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JurisTalk – “Alienation, Disalienation, and Moral Motivation” With Dr. Catherine Lu

January 24, 2020 at 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM

Location:D492 Loeb Building

Speaker: Dr. Catherine Lu

Professor of Political Science, McGill University

Paper title: Alienation, Disalienation, and Moral Motivation

Paper abstract:

There is an unproductive disconnect between philosophical and social scientific accounts of alienation. While critical theory tends to conceptualize alienation in structural terms, as a diagnosis of an objectionable social condition, social scientific studies focus on alienation as a psychological-subjective state of individuals. Critical theory tends to dismiss the ‘subjective’ experience of alienation as irrelevant to the diagnosis of alienation as a defective social condition, while the social science literature has encountered difficulties defining, ‘operationalizing’, and measuring alienation, and explaining, predicting, or evaluating its political manifestations and effects with respect to any political system, or the behaviour of any individual agent or group. In this paper, I construct a distinct theoretical account of alienation as a cognitive-affective emotion. Such a concept of alienation is important to make critical theories of alienation move beyond diagnosis, and contribute to theorizing strategies of disalienation, which concern how agents come to be motivated to transform or dismantle alienating social orders. Theorizing alienation as a cognitive-affective experience also informs and improves on the standard account of alienation in the social science literature by revealing the inadequacy of conceptualizing alienation as a purely psychological-subjective state of individuals or groups.

Juris Talks Poster – Dr. Catherine Lu