Vision(s) of Politics:
The Thought of Sheldon Wolin
3 November 2016
“The demos will never dominate politically. In an age where identities are potentially plural and changing, a unified demos is no longer possible, or even desirable: instead of a demos, democratic citizenries. Democratic political consciousness, while it may emerge anywhere at ay time, is most likely to be nurtured in local, small-scale settings, where both the negative consequences of political powerlessness and positive possibilities of political involvement seem most evident.”
- Democracy Inc.
For over half a century, beginning with his seminal text Politics and Vision, Sheldon Wolin (1922-2015) was the preeminent American political theorist writing on the Western canon, democratic theory, fugitive democracy, collective memory, and inverted totalitarianism. While other American theorists operated within the neo-Kantian proceduralism of John Rawls’ project or the communitarian movement of the 1980s led by Michael Walzer, Professor Wolin provided an unflinching critique of American Superpower and the prospects for the revival of a more participatory democracy. Recent debates in democratic theory have continued to engage with Wolin’s work from a myriad of theoretical traditions (Marxist and post-Marxist, anarchist, ecological, feminist, critical race theory) thus welcoming important dialogue(s) to emerge.
In honor of Professor Wolin’s recent passing, we invite scholars, students, and community activists to participate in a one-day conference at York University centered on the influence of his work and life. Examining the works of Sheldon Wolin invites us to engage with a variety of theoretical and practical issues that have animated recent discussions in political theory. The goal of this conference is to facilitate dialogue on a wide variety of social and political topics to encourage critical reflection in the spirit of Wolin and his influential contributions to political thought.
We envision two graduate student panels up to four participants; each led by a moderator who will promote the discussion. Participants will be allotted 15 minutes for the presentation of their work, followed by a 15-minute period for questions, comments, and reflection. In addition, three former students of Professor Wolin, including Professors Dana Villa (University of Notre Dame), John Wallach (CUNY), and Uday Mehta (CUNY) will lead seminars on the relevance of Wolin’s contribution to democratic thought and renewal in today’s world.
Topics of interest may include, but are not limited to:
• Democratic Theory and Praxis
• Fugitive Democracy [Pockets of Resistance]: Berkeley Free Speech Movement, Women’s Liberation,
Black Lives Matter
• Post/Anti-Colonial Theory
• Marx: Das Kapital, historical materialism, revolutionary praxis
• Arendt: vita activa, public space, totalitarianism
• Tocqueville ‘s America
• Contemporary French Philosophic Political Thought
• Ancient Political Thought
• Ecological Democracy
• Feminism and Democracy
• Anarchism and Democracy
Abstracts (250 words) should be submitted via email to
WolinConference2016@gmail.com by 30 May 2016.
Please include: Name, email address, academic/professional/community affiliation, abstract, and keywords.
Notification of acceptances will be made by 15 June 2016.
Regretfully, travel funds are not available;
however, solidarity housing is available for graduate students.