Wednesday, August 29, 2007

CFP: Montesquieu

The Society for Social and Political Philosophy
is pleased to issue
for a Roundtable on Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws

The Roundtable is to be held at Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, New York
on March 21-23, 2008.

This Roundtable is designed to explore Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws (1748). We chose this text because our notion of Enlightenment Political Philosophy, and perhaps even Modern Political Philosophy more broadly, has been dominated by the classical theorists of the contract tradition. We need to pay more attention to figures like Montesquieu, who form a counter-tradition in political modernity.

Given the influence of the implicit and explicit norms of the contract tradition on most contemporary political philosophy, the question is not merely of historical value. As a thinker outside of the mainstream tradition of political philosophy, Montesquieu may be a resource for rethinking pressing contemporary questions that have remained stubborn blind spots: especially questions about the passions and political life; about political virtue; about democracy and liberalism. In addition, both Montesquieu and the counter-tradition of political modernity more generally have been significant to post-enlightenment figures in political and continental philosophy like Marx, Deleuze, Schmitt, Negri, Arendt, and Berlin, to name only a few.

Applicants need not be experts in Montesquieu or in 18th century political theory. Applicants must, however, have an expertise in some area of social or political philosophy. Applicants must also be interested in teaching one another and in nurturing the ongoing exploration of the history of political thought.

If selected for participation, applicants will deliver a written, roundtable-style presentation on a specific part or theme of the text. Topics can be historical (e.g. influence of The Spirit of the Laws in the 18th century), contemporary (e.g. liberalism and The Spirit of the Laws), figure-driven (e.g. Marx and The Spirit of the Laws) or thematic (e.g. politics of the passions and affects). However, all topics must relate centrally back to some aspect of The Spirit of the Laws.

Prior to composing their applications, applicants are encouraged to review either the French original of The Spirit of the Laws or the 1989 translation from Cambridge University Press by A. Cohler et al. The Cohler is the official English translation, and it will be used by participants reading in English at the roundtable in March.

Roundtable participants must be members of the society in good standing.
You can become a member of the society at
or by following the membership link at

Spaces are limited.

Applicants should send the following materials as email attachments to by October 1, 2007:

1. Curriculum Vitae
2. One page statement of interest in the project. (Please include a discussion of topics that you would be willing to explore in a roundtable presentation. Please also include the projected significance of participation for your research or teaching.)

All applicants will be notified about the outcome of the selection process via email on or before November 1, 2007. Participants will then be asked to send a draft, abstract, or outline of their roundtable presentation to

by March 1, 2008 so that we can put together a final program.