BRINGING BACK NONVIOLENCE IN POLITICAL THEORY

ABSTRACT: Nonviolence is slowly becoming a key concept in politics. This term has been associated with important political actors and dramatic events around the world. Increasingly, persons such as San Suu Kyi, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. have become models of life and especially of action. At the same time, nonviolent struggles (such as the strife of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong) and even revolutions (such as the Orange Revolution in Ukraine) are becoming more and more frequent, complex and effective. 

Nevertheless, the concept of nonviolence is still undertheorized. We witnessed a timid interest from important political theorists in the last decade, but a real and widespread debate on the topic is still missing. For instance, nonviolence is still too frequently confused with simple absence of violence, or reduced to pacifism. In addition, the complexity of the many nonviolent revolutions seems to overcome the classical and still dominant division between pragmatic and principled nonviolence. There is the perception that this concept is much more than a principle of love or a technique short of physical violence, but we lack real alternative definitions.

The aim of the workshop is to discuss the different approaches to nonviolence, and to appraise the significance of this concept in political thought. Paper presentations engaging with the following topics and questions are particularly welcome, but proposals that extend beyond these themes will also be considered:

  • Is nonviolence an eternal concern of human society, or it is a very recent and innovative idea? What does the Christian tradition of nonviolence has in common with for instance Jainism or Islam?
  • How did thinkers understand and interpret nonviolence in different traditions? Is it possible to find different schools of thought within the rising field of ‘nonviolent studies’?
  • What is the relation between nonviolence and key concepts of western political philosophy, such as justice and equality?
  • What do the many nonviolent revolutions around the world tell us about the concept of nonviolence? Can we find new definitions of this term?
  • What are the limits of the concept of nonviolence? For instance, is destruction of private property compatible with it? Can nonviolence be used to impose a certain creed or wage war?
 
If you wish to present a paper at this workshop please send a title and abstract (400 words) on or before 1st June 2016 torb361@exeter.ac.uk