Fictitious Freedom: A Polanyian Critique of the Republican Revival

American Journal of Political Science, Early View

Abstract: Prominent republican theorists invoke anonymous orders such as the market as mechanisms that secure freedom as non-domination. Drawing on Karl Polanyi’s account of fictitious commodities and demonstration of the impossibility of a just and rational market society, this article critically scrutinizes neo-republican assumptions regarding the market, develops an alternate social theory within which to situate the ideal of non-domination, and illustrates the importance of this reconfiguration for the kind of collective agents and political strategies that can be expected to advance republican freedom in the economy.

Between Charisma and Domination: On Max Weber’s Critique of Democracy

Journal of Politics, 79, no. 1 (January 2017): 179-192.

Abstract: Prominent strands of contemporary democratic theory, by figuring genuine democratic agency as fundamentally disruptive, present conventional social and political institutions merely as sites of calculation and normalization. This article challenges such a view by tracing its origins in Max Weber’s theory of domination. Even as many democratic theorists repudiate the political consequences of Weber’s thought, they fail to fully confront the sociotheoretic categories underpinning his vision, such that these categories continue to structure conceptions of democratic agency and horizons of practical possibility in democratic theory. Here, I argue that Weber’s democratic skepticism arises not, as is commonly thought, from a philosophical repudiation of the concept of legitimacy, but rather from his analysis of the origins of value systems in extraordinary ruptures with everyday experience. To move beyond Weber, democratic theorists must challenge both his distinction between the ordinary and the extraordinary and his reduction of institutional politics to domination and technical control.

“Fit to Enter the World”: Hannah Arendt on Politics, Economics, and the Welfare State

American Political Science Review 108, no. 4 (November 2014): 856-869.

Abstract: What is the significance of the welfare state and struggles over social and economic needs for democratic politics? This article turns to Hannah Arendt’s thought to articulate new possibilities for relating democratic agency and the welfare state, possibilities neglected by currently dominant deliberative and radical democratic approaches. Against critics who claim that Arendt seeks to purify politics of economic and social problems, I argue that she presents a sophisticated account of the vital importance of economic matters for public life. For Arendt, the danger is not the invasion of politics by economics, but rather the loss of the worldly, mediating institutions that allow economic matters to appear as objects of public concern. Reconstructing her account of these mediating institutions, I show that Arendt’s analysis opens up novel insights into the relationship between democratic action and welfare institutions, drawing attention to how such institutions transform material necessity into shared objects of attachment, judgment, and action.