My PhD thesis Recovering Emancipation, Recalibrating Enlightenment brings together Antonio Gramsci, the first-generation Frankfurt School, postcolonial theory, and theories of political affect to critique problematic understandings of emancipation and enlightenment in political theory. I question too strong a defence and too strong an attack on enlightenment values of progress, reason, and universalism in the work of John Rawls and James C. Scott, respectively. Both of these give up on emancipation, in part through their too strong position on enlightenment. I then interrogate Chantal Mouffe’s middle ground position of negotiating between reason and affect as a more promising way of theorizing emancipation. However, I point to the way her position eschews the most crucial elements from Gramsci’s thought on materialism, interest, and feeling. By returning to these, inflected by the above critical literatures, I propose how emancipation can be recovered through a recalibrated understanding of enlightenment. Finally, I outline a model for how the critical theorist can participate in such processes through self-reflexive rear-guard legitimation and comradely critique.
My research interests are mostly within contemporary political theory and the history of 20th century European philosophy. They include critical theory; Marxism; political affect; social movements; civil disobedience; the role of intellectuals; the relationship between class and race, religion and politics.