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Political theory beyond the state



Contemporary political philosophy is centrally concerned with the Westphalian-Weberian state. For instance, the large number and variety of theories of justice prevalent in the discipline often are theories about what the state ought to do or indeed not to do. This is as true of theories aspiring to expand the powers of the state as it is of those aspiring to restrict it. But there is more to life – indeed more to political life – than the state. Several considerations indicate the need to broaden the focus of political philosophy. First, often the state is the tail wagging the dog of civil society. The 20th century welfare state, for instance, built on and used as its institutional blueprints the social welfare institutions created by 19th century trade unions and friendly societies. Second, the normative priority given to the state, even liberal or democratic states, might be over-rated. The oft-sidelined pluralist tradition of political theory emphasises how non-state associations can be an independent source of legitimate authority able to over-ride the claims of states. Third, various traditions of social theory, from Hayekian and Ostromian notions of polycentric order to anarchist thought, have emphasised the emergent nature of social order. To the extent that such ideas are valid, they suggest the over-riding focus on the centralised state might be based on a misconception of how order actually arises. This panel, then, attempts to conceptualise political theory beyond the state.We welcome submissions on these and related themes:

  • The pluralist tradition in political theory, such as the British pluralist tradition of G.D.H. Cole, J.N. Figgis, H.J. Laski and Paul Hirst or the contemporary work of Jacob Levy or Victor Muniz-Fraticelli.Distributivist, decentralist and localised approaches to political philosophy.Hayekian, Ostromian and Anarchist traditions of emergent order and their implications for normative political philosophy.
  • Social justice through non-state institutional mechanisms e.g. trade unions, markets, guilds and other self-governing associations or non-state social movements such as effective altruism.The role of social norms in political and moral life.The political role of corporations and universities and other civil society organisations.Contemporary anarchist thought.