Political Science IUB

3/30 Decolonizing Political Theory: State of Nature and Barbarism

“Decolonizing Political Theory: ‘State of Nature’ and ‘Barbarism’”

Dr. Oliver Eberl

Leibniz-University Hannover

Visiting Humboldt Fellow

Abstract: The ‘state of nature’ is an important concept for justifying the state. ‘Barbarism’ is an important notion for criticizing the state, especially when discussed in the context of crimes against humanity. Against the view that these uses are neutral, the central argument I make is that both concepts are shaped by colonialism. My approach aims to ‘decolonize’ political theory by reflecting critically on the two concepts and the nexus between them. Colonialism and European science transformed the Greek colonial notion of ‘barbarians’ as ‘slaves by nature’ into the distinction of semi-state ‘barbarians’ and state-less ‘savages’. Hobbes eventually transformed the latter into his idea of the ‘state of nature’. Later, via the French Enlightenment and Kant, the ‘state of nature’ and ‘barbarism’ were used to criticize European states. The most critical recent understanding of the concept is developed by Critical Theory. It is argued that both concepts should be understood as colonial concepts and therefore should not be used, particularly if one has critical intentions.

Dr. Eberl is author and editor of many books in German, English, and other languages.

Friday March 30, 2018 10:30 AM
Friday March 30, 2018 12:00 PM
Woodburn Hall 218
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