Political Theory and Modus Vivendi

In recent years there has been an increasing interest among political theorists in the idea of a modus vivendi as a way of addressing problems presented by pluralism or deep diversity, or as a way of thinking about how best to understand political settlements arising out of them. This interest is partly a result of dissatisfaction with dominant liberal approaches, although sometimes modus vivendi is interpreted as a distinctive form of liberalism and sometimes as an alternative to liberalism. A second principal source of interest in modus is the recent ‘realist turn’ in political theory, generated by a dissatisfaction with ‘ideal theory’ more generally, and a desire to root political theory more in political life. However, modus vivendi remains an under-theorised idea. For instance, it is not yet clear how the different sources of interest in modus vivendi translate into specifications of modus vivendi as a political concept or theory.

This panel seeks to explore some of the questions that any plausible account modus vivendi needs to address. What are the merits and the limitations of a political theory of modus vivendi? How might it be interpreted and developed? What are the specific challenges faced in articulating it in a convincing form? Possible topics include the relationship between modus vivendi and varieties of liberalism, what the institutional implications of modus vivendi might be, and how it relates to other seminal issues and concepts in political theory, such as legitimacy, toleration, justice, rights, balance of power, social contract, etc. Other than an interest in modus vivendi, there are no restrictions on topic, approach or of course assessment of its merits or lack of them. However, we particularly encourage contributions that address aspects of modus vivendi that have been neglected or even overlooked so far, open up new perspectives, or consider established interpretations and arguments from a different angle.

Convenors: Manon Westphal (University of Münster) and John Horton (Keele University)