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Presentation: Durham Philosophy Society Undergraduate Conference 2017

If you find yourself in the North-East of England this weekend at a loose end, then you should head along to the Durham Philosophy Society Undergraduate Conference. I’m delighted to be able to share that I’ll be presenting my forthcoming paper, ‘Orwellian Nationalism as the Liberal Democratic Convention,’ at the conference. The paper will be published in a special proceeding of the undergraduate journal Critique shortly. The event promises to be a fantastic two-day exploration of Political Society and Morality, Truth and Logic, featuring speakers from all over the U.K. For more details, see the event page.

Briefly, the paper I will be defending responds to Professor Jiwei Ci (of The University of Hong Kong) and his work on liberal democratic agnostic egalitarianism. It argues that Orwellian nationalism, with capitalism subordinated to be one nationalism amongst many, holds greater explanatory power than capitalism alone as a convention of liberal democratic processes. Once published, I will include a link to full article. The abstract is included below:

Within Agnostic Egalitarianism: Lectures on Liberal Democracy, Jiwei Ci reveals the egalitarian’s implicit appeal to fairness as a procedure for revealing nature to be obscuring a concealed capitalist form of the good (2017:5). Within a justification of what natural features are merit worthy, and so deserving of societal reward, is an agnostically motivated deference to fair procedure of discovery. A procedure’s fairness cannot be ascertained internally though, so it must be judged against some (arbitrary) normative convention: a form of the good. That convention, for liberal democracy, is capitalism. Hence, the appeal to fairness collapses into valorising capitalism. In implicitly holding a distinctly capitalist form of the good, liberal democracy necessitates the existence of fair inequality at the expense of true equality of outcomes. Whilst I agree that this characterisation captures most modern liberal democratic thought, I argue that it does not fully account for the entirety of liberal democratic reality. With one small structural alteration, however, the theory gains far greater explanatory power, lessening the gap between theory and practice that Ci recognises and allowing the theory to accommodate many more of the modern West’s idiosyncrasies. Importing George Orwell’s notion of ‘broad-Nationalism’ in capitalism’s place will achieve this, preserving capitalism as one nationalism, indeed the dominant nationalism, amongst many nationalistic conventions. To properly explicate this, in the first section I briefly reproduce Ci’s underlying theory, detailing how capitalism is justified as the overarching ‘natural’ convention that fairness appeals to before highlighting, in section two, where capitalism in this picture falls short in terms of explanatory power. In the final part, I then reconstruct Orwell’s broad-nationalism in its place, displacing capitalism to be one (dominant) aspect of nationalism amongst others. Understanding capitalists as a subset of nationalists, I will conclude by showing how this addition can explain more about modern society than a conception of capitalism alone.

It has truly been a pleasure working with Professor Ci during my year abroad. My thanks to him for his wonderful research and instruction this past year. I hope to continue to explore the field of Political Theory at postgraduate level and can only thank him for bringing the area so vividly to life.

I look forward to what is sure to be a day of fruitful debate and philosophising – and hope to see you there this weekend!