The media hoop-la about Edward Snowden has obscured a less flashy yet more vital – and philosophically relevant – part of the story, namely the moral and political seriousness with which he acted to make the hitherto covert scope and scale of NSA surveillance public knowledge. Here I argue that we should interpret Snowden’s actions as meeting most of the demanding tests outlined in sophisticated political thinking about civil disobedience. Like Thoreau, Gandhi, King and countless other grass-roots activists, Snowden has (...) in fact articulated a powerful defense of why he was morally obligated to engage in politically motivated law-breaking. He has also undertaken impressive efforts to explain how his actions are distinguishable from ordinary criminality, and why they need not culminate in reckless lawlessness. In fact, his example can perhaps help us advance liberal and democratic ideas about civil disobedience. First, it highlights sound reasons why, pace the orthodox view, the acceptance of punishment by those engaging in civil disobedience should not be seen as a precondition of its legitimacy. Second, Snowden reminds us that ours is an era in which intensified globalization processes directly shape every feature of political existence. Defenders of civil disobedience need to update their reflections accordingly. (shrink)
Does a hard-headed realist approach to international politics necessarily involve scepticism towards progressive foreign policy initiatives and global reform? Should proponents of realism always be seen as morally complacent and politically combative? In this major reconsideration of the main figures of international political theory, Bill Scheuerman challenges conventional wisdom to reveal a neglected tradition of progressive realism with much to contribute to contemporary debates about international policy-making and world government. Far from seeing international reform as well-meaning but potentially irresponsible idealism, (...) progressive realists like E.H. Carr, John Herz, Hans J. Morgenthau, and Reinhold Niebuhr developed forward-looking ideas which offer an indispensable corrective to many presently influential views about global politics. Progressive realism, Scheuerman argues, offers a compelling and provocative vision of radical global change which - when properly interpreted, can help buttress current efforts to address the most pressing international issues. After recovering key subterranean strands in mid-twentieth century realism, Scheuerman underscores their relevance to contemporary international theory. Criticizing more recent realists for abandoning their tradition's best insights, he also demonstrates that reform-minded international theories - including versions of cosmopolitanism, constructivism, the English School, liberalism, and republicanism - could all benefit from taking Progressive Realism seriously. A major contribution both to the history of international relations and contemporary debates in international theory, The Realist Case for Global Reform concludes by considering how progressive realism informs the foreign policies of US President Barack Obama. (shrink)
This is the first full-length study in English of twentieth-century Germany's most influential authoritarian right-wing political theorist, Carl Schmitt, that focuses on the central place of his attack on the liberal rule of law. This is also the first book in any language to devote substantial attention to Schmitt's subterranean influence on some of the most important voices in political thought in the United States after 1945.
Scholarly and political interest in the controversial 20th Century German thinker Carl Schmitt has exploded in the last twenty years. This volume, focusing directly on Schmitt’s complex ideas about law, situates his views within broader debates about the rule of law and its fate, taking seriously his Nazi-era political and legal writings.
Bringing together normative political theory and recent empirical research on the state, the essay examines the challenges posed by the postnationalization and privatization of state authority to conventional accounts of civil disobedience. It does so by taking a careful look at John Rawls’ influential theory of civil disobedience along with its oftentimes neglected implicit assumptions about state and society, assumptions which turn out to have reproduced commonplace postwar statist and Westphalian ideas, including the optimistic view that the liberal democratic nation (...) state should prove up to the task of successfully regulating and perhaps civilizing capitalism. Postnationalization and privatization render those assumptions problematic. Consequently, the Rawlsian model that was partly constructed on them becomes problematic as well. However, some of its features transcend the obsolescent empirical assumptions on which it was implicitly built. Theorists of civil disobedience should not just deconstruct but also reconstruct the Rawlsian account of civil disobedience. Postnationalization and privatization may leave us with a bare-bones version of the Rawlsian original. Yet bare bones arguably remain better than no bones. (shrink)
The ideas of Hans Morgenthau dominated the study of international politics in the United States for many decades. He was the leading representative of Realist international relations theory in the last century and his work remains hugely influential in the field. In this engaging and accessible new study of his work, William E. Scheuerman provides a comprehensive and illuminating introduction to Morgenthau’s ideas, and assesses their significance for political theory and international politics. Scheuerman shows Morgenthau to be an uneasy Realist, (...) uncomfortable with conventional notions of Realism and sometimes unsure whether his reflections should be grouped under its rubric. He was a powerful critic of the existing state system and defended the idea of a world state. By highlighting Morgenthau’s engagement with the leading lights of European political and legal theory, Scheuerman argues that he developed a morally demanding political ethics and an astute diagnosis of the unprecedented perils posed by nuclear weaponry. Believing that the irrationalities of US foreign policy were rooted partly in domestic factors, he sympathized with demands for radical political and social change. Scheuerman illustrates that Morgenthau’s thinking has been widely misunderstood by both disciples and critics and that it offers many challenges to contemporary Realists who discount his normative aspirations. With the advent of the cosmopolitan goal of international reform, Morgenthau’s work serves up an unsettling mix of sympathy and hard-headed skepticism which remains crucially important in the development of the field. Lucidly and persuasively written, this book will be a valuable resource for students and scholars seeking to understand the continued importance of Morgenthau’s thinking. (shrink)
Can politically inspired property damage or destruction be justified? This question is hardly of mere academic interest, in light of recent political protests in Hong Kong, the USA, and elsewhere. Against some contemporary writers, I argue that placing property damage under an open-ended rubric of uncivil disobedience does not generate the necessary conceptual and normative distinctions. Drawing on Martin Luther King, Jr., I instead argue that property damage should not be equated or conflated with violence against persons; it also takes (...) a variety of quite different forms. Anyone hoping to pursue politically motivated property damage should meet preconditions whose stringency will be determined by a key question: Do their acts generate or at least plausibly relate to violence against persons? Our answer to the question provide some space for legitimate, politically motivated property damage. Although some theories of property resist the strict delineation of violence to persons from property damage I defend, they fail to capture the realities of property ownership in existing societies, including the USA and, as such, do not undermine my defense, under existing conditions, of limited property damage. (shrink)
By revisiting late-Weimar debates between Carl Schmitt and two left-wing critics, Otto Kirchheimer and Franz L Neumann, we can shed light on the surprising alliance of populist politics with key tenets of economic liberalism, an alliance that vividly manifests itself in the political figure and retrograde policies of Donald Trump. In the process, we can begin to fill a striking lacuna in recent scholarly literature on populism, namely its failure to pay proper attention to matters of political economy. We can (...) also perhaps begin to make sense of the roots of Trump’s assault on the US federal state: formal law and its organizational basis, modern bureaucracy, represent potential restraints on the alliance of populism with neoliberalism. (shrink)
Everywhere, life seems to be speeding up: we talk of “fast food” and “speed dating.” But what does the phenomenon of social acceleration really entail, and how new is it? While much has been written about our high-speed society in the popular media, serious academic analysis has lagged behind, and what literature there is comes more from Europe than from America. This collection of essays is a first step toward exposing readers on this side of the Atlantic to the importance (...) of this phenomenon and toward developing some preliminary conceptual categories for better understanding it. Among the major questions the volume addresses are these: Is acceleration occurring across all sectors of society and all dimensions of life, or is it affecting some more than others? Where is life not speeding up, and what results from this disparity? What are the fundamental causes of acceleration, as well as its consequences for everyday experience? How does it affect our political and legal institutions? How much speed can we tolerate? The volume tackles these questions in three sections. Part 1 offers a selection of astute early analyses of acceleration as experienced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Part 2 samples recent attempts at analyzing social acceleration, including translations of the work of leading European thinkers. Part 3 explores acceleration’s political implications. (shrink)
How does the experience of busyness impact democratic political life? My hunch is that those reading this essay might very well offer the following answer: busyness means that we relegate political activities to the bottom of a long and sometimes tedious laundry list of “things to get done.” In fact, many of us no longer even bother to include the basic activities of citizenship –getting informed about the issues, deliberating with our peers about matters of common concern, attending a political (...) meeting, or even voting —on the list in the first place. Like this author, many of you probably feel somewhat guilty about this as well, and thus try to compensate in some way or another… At worst, busyness generates political disinterest and apathy: many of our fellow citizens openly describe the most fundamental form of democratic participation, the vote, as “a waste of time.” At best, it seems to privilege an acceleration of political activity: we seek speedy and rapidly consummated types of involvement that do not unduly add to the enormous time pressures we already feel. Unfortunately, it remains unclear whether even such high-speed forms of citizen involvement are normatively satisfactory. Can liberal democracy flourish when a growing number of us avoid the responsibilities of citizenship altogether, while even those of us who try to remain politically involved insist that they be dealt with quickly and painlessly? In this essay, I hope at the very least to deepen our understanding of this quagmire. If I am not mistaken, it provides a useful starting point for examining one of the core challenges of contemporary political life: how can we make sure that busyness and citizenship coexist in a potentially fruitful, though by no means necessarily harmonious, relationship? (shrink)
In the pathbreaking essays collected here, Neumann and Kirchheimer demonstrate that the death of democracy and the rise of fascism during the first half of the twentieth century suggest crucial lessons for contemporary political and legal scholars. The volume includes writings on constitutionalism, political freedom, Nazism, sovereignty, and both Nazi and liberal law. Most important, the Frankfurt authors point to the continuing efficacy of the rule of law as an instrument for regulating and restraining state authority, as well as ominous (...) evidence of the rule of law's fragility in modern liberal democracy. (shrink)
The article recalls the triple-pronged normative structure of familiar liberal democratic theorists of civil disobedience, who argued that conscientious law-breaking should rest on political, moral and legal claims. In opposition to a certain tendency among recent theoreticians of civil disobedience to reduce this complex multi-pronged normativity to one or two prongs, I use the case of Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing to illustrate and defend the triple-pronged approach. In particular, any sound as well as effective model of civil disobedience needs to highlight (...) its legal underpinnings: conscientious law-breaking should be conceived as ultimately resting on – or expressing basic fidelity to – the law or legality. Only by taking this legal prong seriously can civil disobedients fully acknowledge the pluralistic character of modern societies. Against some radical critics, I argue that this legal approach does not in fact necessarily favor the legal or political status quo. Despite the many strengths of Kimberley Brownlee’s model of conscientious law-breaking, it misses the importance of this legal prong and sometimes rests on a problematic anti-legalism. Consequently, she offers an incomplete model of civil disobedience that cannot sufficiently explain why Snowden and others whose actions fall under the rubric of civil disobedience rely so extensively on legal arguments. (shrink)
Here, I have tried to show that a second look at the young Schmitt's legal thinking does bring clarity to the 'confused'� and 'polemical' debate about his theoretical and political legacy. Pace Schmitt, it helps demonstrate that Schmitt's embrace of German fascism was anticipated by key elements of his thinking about the dilemma of legal indeterminacy -- well before Hitler's rise to power.
Prominent critical theorists (including Jürgen Habermas) have embraced a radical democratic version of the popular notion of ‘global governance without government’, according to which postnational democratization can be achieved without establishing robust firms of postnational statehood. The sources of the argument in Hauke Brunkhorst’s recent theorizing are critically interrogated. Brunkhorst’s interpretation of the European Union as an emerging case of postnational democracy, his critique of traditional ideas of state sovereignty, and Kelsenian notions about the primacy of global law are criticized. (...) Robust democracy ‘beyond the nation-state’ will necessarily require the establishment of democratic postnational statehood. Keywords: global governance; global democracy; state building; monopoly on violence; cosmopolitanism; critical theory (Published: 10 March 2009) Citation: Ethics & Global Politics. DOI: 10.3402/egp.v2i1.1939. (shrink)
The piece responds to critics of Scheuerman’s END OF LAW: CARL SCHMIT IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY. Despite our disagreements, the book’s critics and I share the view that Schmitt speaks to our times, albeit in deeply troubling ways. Precisely how and why Schmitt remains pertinent, however, remains a matter of dispute. Inspired by the un-Schmittian hope that deliberation might buttress our common quest to overcome democracy’s present crisis, my response endeavours to identify those disagreements. Though I am unable to address (...) all of them satisfactorily, my aim is to advance our conversation. Most important, the critics and I disagree somewhat about how best to understand Schmitt’s relationship to contemporary authoritarian populism. (shrink)
The theory and practice of civil disobedience has once again taken on import, given recent events. Considering widespread dissatisfaction with normal political mechanisms, even in well-established liberal democracies, civil disobedience remains hugely important, as a growing number of individuals and groups pursue political action. 'Digital disobedients', Black Lives Matter protestors, Extinction Rebellion climate change activists, Hong Kong activists resisting the PRC's authoritarian clampdown…all have practiced civil disobedience. In this Companion, an interdisciplinary group of scholars reconsiders civil disobedience from many perspectives. (...) Whether or not civil disobedience works, and what is at stake when protestors describe their acts as civil disobedience, is systematically examined, as are the legacies and impact of Henry Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. (shrink)
Contemporary "flexible capitalism" requires novel forms of legal regulation. In this vein, Joshua Cohen, Michael Dorf, Archon Fung, and Charles Sabel have developed a provocative set of proposals for a new mode of regulatory law, what they describe as "democratic experimentalism" or, alternately, "directly deliberative polyarchy." Their proposal are criticized: they not only fail to take traditional liberal democratic rule of law virtues seriously enough, but it remains unclear whether they can effectively tame and humanize capitalism. Instead, some evidence suggests (...) that their proposals simply amount to a normatively problematic synchronization of the legal system with contemporary high-speed capitalism. (shrink)