About my political commitments

Statement of purpose and beliefs

The corrosion of social bonds, the atomising effects of market forces, the accumulation of unearned income in the hands of the fortunate few, the privatisation and commodification of public life, the empire building of capitalist firms, the recurrence of investment cycles generated by the animal spirits and profit-hunger of capitalists, and the subordination of political power to the interests of capital. It is for these reasons and more that I hold the belief that socialism should displace capitalism. I hope to advance socialism by contributing innovative research to an ongoing, collective intellectual effort and open-ended dialogue within the worldwide socialist movement to strengthen the theory of socialism, to provide the theoretical ammunition to empower the disempowered.

Society, organised as a political community, should furnish citizens with the correct balance of rights and obligations that allow them to harness their social nature and creative faculties. It is my contention that individuals cannot flourish optimally if society operates according to the demands, ebb and flow, and requirements of capital accumulation. It is this belief that sustains my research and activism. The purpose of my research therefore resides in tackling the key issues that arise when we attempt to imagine a society founded on a different basis, operating according to a different logic altogether. My research should therefore engage the question of the extent to which post-capitalism could potentially generate and distribute the material and immaterial resources among the population for the purpose of self-government, civic pride and virtue, social and personal responsibility, and independence from arbitrary domestic and foreign power.

In this endeavor, I have sourced civic republicanism for political inspiration. In my contention, republican socialism could provide the theoretical ammunition to help serve the cause of universal emancipation.

About my influences

Main theoretical sources

My intellectual influences draw from three main sources. In the area of political theory, from civic republicanism. In the area of economic thought, from reform socialism. In the area of social analysis, from neo-Gramscianism.

In terms of political philosophy, the political lineage of Aristotelianism and republicanism—spanning from the classical era, through the renaissance and the era of enlightenment, and into the modern theory of neo-republicanism—has greatly influenced my political thought. From this tradition I borrowed the importance of self-government, moral development, civic virtue and active citizenship, the notion of freedom as independence, and the need for a balanced constitution.

In the field of economic thought, studying how the reform currents in the socialist bloc grappled with the issues of socialist economic planning has been greatly illuminating. In particular, the works by Włodzimierz Brus, Michał Kalecki, János Kornai, and Leonid Kantorovich have impressed on me greatly, in addition to David Laibman.

I have also found the materialist method of dialectical inquiry pioneered by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to have been extraordinarily useful in aiding my understanding of the causal links that underpin social reality. The further contributions of their successors, such as Antonio Gramsci, Nicos Poulantzas, Anwar Shaikh, Michał Kalecki, Vivek Chibber, and Bob Jessop, as well as criticisms of Marxism, such as those formulated by Ranajit Guha, Anthony Giddens, Gayatri Spivak, Joan Robinson, Friedrich Hayek, Ernesto Laclau, and Chantal Mouffe, have helped clarify more clearly the extent of the usefulness of the Marxist method, as well as its potential limitations. This has impressed on me the notion that Marxism can retain its status as scientific approach to social analysis to the extent that traces of functionalism, structuralism, essentialism, and economism are systematically evaded or removed from its analytical toolbox. The theoretical void produced by this process of elimination can, in my view, be filled with the conceptual framework of neo-Gramscianism.

About my Political Thought

Republican Socialism

My political beliefs are mainly inspired by civic republicanism and democratic socialism. They are combined to form what might be called “republican socialism” or “socialist republicanism”, a new branch of theoretical investigation being developed by a handful of theorists.

According to my understanding, society should be re-founded as a universal community of virtue (a cosmopolis), populated by citizens of equal status and who each have more or less equal access to the moral and material resources for public participation, and further, which is governed by constitutional law. The political community should be guided by the common good, which implies that citizens are able to overcome their narrow, partial, sectional, or factional interests. This, in my view, is best effected by organising the political community as a constitutional republic, which balances different democratic procedures in such a way that the political outcomes generated by them conform closely to the long-term interests of society as a whole. In contrast to other forms of socialism, republican socialism is not based on the principle of extending democracy by the maximum amount. Instead, it seeks to optimise democracy by combining different institutional features that are bound to different types of political procedures, ranging from sortition, direct elections, indirect elections, citizen assemblies, and representative mandates.

According to republican-style socialism, the relationships among citizens should be primarily mediated by public institutions, rather than the private machinations of commercial enterprise. This premise forms the basis for the political theory of socialist republicanism. Marrying republicanism and socialism into a single union poses the challenge of formulating a way to curb the excesses of democracy without relying on oligarchic features to do so. I propose that this can be achieved thus.

Departing from the premise that popular sovereignty is indivisible, self-government by the people can be secured through a combination of sortition, direct legislation, and elected representatives bound by a ‘mandat représentatif‘ within a constitutional setting. Deputies are elected by ballot in public assemblies or drafted by lot into bicameral legislative assemblies, which simultaneously bear responsibility for executive functions. This achieves a balanced constitution without relying on oligarchic elements to effect it.

To facilitate active citizenship, the resources necessary for participation in public and political life will need to be made available free at the point of use, whenever feasible. This extends to medical care, academic instruction and professional education, as well as recreational and athletic facilities.

The processes of production and distribution should mirror the political sphere of the republic. This, then, is not achieved by rendering the principle of democracy fully operational throughout the economy, but by balancing decision-making power over the allocation of resources and the distribution of income among different public institutions of different scale and significance. This should generate an economic mechanism capable of enhancing the general welfare of the community. Further, this would reinforce a cultural atmosphere of civic virtue in place of a morale of private acquisition and avarice.

I have outlined a model based on republican socialism in ‘The Constitution of Socialism‘ (forthcoming). I plan to systematically develop a theoretical framework in the future (in ‘General Principles of Socialist Republicanism‘), which compares and contrasts republican socialism to competing approaches.