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    Stella Achilleos & Antonis Balasopoulos (eds), Reading Texts on Sovereignty. Textual Moments in the History of Political Thought

    Johnathan R. Razorback
    Johnathan R. Razorback
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    Messages : 13062
    Date d'inscription : 12/08/2013
    Localisation : France

    Stella Achilleos & Antonis Balasopoulos (eds), Reading Texts on Sovereignty. Textual Moments in the History of Political Thought Empty Stella Achilleos & Antonis Balasopoulos (eds), Reading Texts on Sovereignty. Textual Moments in the History of Political Thought

    Message par Johnathan R. Razorback Dim 6 Fév - 15:46

    "By sovereignty we mean the cluster questions relating to final, determining authority within a given political entity." (p.XII)

    "Deriving from the Latin term superanus (via the French souveraineté ), sovereignty in its political sense refers to a supreme type of power that admits nothing above itself. Yet, while suggesting its analytical centrality, the countless attempts made in the history of political thought to redefi ne the concept also point to its intriguing elusiveness. Considered in its most general and abstract form, sovereignty appears to withdraw into the nebulous realm that Tacitus, in his Annals, designated as “ arcana imperii” (Book II, chapter 36)—the secrets of imperial power or, more broadly, the state. Indeed, as a concept inevitably entangled with the questions of the origin and foundation of authority and power, sovereignty has long appeared to resist both analysis and definition." (p.1)

    "For many of the theorists discussed here, sovereignty provides the condition for the existence of social order and security." (p.3)

    "And even in the ancient Greek context, as Kazutaka Inamura illustrates with regard to the case of Aristotle, unaccountability to any power superior than the sovereign’s own, and hence the idea of the sovereign as “uncontrolled controller” [...] —a feature crucial to early modern theories of sovereignty—is already in place." (p.5)
    -Stella Achilleos & Antonis Balasopoulos (eds), Reading Texts on Sovereignty. Textual Moments in the History of Political Thought, Bloomsbury Academic, 2021, 203 pages.

    "Kinch Hoekstra and Melissa Lane have suggested that the elements of sovereignty may be traced in classical thought. Hoekstra draws our attention to the feature of unaccountability. In the theoretical framework of “absolute sovereignty” as formulated by early modern thinkers in Greek terms, the actions of the sovereign ruler are unaccountable to anyone except God. In fifth-century bc Athens, the demos or people were also understood to be the uncontrolled controllers. Lane refers to Aristotle’s argument about the assembly’s control of office holders in his Politics [hereafter, Pol.] 3.11. The sovereign people controlled the entire state by electing the highest public offi cials and holding them accountable for their work. The people themselves were held to no higher accountability." (p.18)

    "The Greek term “κύριος” [sovereign] means “having power or authority over.”. For example, as Aristotle notoriously states, a woman has the deliberative part of the soul, but her soul lacks authority ( ἄκυρος), while the deliberative faculty is entirely missing from a slave (Pol. 1.13. 1260a12–13). According to this perspective, even if a woman has the potential to exercise the deliberative capacity, she does not have mastery over the soul. The deliberative part is sovereign in the soul when the emotional self is fully developed and abides by reason. In the context of human action, this means that people can control their actions and decide whether and how to act. Their action is voluntary because they are not forced to act by others (Nicomachean Ethics 3.5. 1114a31–b1; 1114b30–32). Thus, Aristotle uses the term “sovereign” to express a human’s control of action: “a human is, alone among animals, a starting point of certain actions; we would not say that any of the other creatures acts. The starting points that are of this sort—those that originate movements—are termed ‘authoritative [sovereign],’ most rightly so in the case of those things whose results cannot be otherwise, as perhaps where god is the starting point” (Eudemian Ethics 2.6. 1222b19–23). The sovereign human is the starting point or ruling (ἀρχή) of action. Aristotle’s sovereignty means the controlling power that necessarily initiates the process of purposive action." (pp.18-19)

    "The term “sovereign” is introduced in the context of how to classify various constitutions. Constitution (πολιτεία) in Greek is not the codified set of laws antecedent to the government, but is identical to the civic body (πολίτευμα). By the civic body, the passage means “the people” in democracy and “the few” in oligarchy. Democracy is a political system whose governing civic body consists of the people while oligarchy is a system in which the few take the most authoritative office of the state. Thus, the difference in the civic body serves to identify which constitution the state establishes. Who rules the state is the defining criterion in Aristotle’s typology of constitutions." (p.19)

    "Aristotle also raises the issue of sovereignty in his Politics [...] He addresses the question of who must be made sovereign—the masses, the rich, decent people, the best person or a tyrant. First, he criticizes majoritarian democracy, where the poor are made sovereign and they divide up the property of the rich among themselves. Although the poor masses may be convinced of the righteousness of their claim, Aristotle opposes their logic because it is detrimental to the state. Aristotle also opposes the idea of conferring sovereignty on special individuals, because when authority is always held by such individuals the commoners are deprived of honors and public offices. Thus, when ancient Greeks discuss issues about sovereignty, they focus on who holds the position of decision making and public administration. They do not debate the right to offer a framework of government. They dispute who exercises the political authority and who makes political decisions about everything relating to the state.

    This feature is one important difference between Aristotle’s and modern notions of sovereignty. According to Richard Tuck, although there are several differences between Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, their modern notions involve an essential line of demarcation between sovereignty and government. The sovereign authority has the right to reign, while the government actually exercises political power and manages the everyday affairs of the state. Even if the sovereign monarch cannot rule the state due to physical inability, he or she still retains the rights to reign, as when he or she sleeps. Furthermore, the sovereign authority is absolute, that is, it is never restricted by any external authority or divided between different branches of government. In the passages quoted at the beginning of this essay, however, Aristotle does not proclaim these features.
    He instead considers who exercises political power rather than who holds the rights to form the government. He also explores who is the beneficiary of political governance. These are the criteria for his constitutional typology and political analysis.

    Aristotle draws attention to the characteristics of sovereign rulers to develop his typology of constitutions. In Politics 3.8 (1279b20–24) and 4.4 (1290a30–b3), he presents two hypothetical situations: one in which the majority were rich and sovereign in the state, and another in which the poor were fewer in number than the rich but were stronger and sovereign in the constitution. According to the “number-of-rulers” criterion (elaborated in the second passage quoted at the start of this chapter), the former is a democracy and the latter is an oligarchy. However, Aristotle proposes to classify constitutions in terms of real causes or reasons—wealth and freedom (1279b39–1280a6, 1290a40–b3). This is because the citizens claim political authority on the basis of these reasons, whereas the number of rulers in the state is an incidental feature. In reality, the few happen to be rich and the
    many happen to be poor ; however, these facts are not the defining criteria for organizing the constitution. Thus, Aristotle defines democracy and oligarchy as systems, wherein the sovereign members, respectively, are free individuals and the rich." (pp.19-20)

    "In Aristotle’s view, the character of the governing class determines the characteristics of their constitution (cf. Pol. 7.13. 1332a33–34). In other words, the most influential part of a state determines the nature of its whole. This is because the governing body organizes the state to achieve its purposes, such as freedom and wealth. In a democracy, people claim political authority based on their status as free and introduce democratic features in order to secure their freedom; thus, freedom serves as the ultimate goal in a democratic setting.

    Aristotle’s argument in Politics 3.11 is key to considering whether he develops a notion of popular sovereignty. Melissa Lane draws attention to this argument to assert that Aristotle holds the view of popular sovereignty as the people’s control of offi ceholders. Marsilius of Padua originally referred to Aristotle’s Politics 3.11 to justify his claim that the political authority for legislation should reside in the universal body of the citizens. Here, Aristotle examines the view that the masses should be more sovereign than the few good (1281a40–42). His proposal is to allow the masses to participate in the assembly or popular court, but not to hold the highest office. This is because the mass sometimes possess greater merit in virtue and practical wisdom as a group than the few, even if they are not eminent individually (1281a42–b31).

    This allocation of political power to the masses can be considered as a primitive version of popular sovereignty, but Aristotle uses a different rationale for popular participation. First, he permits popular participation because if the masses were excluded from public offi ces, they would be antagonistic towards their state (Pol. 3.11. 1281b28–31), rather than because he holds that the people have a legitimate right to enjoy freedom and to control the state according to their will. Second, he does not maintain that the masses should have a unitary power that cannot be divided among different types of people. Instead, he allocates different types of political powers to different people according to the proper fi t between their role and ability. He restricts the power of the popular assembly to the election and assessment of public officials. Third, it is uncertain whether he would name such a constitution a democracy. Rather, it appears to be a mixed constitution of democracy and aristocracy, based on the “number-of-rulers” criterion, because both the masses and the good minority have a fair share in the constitution." (p.21)

    "His allocation of deliberative and judicial powers to the masses is not an expression of popular sovereignty, wherein the masses control offi ceholders according to their will, but of an aristocratic governance, where virtue is the only criterion for claiming and exercising political authority." (p.22)
    -Kazutaka Inamura, "Aristotle on Sovereignty", in Stella Achilleos & Antonis Balasopoulos (eds), Reading Texts on Sovereignty. Textual Moments in the History of Political Thought, Bloomsbury Academic, 2021, 203 pages, pp.17-24.

    "Hannah Arendt’s work can be seen to a large extent as a concentrated attack on the concept of sovereignty. [...] Already in an early essay from 1945, “Approaches to the ‘German Problem’,” Arendt notes that “the national State, once the very symbol of the sovereignty of the people, no longer represented the people, becoming incapable of safeguarding either its external or internal security.”." (p.163)

    "The nation- state, due to the imperative of keeping its population as homogenous as possible and granting a special political status to the ethnic group it purports to represent, is unable to address the growing problem of stateless persons. Most of those rejected by their own country, like the Jews, became refugees no country wanted. Thus, the sovereign nation- state, by its inherent tendencies, was inclined to create a large number of “superfluous” people who all too often found themselves locked up in detention and concentration camps as an undesirable population.

    Moreover, if World War II proved anything, it is that most nation- states were not protected from the savage attacks of the more powerful ones. In a rapidly integrating world, the very idea of the total independence of the nation- state in determining its foreign and domestic politics as well as its economic policy was bound to clash with reality. For all these reasons, Arendt rejected the sovereign nation- state as unsuitable for the modern world and as having pernicious effects on the possibility of the co-existence of different ethnic populations.

    However, it is often overlooked that Arendt’s critique was aimed not only at the nation- state, but also at the modern state as such. Arendt understood the basic tendency of the modern state to be the centralization of power. “The modern state was,” Arendt writes in 1946, “a ‘strong state’ which through its growing tendency towards centralization monopolized the whole of political life.”.

    This left few opportunities for political participation and responsibility for the vast majority of citizens, and was one of the main factors leading to the atomization, alienation and loneliness on which the totalitarian movements built. This is why, from early on, Arendt supported the federalization of the state into multiple local units that would allow every citizen who wished to do so to participate in politics." (pp.164-165)

    "The sovereignty of the state had detrimental consequences, in Arendt’s view, also in the international arena. In “On Violence,” she goes as far as to suggest that the main cause for wars was the simple fact that there was no arbiter in international affairs above the nation-state, and this is bound to remain so as long as “national independence, namely, freedom from foreign rule, and the sovereignty of the state, namely, the claim to unchecked and unlimited power in foreign affairs, are identifi ed.”. The sovereignty of the state had to be at the very least significantly limited if the prospects of war were to be diminished. The development of international law, designating appropriate powers to an international court, was one solution Arendt supported, but this was hardly enough. In a 1970 interview, she explains further that between sovereign states there can be no last resort except war, and therefore anyone who wishes to see an end to the phenomenon of war between states has to envision a new kind of state, based on a “federal system, whose advantage is that power moves neither from above nor from below, but is horizontally directed so that the federated units mutually check and control their powers.” Such a state, based on citizen councils, “to which the principle of sovereignty would be wholly alien, would be admirably suited to federations of the most various kinds, especially because in it power would be constituted horizontally and not vertically.” In this insistence on the division of power within the state as a way to check the power of each unit Arendt draws on Montesquieu, whom she invokes explicitly when she discusses the division of power in the United States." (p.166)

    "Arendt presents us with a unique concept of freedom. It is neither freedom of the will ; nor freedom from the interference of others or the state, as in the liberal tradition ; nor, finally, freedom from domination, as in the republican tradition. For Arendt, freedom is always political ; it “appears” only when we act and speak together in the public sphere. In other words: it is a unique human potential that can be experienced only in the company of our fellow citizens." (p.169)
    -Shmuel Lederman, "Arendt on Sovereignty", in Stella Achilleos & Antonis Balasopoulos (eds), Reading Texts on Sovereignty. Textual Moments in the History of Political Thought, Bloomsbury Academic, 2021, 203 pages, pp.163-170.





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    « La question n’est pas de constater que les gens vivent plus ou moins pauvrement, mais toujours d’une manière qui leur échappe. » -Guy Debord, Critique de la séparation (1961).

    « Rien de grand ne s’est jamais accompli dans le monde sans passion. » -Hegel, La Raison dans l'Histoire.

    « Mais parfois le plus clair regard aime aussi l’ombre. » -Friedrich Hölderlin, "Pain et Vin".


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