STUDIES IN SOCIAL AND POLITICAL THOUGHT: CONFERENCE 2013
Studies in Social and Political Thought Annual Conference 2013: Debt and Obligation.
Keynote Speakers: Keith Ansell-Pearson, Costas Lapavitsas
University of Sussex, June 20-21
The global economic crisis has brought the question of debt sharply into focus. From the indebtedness of the individual by means of easy credit, to the universalisation of private debt in financial instruments and the financial stranglehold of whole countries by sovereign debt, debt and the obligation that comes with it dominate the structure of contemporary society and economy. Austerity programmes are implemented by governments around the world, often with disastrous social consequences and without popular support. The narratives of “living within one’s means” and “giving back what is owed” are dominant among the international organisations and power centres that promote these austere solutions. Even democratic legitimation is superseded by the obligation of paying one’s debts, to the extent that technocratic governments replace democratically elected ones for fulfilling that purpose. A “hard but fair” solution is advanced by many in government and elsewhere, where debt reduction seems to be given an almost moral quality, and as such connected to a moral obligation and duty.
The old definition of justice as “telling the truth and giving back what is owed” as given by Cephalus in Plato’s Republic, seems, therefore, to have prevailed–at least in part. For the truthfulness of this justice is hidden, since as Cephalus admits, it is the wealthy that are the major beneficiaries of this type of justice, considering they already have the means of living by it. On the other hand, the concepts of debt and obligation are the cornerstones of many ethical theories and philosophies, from Kant’s categorical imperative and deontological ethics in general to Nietzsche’s genealogical critique of morality. Moreover, a great part of political philosophy and theory is preoccupied with the question of the obligation to the state and what gives it legitimacy. But how are these ethical and political issues put into practice? Depending on one’s point of view there can be either a moral obligation that supports the state’s legitimacy, or one that directly opposes it. In particular, should one follow the moral narrative of paying one’s debts under any circumstances or are there instances where one has an obligation to resist debts placed upon them? Is there such a thing as a just debt? These questions, it could be claimed, have not been given enough critical attention, and theoretical discourse has passed them by.
We are, therefore, seeking papers that will engage theoretically with the concepts of debt and obligation, and explore their relationship with the social, economic, or political spheres. In keeping with the interdisciplinary ethos of SSPT we will accept papers from all related disciplines including politics, sociology, history, political economy, and philosophy. We will also accept papers that do not deal exclusively with the main topic of the conference but are engaged with issues in the general area of social and political thought.
Possible theoretical frameworks and topics include, but are not limited to:
Moral Obligation / Political Obligation / Debt from an Economic, Sociological, Historical or Philosophical Perspective / Crisis & Debt / Deontological Ethics / Kantian Ethics and Political Theory / Hegel / Contract Theory / Recognition & Self-Recognition / Nietzsche, Morality, Guilt and “Bad Conscience” / Marxism & Marxisms / Theories of Biopolitics / Instrumental Reason / Critical Theory / Post-Colonialism / Discourse and Democratic Theory / Structuralism and Post-Structuralism / Soft and Hard Power / Hegemony / World-Systems / Sovereignty / Legality and Legitimacy
Please send abstracts of 350 words to email@example.com by Sunday, 5th May 2013.
These should be formatted for blind review, including a cover sheet with name, contact details, institutional affiliation, and paper title. Successful applicants will be notified by 12th May 2013. Finally, all selected papers will be considered for publication in a future issue of SSPT.
A fee of 5 pounds will be applicable, and all delegates will receive a free copy of SSPT.
A PDF version of this CfP is available here.
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