relational representation: global democracy in practice

This is a book manuscript in revision. I argue that the concept of representation has a long political history in the development (and some would argue the subversion) of democracy. Our current conception of representation developed with the rise of the sovereign nation-state, and it has become bound to that context, making it difficult to think of representation outside of state governments. However, in the globalizing world, we are seeing the rise of nongovernmental actors, such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), that are in positions to make claims to represent. These claims to represent are often denied legitimacy not because they are not representative, but because they are not sovereign. I attempt to rethink representation in relational terms, rather than sovereign ones, that better understand the democratic practices of many nongovernmental actors.


The work of Albert Camus has long been of interest to me. His contributions to thinking about ethics after World War II are greatly underappreciated. In his post-war thinking, Camus argues that individuals needed to provide a counterweight against the sovereign states. He calls on us in his literature, philosophy, and journalism to "save bodies." In this, I see an animating principle of global justice--a responsibility to save bodies. Camus develops a political vision that prefigures the emergence of the nongovernmental global activist networks of the present, and he provides an ethics capable of guiding the political practices of these global networks. His ethics contains two critical ideas: a conception of responsibility that is independent of culpability and the formation of a relatively early human rights discourse that links the amelioration of suffering with the practical commitment to "save bodies."

<an approach to teaching whitman>

Walt Whitman is one of America's most important poets, but getting a class to see both the beauty of his verse and its philosophical depth is not always easy. In an effort to make Whitman and poetry more accessible to my students, I've tried to model Whitman's spirit of inclusion. This paper lays out my thinking behind the participatory approach and gives some preliminary evidence of its success.

Grateful animals: gratitude, politics, and obligations

(w/Adam Gomez). The idea of a rationality free from emotion has been shown to be a fiction by recent neuroscience and psychology. Political theory ought to rethink its basic concepts to provide an understanding of politics appropriate to the type of animal that human beings are. This paper argues that reason-based conceptions of political obligation, such as those of Kant and Rawls, miss the importance that emotions plays in the creation and maintenance of relationships of obligation. In particular, we examine how gratitude functions and how it transforms our thinking about obligation. Gratitude moves obligation from the impersonal, universalistic sphere of reason to the relational dynamics of specific relationships in the world.