Authority: Connal Parsley

In 1956, Hannah Arendt declared the “more or less dramatic breakdown of all traditional authorities”; later going even further to say that “practically as well as theoretically, we are no longer in a position to know what authority really is”. In this session, we will not try to figure that out once and for all, rather we will raise a deceptively simple question: even if parents, politicians, and the law now lack authority, does the artist have a kind of authority today? In trying to seek an alternative to the Western tradition’s confusion of authority with force, we will ask whether and how—through what terms, experiences or starting points—we might point to something like a “political authority of the artist”. Does our inability to know what authority is arise just because we have been looking for it in the wrong place (right next to political violence and force)? Or, should we try and do without thinking in terms of authority altogether?

Recommended reading: Hannah Arendt (1956) “Authority in the Twentieth Century” 18(4) The Review of Politics 403-417.

This event is part of Topics in Critical Thought, a short course designed to offer an introduction to critical thought in general and provide a series of engaging talks, discussions and activities related to topics of contemporary concern to critical theorists. Members of the Centre for Critical Thought at the University of Kent will deliver all of the sessions. All seminars, except the last one, will be two hours long – 6.30-8.30pm – and will take place on Thursday.

More information about the full programme can be found here.