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About the Talk

Sovereign Rule and the Still-Birth of Freedom: Why a Consociational Republic May Be Preferable to a Sovereign State

In this paper, I will present in summary form the kernel of a thesis of a book I am currently drafting, entitled Sovereign Rule and the Still-Birth of Freedom: A Preface to Consociational Republicanism. Many modern political theorists, from Hobbes to Rawls, fail to grasp the intimate dependence of human freedom on the complex organization and culture of a wide range of intersecting, parallel, and nested social groups. This theoretical blindspot, driven by a reductively individualist social ontology and a greatly inflated conception of State sovereignty, is deeply regrettable as it tends to legitimate the power of centralized States and damage the capacity of rival social groups to pursue local and specialized forms of freedom and flourishing unavailable in a society dominated by the homogenizing normative order of the State.   

Once we reject individualistic social ontologies along with the modern doctrines of political sovereignty that they support, we are able to make a fresh start and more adequately investigate what sort of institutional and cultural conditions are likely to support what I call the “freedom to flourish,” namely, citizens’ access to opportunities for rational self-government in the service of personal and group flourishing. Starting out from a positive conception of freedom as rational self-direction in the service of the good, I argue that a certain version of confederal governance, informed by republican values of self-government and sensitive to the necessity for a finely balanced social and political ecology, appears to offer a more realistic and attractive scaffolding for human freedom than the modern sovereign state, whether in its more consolidated (e.g. Ireland, France) or federated forms (e.g. United States, Germany).

About the Speaker:

David Thunder is a researcher and lecturer in political and social philosophy at the Institute for Culture and Society, University of Navarra. Prior to his appointment to the University of Navarra, he held several research and teaching positions in the United States, including visiting positions at Bucknell and Villanova Universities, and a stint as Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Princeton University’s James Madison Program. David earned his BA and MA in philosophy at University College Dublin, and his Ph.D. in political science at the University of Notre Dame. He is currently preparing two book manuscripts, tentatively entitled May I Love My Country? In Search of a Defensible Patriotism; and Sovereign Rule and the Still-Birth of Freedom: A Preface to Confederal Republicanism. 

David’s academic writings include Citizenship and the Pursuit of the Worthy Life (Cambridge University Press, 2014), The Ethics of Citizenship in the 21st Century (edited volume, Springer, 2017), and numerous articles in international peer-reviewed journals such as the American Journal of Political SciencePolitical TheoryThe Journal of Social Philosophy, and the Journal of Business Ethics. His writings cover a wide range of questions including the pros and cons of individualism, the ethics of financial trading, the complicity of citizens in collective injustice, the concept of moral impartiality, and the scope of duties of beneficence. He writes occasionally for The Irish Times and RTE’s Brainstorm page. For more information, see www.davidthunder.com