- activist political theory
- philosophical history
Do you consider that your work belongs to the field of "political theory", and why? If so, what has drawn you to do political theory and to describe your work as belonging to the field?
Well, yes, my official job title is "Professor in Political Theory". But I am not too worried by how we use the label, or too concerned to defend what is distinctive to political theory vis-à-vis, say, legal theory or political philosophy—something that seems to preoccupy many of my colleagues. Labels are the result of convention, and we uphold them for ease of orientation. In addition to political theory, I am also drawn to philosophy, history, history of ideas, political science, economics, law, literature, and so on. I don't think it is especially productive to police the boundaries of disciplines, especially if that exercise risks coming at the expense of mutual learning. I think of political theory as engaging with all these fields while perhaps focusing more on the normative dimensions of politics, understood as the realm in which we make collective decisions about how we ought to live together, what collective authority we can rely on in creating joint norms, and how we can justify collective authority and the power it exercises. I am also interested in the repercussions that politics has on different groups of people, in different countries, at different historical periods, through the appeal to different ideologies, and oriented by different theories of what politics is about. I became interested in these questions in part because of my personal life story under different political systems (communism first, and then liberalism) both of which claimed to create institutions that realised human freedom, and both of which failed for different reasons…
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