Hesperus is Bosphorus

A group blog by philosophers in and from Turkey

Revised Program and call for commentators: Resistance, Disobedience and Coercion, 21-22 May, Bilkent

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Dear all

Our program for the workshop on Resistance, Disobedience and Coercion is now final. We are looking for commentators for papers. If you are planning to be in Ankara on 21 or 22 May, and would be interested in taking part, please get in touch with Lars Vinx (vinx@bilkent.edu.tr), or myself (berges@bilkent.edu.tr) and we will try to fit you in.

Here is the program below, with abstracts.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

10.00-11.00:    Martina Reuter, University of Jyväskylä

Hannah Arendt and John Rawls on the Justification of Civil Disobedience

11.00-12.00:    Alberto Siani, Yeditepe University

Legitimacy, Coercion and Resistance in Rawls’ Political Liberalism

12.00-13.30     Lunch Break

13.30-14.30     Sine Bagatur, Erasmus University Rotterdam

The Right to Resistance as the Fundamental Human Right

14.30-15.30     Jacob Maze, Middle Eastern Technical University

Foucault, Governmentality, and Civil Disobedience: A Foucauldian Analysis of Resistance and the Rights of the State

15.30-17.00     Kimberley Brownlee, University of Warwick

The Many Faces of Disobedience

19.00-22.00     Workshop Dinner

Friday, 22 May 2015

10.00-11.00:    Amanda Cawston, University of Cambridge

 Resistance is Futile? The Problem of Resistance in a World of Alienated Violence

11.00-12.00:    Vincent Millou, Sciences Po

The Case for Uncivil Disobedience

12.00-14.00:    Lunch Break

14.00-15.00:    Jorge Nunez, Manchester Metropolitan University

Normative Systems as Law in Synergy: Validity and Effectiveness

15.00-16.30:    Frederick Schauer, University of Virginia

Coercing Obedience – The Authority’s Perspective


Hannah Arendt and John Rawls on the Justification of Civil Disobedience

Martina Reuter, University of Jyväskylä


In the early 1970’ties political and legal theorists in the United States engaged in a lively discussion of civil disobedience, focusing on its role and justification in a democratic society. Hannah Arendt and John Rawls both contributed to this discussion and in my paper I will compare Rawls’s justification of civil disobedience, ultimately based on the principle of justice, and Arendt’s profoundly political understanding of the same phenomena, which has received undeservedly little attention even among Arendt scholars. I will argue that there are several similarities between Arendt’s and Rawls’ particular views on the role of civil disobedience in a constitutive democracy, but profound differences between their general justificatory frameworks.

In the first part of my paper, I present some general features of Arendt’s and Rawls’ views on civil disobedience. The second part focuses more closely on the relation between moral and political notions in Arendt’s and Rawls’ respective views. I will argue that rather than being completely independent of moral notions (as is sometimes claimed), Arendt’s conception of politics in general and civil disobedience in particular rest on the specific moral capacity to make and keep promises. In the final part I investigate Arendt’s claim that civil disobedience must be justified by the “quality of opinion” rather than by the opinion of the majority and compare this view with Rawls’ remarks on the similarities between political and scientific reasoning.

Legitimacy, Coercion and Resistance in Rawls’Political Liberalism

Alberto Siani, Yeditepe University


John Rawls’ Political Liberalism (1993) offers a powerful and controversial account of the conditions of existence over time of “a stable and just society of free and equal citizens profoundly divided by reasonable though incompatible religious, philosophical, and moral doctrines”. The main idea is that these conditions are “political, not metaphysical”: they can and have to be presented independently of any “comprehensive doctrine”. This raises the issue of the legitimate use of coercive political power over citizens who not only have different material interests, but possibly diverge significantly in their conceptions of the good, and, connected with it, the issue of the legitimacy of resistance and disobedience to this power.

In this paper I will firstly show that, in Rawls, the space of the legitimate use of coercive power is disclosed and at the same time limited by two opposite, yet both illegitimate forms of violence. These are the disruptive, lacerating violence of the European religious wars after the Reformation, in which the modern state has its origin, and the conformising violence of the oppressive power of the state. Secondly, I will argue that the possibility of disruptive violence grounds the legitimacy of state coercion, whereas the possibility of oppressive use of state power grounds the legitimacy of individual or collective resistance and disobedience. Finally, I will argue that both coercion and resistance cannot simply aim at stability, but must strive for rational reconciliation.

The Right to Resistance as the Fundamental Human Right

Sine Bagatur, Erasmus University Rotterdam


In this paper I will argue that ‘a right to resistance’ is the basic fundamental human right that grounds all human rights. To justify this right to resistance as the grounding right, I will offer a negative interpretation of ‘ the right to justification’ proposed as the basic human right by Rainer Forst (Forst 1999; 2010). The right to justification in Forst’s words is: a right to be recognized as an agent who can demand acceptable reasons for any action that claims to be morally justified and for any social or political structure or law that claims to be binding upon him or her”

(Forst 2010, 79).

I will offer a negative formulation of the right to justification as a right to resistance such that:

[1] In non-ideal circumstances, where bad justifications (or no justification at all) are given for certain policies, practices or laws, the right to justification entails a right to resistance for those affected by those policies, practices or laws in morally relevant ways.

[2] The right to resistance can be claimed by agents in question in discursive and non-discursive forms.

This formulation requires some elucidation. By negative I mean that the basis of the right to resistance is a critique or negation following an experience of wrong treatment such as injustice or domination. In other words the claim of the right in question is defined negatively — the right to an absence of injustice, domination or violation of rights.

By ‘non-ideal circumstances’, I mean concrete forms and practices of justification where a justification that can gain assent from all affected people is not given. In these circumstances, the right to justification is instantiated as a right to resistance; a negation of bad justifications for, for example, policies, rules, social structures one is subjected to. Moreover, this right to resistance is not necessarily practiced in discursive forms (such as engaging in discourse and reasoned argumentation), but can also take non-discursive forms (such as civil disobedience, blockades and occupations).

I will illustrate this point by referring to right to housing struggles of Dikmen Valley residents in Ankara. I will argue that their struggle can be understood as an instantiation of the right to justification as a right to resistance.


Forst, Rainer. 1999. “The Basic Right to Justification: Towards a Constructivist Conception of Human Rights.” Constellations 6 (1) (March): 35–60.

———. 2010. “The Justification of Human Rights and the Basic Right to Justification: A Reflexive Approach.” Ethics120 (4): 711–740.

Foucault, Governmentality, and Civil Disobedience: A Foucauldian Analysis of Resistance and the Rights of the State

 Jacob Maze, Middle Eastern Technical University


During the debates between Jürgen Habermas and Michel Foucault, the divide in their goals came to be illuminated. While Habermas sought to continue the systematic project of the Enlightenment by establishing universal communication, Foucault took a different approach by trying to find a historically-contingent way to critique reason, freedom, truth, power relations, and mechanisms of control. I will put forward two arguments Habermas brought against Foucault’s theories—relativism and partisanship—followed by an explanation of why these arguments miss the mark of what Foucault’s work is actually doing. By exploring this difference, Foucault’s work can come to be viewed in part as a proposal for a space in which civil disobedience can be used incessantly and interactively. I will argue that Foucault’s philosophy can answer two fundamental questions in regards to ‘civil disobedience’: (1) Is civil disobedience ever justified?, and (2) If so, is civil disobedience effective in altering or resisting the power relations that have become solidified within this relationship between individuals and the State? In reply to the first question, I will explain how Foucault’s genealogy works at demonstrating a justification by way of contingently locating the rights of the State. After that, I will explain what kind of change can be envisioned in this project. Throughout this section, I use Foucault’s genealogical account of the transformation of pastorate power to governmentality as an example of mechanisms of subjection that can be materially targeted with acts of civil disobedience.

Resistance is futile? The Problem of Resistance in a World of Alienated Violence

Amanda Cawston, University of Cambridge


In this paper, I argue that modern violence is largely alienated. Key institutional arrangements, including the centralised control of the means of violence, the division of security labour, and the division in authoritative control constitute the material conditions of externalised and alienated violence. Importantly, most ‘civilians’ do not directly participate in or control the violence committed in their names, though their support and indirect participation is necessary for its continuation. This metamorphosis of violence has effected the very real and concerning disappearance of familiar routes for effective protest and resistance. This is because the modern condition of alienated violence appropriates our support and participation in such indirect ways that identifying effective routes of resistance is a serious problem. Civilians can of course march on the streets and thereby register their disapproval, but how to effectively resist, in the manner that e.g. conscientious objection, tax refusal, and other historical tactics of civil disobedience

constituted effective resistance, is at best unclear. I aim here to argue for the above claim

regarding the alienated nature of modern violence, and to demonstrate how it thereby renders impotent many of these traditional routes of resistance. Furthermore, I aim to reveal the difficulty in discovering new methods for effecting protest and show that revealing the manner in which our participation in violence has been co-opted, and thereby identifying the routes for potential resistance, poses a serious and significant challenge.

The Case for Uncivil Disobedience

Vincent Millou, Sciences Po


In a democratic setting, the belief that obedience to the law is a necessary condition to uphold any political community is strengthened by the almost unanimous view that democracy is a good regime which ought to be defended. The discrepancy between democratic ideals and existing political practices has led activists and theorists to elaborate a narrowly defined, democratically acceptable form of dissent, civil disobedience. It must be public, non-violent and willing to undergo legal sanction. These three features are undergirded by the belief that obedience to the spirit of the law, if not to its letter, must be upheld in order for the community to survive and improve.

In this article, I take issue with this belief. If obedience to the law is construed rather as the necessary condition for the administration of an atomized community, then an alternate conception of resistance to the law is required, which I propose to call “uncivil disobedience”.

I examine the claim that civil war is at hand whenever both the letter and the spirit of the law are rejected, as well as the claim that the elementary unit of politics is the individual rationally choosing between chaos and obedience, and conclude that both claims produce the reality they purport to describe. They link individuals thanks to the vacuum they have forced between them. In order to resist this objectionable reality, a resistance that, if necessary, is secretive, violent and unwilling to undergo legal sanction emerges as legitimate – uncivil disobedience.

Normative systems as law in synergy: validity and effectiveness

Jorge Emilio Núñez, Manchester Metropolitan University


The two key concepts that characterise law from both empirical and logical realms are effectiveness and validity. Hans Kelsen stated that “effectiveness [or force] is the condition for validity [in the presupposition of the legal order as a whole], but not its reason”. Indeed, validity and effectiveness have a certain kind of relation with each other. As typically understood, any relation can be necessary, sufficient or desirable. I maintain that although validity and effectiveness do have a certain relation, they do not condition themselves reciprocally. I argue that in any case, the relation that exists between validity and effectiveness within a normative system is based on synergy. Even though the legal order as a whole may loss effectiveness, it is still perfectly and fully valid. In tune with this, what role does coercion play for the proper functioning of law? More generally, why do we need coercion at all in order to have law? Coercion is part of the law in what has to do with its effectiveness—i.e. law, norms, rules or legal systems are effective if and only if they are followed by the individuals that are meant to follow them or, in the event of misbehaviour, the misconduct is punished. However, if we can have valid law that is not effective, thereafter we may have valid law without coercion.

Coercing Obedience – The Authority’s Perspective

Frederick Schauer, University of Virginia


Most of the literature on obedience to law or obedience to authority takes the perspective of the subject. But what of the perspective of the authority, who may be as convinced that the subject is likely to err as the subject is convinced that the authority is mistaken? And when we see authority and law in this way, the role of coercion becomes clearer, and is seen to be often more justified and especially important in explaining the phenomenon of law.


Written by Sandrine Berges

April 13, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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