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CPP Colloquium with Frank Chouraqui: The paradox of power

Thursday 19 October 2017
CPP Colloquia 2017-2018
P.J. Veth
Nonnensteeg 1-3
2311 VJ Leiden

The Center for Political Philosophy in Leiden is pleased to announce a talk by

Frank Chouraqui (Leiden) "The paradox of power"


Power is usually distinguished from mere force by its reliance on consent. This consent can take one of two forms: the first is the recognition of the legitimacy of the authority’s power, and the other is some sort of willful submission. Power structures that function on the latter principle constitute the focus of the realist tradition in political philosophy. Against theories of voluntary slavery and others, I argue that in such cases, power relies on a paradox: it is the recognition of power that makes it powerful. The subject must at once recognize and institute the power of the authority. Even more, the subject must institute the power of the authority on the basis of her own recognition of said power.

I then seek to address the ways in which this paradox is at all operative: how can real powers really sustain themselves on such a paradox? I propose a descriptive sketch of the experience of obedience on the part of the obeying subject which yields two remarks: Firstly, obedience (at least sometimes) precedes any truth-belief (either belief about the existing power or about the legitimacy of the authority in question). Secondly, in such cases, obedience is a response to the authority’s self-presentation: authorities seek to present themselves as powerful in order to gain the consent of their subjects (and therefore become effectively powerful). I then draw a few consequences of this account of obedience for the question of political representation and propaganda, and surrounding issues.

I conclude by addressing a possible objection levelled at realism from the perspective of legitimacy: it looks like legitimate regimes do not fall into this paradox, and therefore that regimes that are committed to that paradox are mere anomalies. A response to this challenge allows us to recognize that the paradoxical structure uncovered is a fundamental and universal trait of all power-relations.

About Frank Chouraqui

Frank Chouraqui is an assistant professor in Contemporary Continental Philosophy at the institute for Philosophy at Leiden University. He obtained his PhD from Warwick University in 2010. He is the author of Ambiguity and the Absolute, Nietzsche and Merleau-Ponty on the Question of Truth (Fordham UP, 2013). He is the editor and translator of the critical edition of Auguste Blanqui’s Eternity by The Stars (Contra Mundum press, 2015) and the co-editor (With Emmanuel Alloa and Rajiv Kaushik) of Merleau-Ponty and Contemporary Philosophy: Chiasms, Chasms, and Legacies, forthcoming with SUNY Press. His recent research focuses on the influence of epistemologies and worldviews on power relations, and the epistemology of fanaticism. His work has appeared in a number of collections and journals including Studia Phaenomenologica, Nietzsche Studien, Research in Phenomenology, Les Temps Modernes and the Journal of the History of Ideas.  


About the Center for Political Philosophy (CPP) Colloquia Series

The CPP is a collaboration between the Institute for Philosophy and the Institute for Political Science at Leiden University. Attendance of the Colloquia is free and there is no need to register. See CPP for more information. For further questions please contact dr. Dorota Mokrosinska at d.m.mokrosinska@phil.leidenuniv.nl

All are welcome!

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