political concepts

by newschoolphilosophy

It is not exactly news within the NSSR community but here is a great project that has really captured my imagination over the last couple of weeks. Political Concepts: A Critical Lexicon is part philosophy journal, part critical encyclopedia of, well, political concepts.

Edited by the New School’s own Todd Kesselman, each entry  focuses on a single concept, treating it critically and considering its place or possible place within political discourse. This is not simple scholarship but an attempt to start a discussion about terms that are often bandied and rarely understood. Many of the entries are by eminent thinkers –  the first issue has Akeel Bilgrami on Identity and Alice Crary writes on Animals in the latest installment.

Like Wikipedia, Political Concepts makes use of the internet as an open forum in which not just information but ideas can be circulated beyond the limited spaces of the library and classroom. Reading these entries, however, one starts to see that this is not an encyclopedia in the traditional sense of the term. As a “critical lexicon,” Political Concepts serves primarily to start discussions, not to settle facts. As the editorial preface makes clear, “each contribution resituates a particular aspect of political meaning, thereby opening pathways for another future—one that is not already determined and ill-fated.”

Kesselman echoes this statement in an interview in the NSSR graduate newsletter, in which he argues that what makes Political Concepts relevant is its embrace of complexity and nuance. In today’s post-soundbite political discourse, this is certainly a welcome enterprise.