GIR Seminar Series 2023 | Politics and Soulcraft | Alexandre Lefebvre
Government & International Relations Seminar Series:
Politics and Soulcraft
Presenter: Professor Alexandre Lefebvre, University of Sydney
Hybrid: RD Watt seminar room (A04, 203) and Zoom
Liberal democracies have always been uncomfortable with the idea that public (or political) actors and institutions should promote a particular conception of the good life. A thousand flowers should bloom, they say, and the state should not favour any particular one. Illiberal regimes today do not share these scruples. This project—which I am just starting—is about how such regimes around the world undertake soulcraft, understood as cultivating a sense of self, character, and identity. Specifically, I want to work with regime insiders (for example, in China, India, Russia, Iran, and Brazil) to have them explain to me how their regime seeks to cultivate certain kinds of subjects. That’s not because I think those regimes and soulcraft are good (I don’t!) but because my goal is to understand what’s on the table in terms of different ways of being in the world, what makes each regime feel best about itself, and how each regime thinks it can satisfy the deep human need for purpose and presence.
Alex Lefebvre is Professor of Politics and Philosophy in the School of Social and Political Sciences, and the School of Humanities, at The University of Sydney. His most recent book is Liberalism as a Way of Life (Princeton, 2024). You can read about his work at https://www.alexlefebvre.com/.