishes a political landscape without finalist significance and in pursuit of an embodied activity of establishing new affects. Law in Spinoza will be seen not as a duty or a constraint but as a measure and an exercise of affectivity and power, a productive and phenomenological force that casts human affects into creative and unforeseeable figurations



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Alexandre Lefebvre
The University of Sydney

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