Uppsala Forum Guest Lecture with Volker Kaul: Social Identity and the Problem of Normativity

  • Date: –16:30
  • Location: IRES Library, Gamla torget 3, 3rd floor
  • Lecturer: Volker Kaul, Institute for the Interregional Study of Constitutionalism, Charles University in Prague.
  • Organiser: Department of Government and Uppsala Forum
  • Contact person: Gina Gustavsson
  • Föreläsning

Can social identities ever be the source of normativity, obligation, and rule-following? Haslanger’s semantic externalism holds that the meaning of social groups depends on some social construction, the rules of which, when uncovered, could impossibly give rise to rule-following. Externalism has the somewhat preposterous consequence that individuals can never have authority over the content of their beliefs, given that meaning depends exclusively on the environment. Internalism, on the contrary, argues that individuals cannot but have self-knowledge of what social groups, of which they are members, stand for and represent. Individuals create themselves through autonomous acts of their will, self-interpretation, and commitments the very meaning of social groups, grounding thereby internal oughts. Hegel’s struggle for recognition, rather than liberal self-constitution, is the most plausible ground for making such commitments and establishing the constitutive character of social rules, roles, and responsibilities. However, Hegel’s communitarianism is based on a desire for recognition. And my argument is that there is no road that could lead from dispositions to commitments and normativity. Therefore, social groups and rule-following must have some other origin than social identity. The lecture concludes with a few provisional remarks on the importance of conventions.

Volker Kaul is senior research fellow in the ERC CZ project “Identity Constitutionalism: The Community-Building Capacity of Constitutions in the EU and MENA Region” at the Institute for the Interregional Study of Constitutionalism at Charles University in Prague. Moreover, he coordinates the research area “East–West Dialogues” for the foundation Reset–Dialogues on Civilizations (Milan). Previously, he held research and teaching positions at LUISS University in Rome, the Italian National Research Council (CNR), University of Salerno as well as CEA Rome Center and was visiting scholar at Columbia University. He earned a double degree in political and social sciences from Freie Universität Berlin and Sciences Po Paris and a Ph.D. in political theory from LUISS University in Rome. His research focuses on social identities, with a special focus on the Arab and Muslim world. In 2020, he completed the monograph Identity and the Difficulty of Emancipation for Springer (currently translated into Arabic for the publisher Maysaloon). In 2016, he published together with Seyla Benhabib Toward New Democratic Imaginaries – Istanbul Seminars on Islam, Culture and Politics for Springer. He edited two further books: one with Ananya Vajpeyi on Populism and Minorities – Critical Perspectives from South Asia and Europe (2020) for Springer and another with Ingrid Salvatore on What is Pluralism? (2020) for Routledge. Since 2010, he has been co-editing a yearly special issue of the journal Philosophy & Social Criticism on issues related to culture, religion and politics.

Volker Kaul is a Research and Teaching Fellow at the Center for Ethics and Global Politics, LUISS University, Rome, and Lecturer at the CEA Rome Center. His work focuses on the possibility of emancipation. In this regard, he works on the concepts of identity, agency, autonomy, self-knowledge, recognition, and culture.