Political Theory Professorship

Politiek gaat over mensenOn 1 January 2006, I was appointed Professor of Political Theory, in particular Political and Personal Autonomy, at the Radboud University Nijmegen. On 1 December 2009, the professorship became permanent, and the title was abbreviated to 'Professor of Political Theory'; I thereby succeeded my retiring predecessor, prof. dr. G.E. Lock.

The full text of my inaugural lecture (in Dutch) Politiek gaat over mensen: autonomie en orde of 26 January 2007 is available for download:

PDF format Download inaugural lecture (215 KB)

There are also pictures of the occasion.

My 2006-2009 professorship was a so-called personal professorship, during which I intended to devote most of my research time to one single research project. The following lines summarize my plans in 2006; by now (late 2010) I am one unpublished paper away from completion, and I have already moved on to a new project.

My plans for research and teaching under the flag of this chair are based on the assumption that (1) developments in modern political structures are best described as processes of political pluralization: the emergence of institutions, powers and authorities next to or in addition to the classic sovereign nation-state, sometimes claiming a legitimate realm of their own, sometimes simply seizing it; and that (2) the standard operating procedure of these institutions, often referred to as governance, may form a threat to politics rather than its salvation from the chaos and fragmentation of political pluralization. On the one hand, the structural fragmentation of societies and other cooperative schemes threatens to obliterate the object of politics (political autonomy); on the other, governance, by delegating agenda-setting and decision-making to the relatively closed circuit of specialists, bureaucrats, representatives of so-called stakeholders etc., tends to depoliticize rather than politicize public issues, thereby threatening the citizen's perspective on personal autonomy through full participation in the shaping of society.

I intend to discuss these themes in Master courses in political science, and to use them as the uniting factor in a series of smaller and larger research projects for PhD and postdoctoral researchers. Some projects, linking up with the theme of political autonomy, will address the eternal philosophical question of the Good Society, adapting old and developing new theories attuned to the reality of a global yet fragmented society. Others, linked to personal autonomy, will address the equally inescapable question of the worth and flourishing of human beings as political animals and moral agents. My overall aim is to develop perspectives that allow the great processes of our day, processes like segregation, Europeanization and globalization, to be understood as caused by rather than causing the behaviour of moral agents, i.e., to rediscover a realm for true political and personal autonomy - for which purpose I shall obviously have to raid the national Research Councils' treasure chests first.