Theory and Practice. Heritage / Present and Future Perspectives
Venice International University, 3-5 May 2019
The aim of the conference is to discuss Republicanism in a broad, multidisciplinary and worldwide perspective, and to initiate a series of such meetings to be held in Venice every two years.
During recent decades, Republicanism has become a central concern in political theory and history. This body of thought emerged as the main alternative to Liberalism, when Marxism lost this role after the fall of the Berlin Wall. There is a renewed interest today, while searching for solutions to mounting populism and personalization of power; the issue of inequality and the crisis of democracies.
Republicanism - as a study of classical Athens and Rome and then Renaissance Florence, Venice and other self-governing units - has been branded as ‘a shared European heritage'. Its distinguishing feature has been to focus on the diverse political mechanisms to avert tyranny, on balancing power and attaining mixed government, and on ensuring forms of participation in the process of law-making, protecting from constraints and conceiving liberty as non-domination. Such practices have been key for experiments in democratic rule all over the world.
The conference wants to promote further theoretical and historical reflections on such experience, broadening the focus to non-European case-studies and perspectives, to late modern and contemporary times, opening to every possible discipline. Republicanism is not a dead body confined to the studies of the past: rather it is about rediscovering the past to offer novel solutions for the problems of today. The idea, hence, is to convert it into a frame in which to discuss and clarify contemporary issues and concerns and even, if possible, into a common background theory for existing empirical political practices, including eco-democracy, participary budgets, the defense of the commons and public space, communal practices and rights, and resistance to domination.
Keynote | Philip Pettit
The keynote speaker will be Philip Pettit, author of Republicanism. A Theory of Freedom and Government (Oxford University Press, 1997), a classic in the field. Scholars from all disciplines, from the Venice International University consortium and beyond, will be invited. The aim is to create a network of people interested in the project. The intent is to have biennial conferences in the the field and convert this event into a permanent workshop. A selection of the papers presented in the event will be published in a thematic issue of a major journal and/or in a book.
The main groups of themes of the conference will be:
1) Political theory and philosophy of Republicanism.
This is an area of contributions which is most conceptual. It has to do with meta-historical considerations. Its main concern would be to define what the republican tradition is all about, and what republican aims and forms of life are. If a coherent theory of republicanism is possible, then how does it differentiate itself from its rivals (including populism and liberalism)? Are there different regional or national models of the classical republican tradition? This section could include also issues like Feminism and Republicanism, and a discussion of Republican theory of private property/ownership and the commons.
2) The historical manifestations of Republicanism in ideas, movements, regimes and the arts.
This includes all the approaches which involve rigorous historicization and historical circumscribing: from Greek and Roman Republicanism to the Italian Republics in the Middle Ages and the Venetian, Florentine and Genoese polities and then on to the Dutch and English revolutions; free cities in medieval and early modern Europe – from the Hansa experience to Ragusa; from the American founding fathers and the generation before them to the French revolution and the French and Italian 19th century versions of Republicanism. The US context could be also crucial to understand how republicanism transformed itself into populism. Art forms of Republicanism fall in this area too; including Republican rituals in specific time and place; and manifestations of Republicanism in literature too. A major target is consider also the manifestation of Republican forms and values in Asia and other parts of the world in specific periods.
3) The study of contemporary political practices which are explicitly or implicitly republican and their future prospects.
This area could include both institutional and social practices from below. It could include the study of EU as manifestation of a republic in fieri. It could involve the study of eco-republicanism, participatory budgeting, citizens assemblies, participatory planning, welfare and work-places, forms of co-management, urban and other commons, movements for the defense of public water, of internet accessibility, of a public space.