The ‘public autonomy project’ is, on the one hand, a way of describing the political impulse that lies at the centre of radically democratic social justice politics, and on the other hand, the name of a research agenda to be explored on this blog.
In the book, Languages of the Unheard, I argue for an understanding of democracy as “public autonomy,” that is, the self-governance of people. This is in contrast to the interpretation of democracy as a form of preference-counting registered through voting. Public protest is important in part because it is a means of expanding the scope of public autonomy by weakening the grip of unresponsive systems of power, including markets and bureaucracies, and vindicating a politics that gives due weight to the dignity of each and the welfare of all (which is at the heart of what I call the “principle of accountability” in Languages). In subsequent research, I attempt to draw on the intellectual and political resources of “Irish Autonomism” (the tradition of anti-colonial, social-republican radicalism, from James Connolly to John Holloway) to elaborate on the strategic and analytical implications of a public autonomy conception of political and economic democracy.
I work as an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Huron University College, in London, ON, Canada. My published research addresses mainly practical ethics and democratic theory, and I teach courses in moral and political philosophy. In addition to my book, Languages of the Unheard, I have co-edited the book, A Line in the Tar Sands, a collection on popular resistance to the tar sands industry. For more information about the latter book, see ALineInTheTarSands.org