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Thomas Fossen
Leiden University
  1. Taking Stances, Contesting Commitments: Political Legitimacy and the Pragmatic Turn.Thomas Fossen - 2013 - Journal of Political Philosophy 21 (1):426-450.
  2. Politicizing Brandom's Pragmatism: Normativity and the Agonal Character of Social Practice.Thomas Fossen - 2014 - European Journal of Philosophy 22 (3):371-395.
    This paper provides an agonistic interpretation of Robert Brandom's social-pragmatic account of normativity. I argue that social practice, on this approach, should be seen not just as cooperative, but also as contestatory. This aspect, which has so far remained implicit, helps to illuminate Brandom's claim that normative statuses are ‘instituted’ by social practices: normative statuses are brought into play in mutual engagement, and are only in play from an engaged social perspective among others. Moreover, in contrast to a positivist or (...)
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  3. Agonistic Critiques of Liberalism: Perfection and Emancipation.Thomas Fossen - 2008 - Contemporary Political Theory 7 (4):376–394.
    Agonism is a political theory that places contestation at the heart of politics. Agonistic theorists charge liberal theory with a depoliticization of pluralism through an excessive focus on consensus. This paper examines the agonistic critiques of liberalism from a normative perspective. I argue that by itself the argument from pluralism is not sufficient to support an agonistic account of politics, but points to further normative commitments. Analyzing the work of Mouffe, Honig, Connolly, and Owen, I identify two normative currents of (...)
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  4. Language and Legitimacy: Is Pragmatist Political Theory Fallacious?Thomas Fossen - 2019 - European Journal of Political Theory 18 (2):293-305.
    Eva Erman and Niklas Möller have recently criticised a range of political theorists for committing a pragmatistic fallacy, illicitly drawing normative conclusions from politically neutral ideas abo...
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  5. The Grammar of Political Obligation.Thomas Fossen - 2014 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 13 (3):215-236.
    This essay presents a new way of conceptualizing the problem of political obligation. On the traditional ‘normativist’ framing of the issue, the primary task for theory is to secure the content and justification of political obligations, providing practically applicable moral knowledge. This paper develops an alternative, ‘pragmatist’ framing of the issue, by rehabilitating a frequently misunderstood essay by Hanna Pitkin and by recasting her argument in terms of the ‘pragmatic turn’ in recent philosophy, as articulated by Robert Brandom. From this (...)
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  6. Agonism and the Law. [REVIEW]Thomas Fossen - 2012 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 38 (3):327-331.
  7. Nietzsche’s Aristocratism Revisited.Thomas Fossen - 2008 - In Siemens Herman W. & Roodt Vasti (eds.), Nietzsche, Power and Politics: Rethinking Nietzsche's Legacy for Political Thought. Berlin: De Gruyter. pp. 299-318.
  8.  27
    What’s the Point of Voting Advice Applications? Competing Perspectives on Democracy and Citizenship.Thomas Fossen & Joel Anderson - 2014 - Electoral Studies 36:244-251.
    Voting advice applications (VAAs) are interactive online tools designed to assist voters by improving the basis on which they decide how to vote. Current VAAs typically aim to do so by matching users’ policy-preferences with the positions of parties or candidates. But this ‘matching model’ depends crucially on implicit, contestable presuppositions about the proper functioning of the electoral process and about the forms of competence required for good citizenship—presuppositions associated with the social choice conception of democracy. This paper aims to (...)
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  9. Voting Advice Applications and Political Theory: Citizenship, Participation and Representation.Joel Anderson & Thomas Fossen - 2014 - In Garzia Diego & Marschall Stefan (eds.), Matching Voters with Parties and Candidates: Voting Advice Applications in Comparative Perspective. Colchester, UK: ECPR Press. pp. 217-226.
    Voting Advice Applications (VAAs) are interactive online tools designed to assist voters by improving the basis on which they decide how to vote. In recent years, they have been widely adopted, but their design is the subject of ongoing and often heated criticism. Most of these debates focus on whether VAAs accurately measure the standpoints of political parties and the preferences of users and on whether they report valid results while avoiding political bias. It is generally assumed that if their (...)
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  10.  15
    Book Review: Agonistic Democracy: Constituent Power in the Era of Globalization, by Mark Wenman. [REVIEW]Thomas Fossen - 2018 - Political Theory 46 (1):160-164.
  11. Book Review: Legal Thought and Philosophy: What Legal Scholarship Is About, by Bert van Roermund. [REVIEW]Thomas Fossen - 2014 - Political Theory 42 (3):363-366.
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    Collective Action, Constituent Power, and Democracy: On Representation in Lindahl’s Philosophy of Law.Thomas Fossen - 2019 - Etica and Politica / Ethics and Politics 21 (3):383-390.
    This contribution develops two objections to Hans Lindahl’s legal philosophy, as exhibited in his Authority and the Globalization of Inclusion and Exclusion. First, his conception of constituent power overstates the necessity of violence in initiating collective action. Second, his rejection of the distinction between participatory and representative democracy on the grounds that participation is representation is misleading, and compromises our ability to differentiate qualitatively among various forms of (purportedly) democratic involvement. Both problems stem from the same root. They result from (...)
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  13. Constructivism and the Logic of Political Representation.Thomas Fossen - 2019 - American Political Science Review 113 (3):824-837.
    There are at least two politically salient senses of “representation”—acting-for-others and portraying-something-as-something. The difference is not just semantic but also logical: relations of representative agency are dyadic (x represents y), while portrayals are triadic (x represents y as z). I exploit this insight to disambiguate constructivism and to improve our theoretical vocabulary for analyzing political representation. I amend Saward’s claims-based approach on three points, introducing the “characterization” to correctly identify the elements of representational claims; explaining the “referent” in pragmatic, not (...)
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  14. Electoral Dioramas: On the Problem of Representation in Voting Advice Applications.Thomas Fossen & Bert van den Brink - 2015 - Representation 51 (3):341-358.
    Voting Advice Applications (VAAs) are online tools designed to help citizens decide how to vote. They typically offer their users a representation of what is at stake in an election by matching user preferences on issues with those of parties or candidates. While the use of VAAs has boomed in recent years in both established and new democracies, this new phenomenon in the electoral landscape has received little attention from political theorists. The current academic debate is focused on epistemic aspects (...)
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  15.  30
    Book Review: Freedom Beyond Sovereignty: Reconstructing Liberal Individualism, by Sharon Krause. [REVIEW]Thomas Fossen - 2017 - Contemporary Political Theory 16 (3):398-401.
  16. Judgment and Imagination in Habermas' Theory of Law.Thomas Fossen - 2015 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 41 (10):1069-1091.
    Recent debates in political theory display a renewed interest in the problem of judgment. This article critically examines the different senses of judgment that are at play in Jürgen Habermas’ theory of law. The article offers a new critical reading of Habermas’ account of the legitimacy of law, and a revisionary interpretation of the reconstructive approach to political theory that underpins it. Both of these are instrumental to an understanding of what is involved in judging the legitimacy of law that (...)
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  17. Modus Vivendi Beyond the Social Contract: Peace, Justice, and Survival in Realist Political Theory.Thomas Fossen - 2018 - In John Horton, Manon Westphal & Ulrich Willems (eds.), The Political Theory of Modus Vivendi. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Verlag. pp. 111-127.
    This essay examines the promise of the notion of modus vivendi for realist political theory. I interpret recent theories of modus vivendi as affirming the priority of peace over justice, and explore several ways of making sense of this idea. I proceed to identify two key problems for modus vivendi theory, so conceived. Normatively speaking, it remains unclear how this approach can sustain a realist critique of Rawlsian theorizing about justice while avoiding a Hobbesian endorsement of absolutism. And conceptually, the (...)
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  18.  88
    Political Legitimacy as a Problem of Judgment: What Distinguishes Moralist, Realist, and Pragmatist Approaches?Thomas Fossen - forthcoming - Social Theory and Practice.
    This paper examines the differences between moralist, realist, and pragmatist approaches to political legitimacy by articulating their largely implicit views of judgment. Three claims are advanced. First, the salient opposition among approaches to legitimacy is not between “moralism” and “realism.” Recent realist proposals for rethinking legitimacy share with moralist views a distinctive form, called “normativism”: a quest for knowledge of principles that solve the question of legitimacy. This assumes that judging legitimacy is a matter of applying such principles to a (...)
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  19. Political Legitimacy as an Existential Predicament.Thomas Fossen - forthcoming - Political Theory.
    This essay contributes to developing a new approach to political legitimacy by asking what is involved in judging the legitimacy of a regime from a practical point of view. It is focused on one aspect of this question: the role of identity in such judgment. I examine three ways of understanding the significance of identity for political legitimacy: the foundational, associative, and agonistic picture. Neither view, I claim, persuasively captures the dilemmas of judgment in the face of disagreement and uncertainty (...)
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