The below paper(s) are currently in-progress. For a PDF of a draft please feel free to get in touch with me through the contact form
This paper argues for the need to take the concept of revolt seriously within political philosophy, demonstrating that it is a necessary and explanatorily useful concept in debates surrounding deliberation, democracy, legitimacy, and law. I position revolt in with regard to legitimacy in order to highlight what is at stake in discussions of political association: the line of demarcation between those who are deemed legitimate and acceptable sources of assent and dissent by the relevant political authorities. As such, I seek to shift the starting point of the debate from legitimacy to illegitimacy.
I begin with an assessment of theories of legitimacy based around the notion of ‘reasons all can accept’ in order to argue for the inadequacy or incompleteness of those that take for granted the makeup of the political community to whom they are addressed, whether real or ideal. In developing a constructive critique of public justification theories of legitimacy I articulate a conception of revolt stemming from illegitimacy that functions as a bridge concept between justice and legitimacy, ethics and politics, formal institutional guarantees and the de facto failures of political systems to live up to the demands of the people. As such, I do not offer a specific normative conception of revolt, but instead posit how the concept of revolt functions within political philosophy, and why the latter is better off for employing it.
This paper outlines the importance of culture and cultural resistance for freedom, liberation, and decolonization in ways that go beyond legality and into the recesses of sensibility and lived experience. I look to Amílcar Cabral’s Analysis of a Few Types of Resistance to frame decolonization in terms of the continual and ongoing lived freedom of emancipation through culture in addition to the more immediate overthrow of the yoke of occupation. Indeed, on my reading, even the latter is underwritten by culture. Cabral’s four-pronged blueprint for resistance – political, economic, cultural, and armed – highlights the importance of the everyday struggles and modes of living that encompass two distinct moments of decolonization and instantiate freedom. The act of decolonization is the time period involved in resisting colonial occupation in order to win emancipation in a narrow forensic sense. The process of decolonization is the time period both before and after such a specific event and corresponds to a broader notion of emancipation. This latter conception involves the transformation of society, culture, and attitudes in order to overcome as much as possible the residue of colonial domination.
I argue that, although Cabral centers political resistance in his analysis of decolonization, we can extrapolate from his interconnected matrix of modes of resistance a role for culture that is the driving force even behind political resistance. This means interpreting Cabral’s Analysis of a Few Types of Resistance as primarily strategically focused on creating a lasting future out of an epistemically open interpretation of the past even as he is focused specifically on securing victory in the more circumscribed arena of Portuguese colonial occupation. Cabral outlines the important influence that culture exerts both in constructing a future out of a past, as well as in diagnosing the contours of the decolonial struggle itself from within the stark duality of decolonial wars for national liberation. In doing so he also provides us with a broader lesson about the ongoing manner in which we interpret, reconstruct, justify, and meliorate our futures in light of our pasts and presents.