Brian Bird: Freedom of Conscience in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Canada 150 Miniseries)

Today we continue our Canada 150 miniseries with a look at perhaps the most significant piece of Canadian legislation since Confederation: the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section two of the Charter lists what are called the “fundamental freedoms,” including for example freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom of expression and – importantly for our purposes – freedom of conscience. Many constitutional disputes in Canadian jurisprudence have tested the limits of freedom of religion. But as Canada becomes more and more secularized, the focus may well shift to freedom of conscience, which would thereby rise to greater prominence in Canadian politics.

In this installment of The Provocateur I talk to Brian Bird, a DCL student in the Faculty of Law at McGill University, to explore the history and theory of freedom of conscience, which he dubs “the forgotten freedom.” We discuss what freedom of conscience is and how it can be distinguished from freedom of religion; the nature of freedom of conscience before and after the Charter came into effect; the limits of freedom of conscience; and the future of “the forgotten freedom” in Canadian society.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Brownlee, K. (2012) Conscience and Conviction: The Case for Civil Disobedience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Waldron, M. A. (2013) Free to Believe: Rethinking Conscience and Freedom of Religion in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Vischer, R. K. (2010) Conscience and the Common Good: Reclaiming the Space Between Person and State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Loubna El Amine: Hierarchy, Status and Order in Classical Confucian Political Thought

China remains one of the world’s oldest, richest and most enduring civilisations, stretching back thousands of years. Among its many contributions to the world history of ideas is the Confucian school of thought, which could arguably be said to be the cornerstone of Chinese culture. Even as Mao strenuously repudiated Confucian ideals in the 20th century, the legacies of Confucius and his followers can still be found in Chinese society today: for example, the emphasis on filial piety, harmony and social stability. Confucianism has even been claimed to be the bedrock of a ‘pan-Asian’ identity, as part of the debate on Asian values. These currents might suggest that if we want to understand the Chinese mindset both then and now, we should try to examine Confucianism more closely.

This week on The Provocateur I talk to Loubna El Amine, assistant professor of political science at Northwestern University, to discuss her take on Classical Confucian political thought. We start by thinking about why Confucianism matters in the context of studying non-Western thought, before going on to discuss more specifically the work of Confucius, Mencius and Xunzi. Then we talk about Loubna’s radical new interpretation of Confucianism, which stresses the importance of hierarchy, status and order in the Confucian worldview, as opposed to the standard account which argues for the centrality of virtue. We also touch on the complexities of defining Confucianism and what it means to Chinese society today.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Primary texts:

Confucius (1979) The Analects, translated by D. C. Lau. London: Penguin.

——— (2003) Confucius: Analects with Selections from Traditional Commentaries. Translated by Edward Slingerland. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Ivanhoe, Philip and Bryan Van Norden (eds.) (2005) Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, second edition. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Mencius (1970) Mencius. Translated by D. C. Lau. London: Penguin.

——— (2008) Mengzi: With Selections from Traditional Commentaries. Translated by Bryan Van Norden. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Xunzi (1988-1994) Xunzi: A Translation and Study of the Complete Works, 3 vols. Translated by John Knoblock. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

——— (2014) Xunzi: The Complete Text. Translated by Eric Hutton. Princeton University Press.

Secondary readings:

Angle, Stephen C. (2017) “Social and Political Thought in Chinese Philosophy”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2017/entries/chinese-social-political/>.

Brindley, Erica (2009) “‘Why Use an Ox-Cleaver to Carve a Chicken?’ The Sociology of the Junzi Ideal in the Lunyu.” Philosophy East and West 59 (1): 47–70.

Hsiao, Kung-Chuan (1979) History of Chinese Political Thought. Translated by Frederick Mote. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Fingarette, Herbert (1972) Confucius: The Secular as Sacred. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Pines, Yuri (2009) Envisioning Eternal Empire: Chinese Political Thought of the Warring States Era. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Salkever, Stephen G and Michael Nylan (1994) “Comparative Political Philosophy and Liberal Education: “Looking for Friends in History,” Political Science and Politics 27:2, pp. 238-247.

Schwartz, Benjamin (1985) The World of Thought in Ancient China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Chris Henry: Truth and the Politics of Resistance

In our post-truth political climate, it seems as though the concept of ontological truth(s) has been cast aside in favour of a sceptical politics that dabbles in ‘alternative facts’. Can truth be rescued from the abyss? And is the current trend towards poststructuralism responsible for creating the abyss in the first place? If so, does poststructuralism have the resources to overcome this problem? According to Chris Henry, the answer can be found in a new micropolitics that offers a space for resistance out of which new political possibilities can arise.

In this week’s episode of The Provocateur, I debate these issues with Chris, who is an associate lecturer at the University of Kent. We explore what might be wrong with a contemporary politics that is interested in authoritative truth claims about the world, before moving on to discuss the idea of a politics not grounded in the representation of truth claims and the implications for how we should act in the contemporary political landscape.

You can listen to part one of the podcast here: 

Part two is here: 

Further Reading:

On resistance:

Badiou, A. (2005) Metapolitics. London and New York: Verso.

Buchanan, I. (2008) ‘Power Theory and Praxis’, in I. Buchanan and N. Thoburn (eds.) Deleuze and Politics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Deleuze, G. (2008 [1964]) Proust and Signs. London and New York: Continuum.

Diefenbach, K. et al. (eds.) (2013) Encountering Althusser: Politics and Materialism in Contemporary Radical Thought. London: Bloomsbury.

Foucault, M. and G. Deleuze (1980) Intellectuals and Power: A Conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze. Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews. M. Foucault and D. F. Bouchard. Ithaca and London, Cornell University Press.

Svirsky, M. (2010) “Defining Activism”, Deleuze Studies 4(supplement), pp. 163-182.

On metaphysics and ontology:

Althusser, L. (1976) Essays in Self-Criticism. London and Paris: NLB. esp. “Reply to John Lewis.”

Althusser, L. and F. Matheron (2003) ‘Three Notes on the Theory of Discourses’, in The Humanist Controversy and Other Writings (1966-67). London and New York: Verso.

Badiou, A. (2011) Being and Event. London: Continuum.

Brassier, R. (2005) ‘Badiou’s Materialist Epistemology of Mathematics’, Angelaki 10(2): 135-150.

Bryant, L. R., et al. (2011). The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, re.press.

Critchley, S. (2008) Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of commitment, politics of resistance. London and Brooklyn: Verso.

Deleuze, G. (2011 [1994]). Difference and Repetition. London and New York, Continuum.

Hallward, P. (2003). Badiou: A Subject to Truth. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.

Henry, C. (2016). ‘On Truth and Instrumentalisation’, London Journal of Critical Thought (1), pp. 5-15.

Meillassoux, Q. (2008) After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. London and New York: Continuum.

Benjamin Boudou: Hospitality, Immigration and the Dilemma of Frontiers

Immigration seems to be on the minds of many liberal governments in a post-Brexit and post-Trump world. The European Union is still grappling with the consequences of the Mediterranean refugee crisis; France is riven between adhering to laicité on the one hand and respecting the wishes of Muslim minorities on the other; Australia is facing its own refugee dilemma, particularly in the light of the abuses documented at the Australia-run detention centre in Papua New Guinea; and of course anxieties abound in the United States regarding the status of Mexican immigrants. How liberal democracies should respond to the (perceived) threat of immigration is a question that has vexed moral and political philosophers in recent decades, in response to a planet increasingly united by globalisation and yet also increasingly fractured by the realities of globalisation.

This week on The Provocateur, I talk about immigration with Benjamin Boudou, who is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity and editor-in-chief of Raisons politiques, the premier political theory journal in France. We explore his current research which aims to reinvigorate the concept of hospitality in political theory, specifically applying it to the contexts of immigration and frontiers. We also discuss briefly the current situations in Britain and France, as well as how to resolve the divide between analytic and continental approaches to political philosophy.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Benhabib, S. (2004) The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents and Citizens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Carens, J. (2013) The Ethics of Immigration. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Derrida, J. (2000) Of Hospitality. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Fine, S. and L. Ypi (eds.) (2016) Migration in Political Theory: The Ethics of Movement and Membership. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Goodin, R. (2007) ‘Enfranchising all affected interests and its alternatives’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 35, pp. 40-68.

Kukathas, C. (2012) ‘Why open borders?’ Ethical Perspectives 19(4), pp. 649-675.

Miller, D. (2016) Strangers in Our Midst: The Political Philosophy of Immigration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Benjamin Studebaker: Indigenous Peoples, the State and Citizenship

Amid all the fallout from Donald Trump’s highly controversial restrictions on immigrants from several majority Muslim countries, another significant announcement from the White House has largely escaped media attention: the decision to restart construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline. This proposal triggered a wave of protests in the latter half of 2016, particularly around the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Campaigners argued that the pipeline represented a threat to the sovereignty of the indigenous peoples living on the reservation, particularly in terms of the environmental hazards that such a pipeline could unleash. However, what is often missing from the popular conversation on Aboriginal sovereignty movements is an understanding of the way in which the state has constructed a certain conception of citizenship that enables indigenous peoples to value their sovereignty over arguably more meaningful goods, such as socioeconomic opportunities.

In today’s episode of The Provocateur, I talk to Benjamin Studebaker, a doctoral candidate in politics at the University of Cambridge, about the relationship between indigenous peoples, the state and citizenship. We develop some of the themes from his blog post discussing the issue of Native American sovereignty and link them to broader issues to do with the ways in which states legitimate themselves by allowing different citizens to want different values and the resultant implications for indigenous policy when these values conflict. Ben has also kindly provided some outline notes, which I reproduce below.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Outline Notes:

I. Many different views of citizenship—of what it is that citizens share in common that makes them citizens (liberalism, republicanism, civic nationalism, ethnic nationalism, identitarianism, pluralism vs. Pluralism). All of these views tend to presume that people have things that they want to get out of citizenship and they build states for these purposes—people use the state to get power and use that power to construct a kind of citizenship which reflects their values and beliefs.

II. But people are not free in this way—their identity and beliefs are not individualistically chosen, they are instead acquired through interaction with material and social conditions. Who is ultimately responsible for those conditions? The sovereign entity—the state.

III. States need to legitimate themselves to secure stability. They will be recognized as legitimate when citizens want the things that states provide. So successful states will tend to create citizens whose desires and expectations match the state’s capabilities.

IV. In cases of inequality, states must be pluralist to some degree—they must create different kinds of citizens whose desires and expectations can be met in different and unequal ways. Pluralism also has other adaptive advantages—if all citizens want the same thing, it is easier to satisfy them, but to fail one citizen is to fail all of them, which means that when states do fail the failure is total and often fatal. In a pluralist society, states can satisfy enough people enough of the time by constantly cobbling together different coalitions of satisfied groups. However, this pluralism allows some groups to be persistently neglected by the state—especially anti-pluralists.

V. With respect to indigenous people, the state attempts to pacify them by socializing them to want what they get. So if Native Americans are going to live on separate reservations with some level of autonomy (but under grossly unequal socioeconomic conditions), they must be made to value the kinds of goods they can have—cultural purity and autonomy, not material prosperity. But this autonomy and culture are mirages—the state created them to see these constructs as valuable and then supplied them with conditions under which they can be realized. In the meantime, it creates other citizens with entirely different values which it enables them to actualize under entirely different conditions.

Further Reading:

Beiner, R. (ed.) (1994) Theorizing Citizenship. New York: SUNY Press.

Lukes, S. (1974) Power: A Radical View. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Parfit, D. (2011) On What Matters, 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rawls, J. (1993) Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press.

Strawson, G. (2011) Freedom and Belief. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jamie Pow: Democracy Without Politicians? Citizen-Centred Democratic Solutions in Northern Ireland

If you’ve been following the news in Northern Ireland lately you might have noticed the serious political crisis emerging there, which has led to the resignation of the Deputy First Minister and the de facto resignation of the First Minister. Ostensibly the cause is a row over renewable energy incentives, but it points to deeper problems in Stormont’s power-sharing arrangement that threaten to undermine the legitimacy of Northern Irish institutions in the long term.

Today on The Provocateur I talk to Jamie Pow, who is a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast, about his arguably radical solution to Northern Ireland’s institutional difficulties: an assembly of randomly-shared citizens that would deliberate on contentious legislative matters. We discuss the experience of other places where citizens’ assemblies have been tried, the particular challenges faced by the Northern Irish context and future directions for his research.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Brennan, J. (2011) ‘The Right to a Competent Electorate’, The Philosophical Quarterly 61(245), pp. 700-724.

_____ (2012) The Ethics of Voting. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Fishkin, J. S. (2009) When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McCrudden, C. et al. (2016) ‘Why Northern Ireland’s Institutions Need Stability’, Government and Opposition 51(1), pp. 30-58.

McEvoy, J. and B. O’Leary (eds.) (2013) Power-Sharing in Deeply Divided Places. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Norris, P. (2011) Democratic Deficit: Critical Citizens Revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

van Reybrouck, D. (2016) Against Elections: The Case for Democracy, trans. Liz Waters. London: Penguin Random House.