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(2019) The political theory of modus vivendi, Dordrecht, Springer.

Political thought between finality and indeterminacy

Michael Freeden

pp. 205-221

Modus vivendi theories are caught in an uneasy relationship with a substantive, normative pluralism of toleration and a conceptual and structural awareness of the unavoidability of sociopolitical diversity and contestation. The chapter explores the semantic space occupied by modus vivendi and the kind of political thinking it represents, in particular as a variant of the quest for order and the inevitability of ranking priorities. The implicit boundary drawn by "modus vivendi" theorists between solid blocs of ideas and practices is questioned. When larger magnification orders are employed, points of contact and intertwining may reveal a messiness with which conventional modus vivendi approaches cannot engage. Modus vivendi would consequently benefit from a micro-analysis of its various components instead of being subject to broad-brush treatment, particularly in view of a morphological approach to political concepts. Modus vivendi is also examined in contrast to consensus theories, compromise theories, and agonism, and some of its different forms—fragmentation, segmentation, and asymmetry—are discussed. Finally, modus vivendi is interrogated as an interpretative rather than a prescriptive thought-practice, relating it to a realism based on the ascertainable core characteristics of the political.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-79078-7_12

Full citation:

Freeden, M. (2019)., Political thought between finality and indeterminacy, in J. Horton, M. Westphal & U. Willems (eds.), The political theory of modus vivendi, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 205-221.

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