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CPP Colloquim with Catherine Lu: "Two concepts of alienation"

Thursday 6 June 2019
CPP Colloquia 2018-2019
P.J. Veth
Nonnensteeg 1-3
2311 VJ Leiden

Two concepts of alienation


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

Catherine Lu



In my book, Justice and Reconciliation in World Politics, when examining the case of Indigenous People’s alienation in a settler colonial domestic and global order, I distinguished between interactional, structural, and existential forms of alienation. Existential alienation refers to the loss of an agent’s appropriative powers that is precipitated by the collapse of social frames of meaning that structure agents’ conceptions and pursuit of authentic and meaningful forms of flourishing. How is this form of alienation related to structural injustice? Why do I think that addressing it is a task of reconciliation, rather than of structural justice? I argue in this paper that there are two concepts of alienation: one concept of alienation is related to the loss of moral autonomy (Rainer Forst), and another is related to the loss of appropriative agency or subjective freedom (Rahel Jaeggi). Rainer Forst has clearly articulated the first form, building on Rousseau, Kant and Marx, and labelled it ‘noumenal alienation.’ The second form, based on Rahel Jaeggi, can be termed ‘ethical alienation’. I argue that addressing interactional, structural, and existential alienation involves addressing both these two concepts of alienation. The redress of noumenal alienation is a requirement of structural justice. Achieving nonalienation in ethical terms, however, is a task of reconciliation understood as a regulative political ideal, in the sense that a social order is better from a normative point of view if the agents who participate in it are more reconciled or nonalienated (in the ethical sense) from themselves, each other, and the social order.


Catherine Lu is Professor of Political Science at McGill University, and Coordinator of the Research Group on Global Justice of the Yan P. Lin Centre. She received her PhD in 2000 from the University of Toronto. Her research and teaching interests intersect political theory and international relations, focusing on critical and normative studies of humanitarianism and intervention in world politics; theories and practices of justice and reconciliation; colonialism and structural injustice; and cosmopolitanism, global justice, and the world state. She is the author of Justice and Reconciliation in World Politics (Cambridge University Press, 2017), and Just and Unjust Interventions in World Politics: Public and Private (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). In 2018, she was awarded the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She has received research fellowships from the School of Philosophy, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University (2013), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2010-11), and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University (2004-5). Lu serves on the editorial boards of The Journal of Political Philosophy, The Journal of International Political Theory, and Politics, Groups, and Identities. During the month of June 2019, Professor Catherine Lu will be a Research Fellow at the Research Center for Material Culture.

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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