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Political Theory: Bringing Theory to Practice

Graduate Conference organized by Ugur Aytac – Gerrit Schaafsma – Lea Klarenbeek – Alex Thinius, Amsterdam, 23-24 May 2019. Confirmed keynotes: Simon Caney (University of Warwick) and Lisa Hertzog (Technische Univesitat Munich)

In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the relationship between (normative) political theory and the realities of the social world. Debates about non-ideal theory and realism raised questions about how societal facts ought to inform the way we do political theory, and how political theory ought to inform the way empirical research is conducted.

This conference is aimed at graduate students and postdocs working on theoretical issues, who focus on the circumstances of actual socio-political practices such as the nature of politics, participatory and representative democratic institutions, and global governance organizations. The aim is to address three main practice-oriented topics:

  1. The ways in which normative political theory can/should be in dialogue with the empirical study of society
  2. The new challenges to democratic participation and political decision-making in a 'post-truth' world characterised by citizens' alleged distrust of traditional institutions (e.g. traditional media, scientific expertise, parliaments) and the affordances of digital and social media.
  3. Doing normative political theory in non-ideal conditions: theorising the changing world order (e.g. Trumpian foreign policy, feminist movements, the rise of nationalist movements, climate change, mass migration).

This conference offers a scholarly opportunity to reflect on the relationship between political theory, the social sciences and cultural studies. The aim is to provide an intellectually stimulating environment in which PhD candidates and postdocs can interact with their peers in mutually beneficial exchanges. Furthermore, because of this focus on the relevance of normative theory for social scientific enquiry and vice versa, we believe the conference to be horizon-broadening for our colleagues who work on empirical research questions. Moreover, since the conference is organized in cooperation with the PhD candidates from both the departments of philosophy and political science, it will enable us to promote a sense of community and scientific collaboration among graduate students working on similar research questions across different academic units.

The expected audience will include the Political Theory group, the Philosophy and Public Affairs group of ASCA, postdocs, PhD and MA students. It will also attract social scientists more broadly, in particular anyone with an interest in the literature on the fact-value distinction or double-hermeneutics in sociological methodology. In addition to these, the conference will also attract researchers and graduate students in other departments and faculties, in particular Philosophy, Sociology, and Anthropology.