Michael Burke: A Discourse on Justice Part II

About Me

Hi! My name is Michael Burke. I am a rising senior in the Honors College Politics & Philosophy program with minors in Modern Western European History and English Literature. A fun fact about me is that when I was around 11 or 12, I went to a drama camp in Canada. At the camp, a group of 10 to 15 other kids and I worked collectively to write and perform a half-hour-long play about a bank heist. We did not have any scripts because all of the writing we did was during improv sessions. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot about working creatively in a group setting.

My current professional goals are to attend graduate school and get a Ph.D. in Political Theory. In terms of my research, I am trying to develop a conference proposal for larger work. The main thing I hope to get out of the Brackenridge Fellowship is the different perspectives from the rest of the group. One serious issue with some works in philosophy and political theory is that the authors do not consider possibilities outside of what they have experienced or understand. So, I want to confront that problem and make sure my work is well-rounded and considerate of perspectives outside of my own.

My Project

          The project I am working on over the summer is a continuation of a project I began in the spring semester with Andrew Lotz, who I will be continuing to work with over the summer. During the first part of this project, I developed a discursive method for analyzing and explaining political theory, which I have been calling Transitionality. Transnationality is first based on the premise that transitions from regime to regime, either through violent revolution or the dissolution of an empire, are situated and conditional. This view is explained in Ruti Teitel’s Transitional Justice, which explores the wave of democratization in the late 20th century. From this premise, I sought to explain the incongruity between the established primary end of the Rule of Law, the equal accountability and access to the law, and Liberalism’s adoption of the absolutist formulation of private property rights that constructs intersectional inequalities beyond the economic sector. In other words, I sought to explain why, if private property makes procedural equality impossible, was it adopted by the Liberal Enlightenment-era philosophers and political theorists.

            The second part of this project is to examine how the historically situated standpoints of leftist theorists, like Marx and Engels, Lenin, Proudhon, the Diggers and Levellers, etc., fail to account for their worldly situatedness and assume that there can be a complete, society-wide ontological and epistemological break from past regimes, and how the power structures they fail to address perpetuate the systems of oppression they sought to abolish. For communism, the premise or principle I will explore is how the continuation of understanding property in an absolute and purely economic/transactional manner perpetuates the relational domination of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie where the nation-state assumes the “over” position.

            The first critical premise through which I will examine anarchist theory is explored in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. The novel is essentially a thought experiment into applying Anarcho-Syndicalist theory, first promoted by Mikhail Bakunin, and the social power dynamics created by the econominization and collectivization of worth where the individual is wholly subordinate to the collective will. This strain of anarchist theory argues that by subordinating oneself to the collective and rejecting egoism, freedom will be achieved but fails to recognize social capital and the relational power imbalances created. The second area I want to examine is how revolutionary projects like the Paris Commune and the Diggers failed to account for the material realities limiting their capacity for choices outside of the conceptual frameworks established by dominant groups.

Leave a Reply