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Oliver Feltham - Wikipedia

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About Oliver Feltham

Bibliography Includes bibliographical references p. Contents Thrasymachus versus Socrates on philosophy and political action the history of the leveller-agitators and the new model army Hobbes' and Locke's metaphysics: substances no longer act, institutions act Hobbes and Locke on religious conflict: when institutions act, subjects act Hobbes and Locke on politics: sovereign action and contractual action Unveiling the forgotten model: the leveller-agitators on joint action. Bibliographic information. Publication date ISBN pbk.

Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War It Starts

The soldiers' fight against the royalist forces as commoners, and not as mere mercenaries, meant for that the members of the New Model Army had the obligation to finalize the yet incomplete project of extending the franchise to all people of England in the settlement of the civil war.

So the soldiers' role during the war was consequential for their subsequent political self-understanding. This logic of entailment reflects how political identities and goals can arise through joint action. Before further developing this model of political action inherent in the practice of the alliance by way of contrast with Hobbes's and Locke's models of this kind, Feltham makes a rather lengthy excursus and explains these two thinkers' views on the metaphysics of action Chapter 3 and religious toleration Chapter 4.

The breadth of these two chapters is perhaps slightly excessive in light of their limited relevance for the juxtaposition of the three models of political action.

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But they are certainly illuminating in many respects. They contain, for instance, a comparison between Luther's and Hobbes' view on the separation between inner and external actions. Feltham brings out that Hobbes, in contrast to Luther, relies on the idea of disjoint action. This allows Hobbes to explain the possibility of the existence of a plurality of inner faiths within the Christian commonwealth that he defends.

Oliver Feltham Book Launch

This is because the idea of disjoint action enables him to say that while the sovereign owns all individuals' external actions, including those pertaining to public worship, it does not control its subjects' inner faiths. Thereby, Feltham points out, "Luther's legacy has been perverted" p. After all, while Luther insists that a work of faith requires a certain inner attitude, "The work itself is an action that leaves traces in the world, that emanates and thus transmits the subjective attitude from which it was born" p.

But the juxtaposition of three models of political action is where the action is in Anatomy of Failure. Feltham presents Hobbes' model of sovereign action Chapter 5 , Locke's model of contractual action Chapter 5 , and the Leveller-agitator model of joint action Chapter 6.


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He differentiates these three models on the basis of 1 whom they identify as political agents, 2 what they view as the normative ground for political action, and 3 how they measure political success and failure. The subjects, who confer on the sovereign the right to rule, act only through the sovereign.

This ensures the absence of divisive political factions that would threaten the order and stability of the commonwealth In Locke's contractual model of political action, by contrast, there are multiple actors in political society: the legislative, executive, and federative powers which are responsible for the relations among political societies , and all individuals who have a right to resistance pp.

On the Leveller-agitator model of joint action people can act collectively by creating and fostering alliances across several factions of society. Unlike Hobbes' perspective, this model does not view the plurality and heterogeneity of the people as a threat to stability.

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The New Model Army's members' experiences with a variety of groups and individuals from many different parts of society help explain this feature of the model of political practice immanent in the alliance's practice pp. Moreover, in contrast to Locke, not only atomized individuals can oppose government; instead, people can create alliances and act collectively in opposition to the government pp.

The more alliances are realized and the more effective these alliances are in reshaping the internal orders of their respective social contexts, the more power they possesses. On what grounds? Who is right about what is to be done?


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  5. Why do we succeed or fail? If you and I split, were we ever united, and to what end? The application of these questions to the Leveller-agitator writings, and then to Thomas Hobbes and John Locke's philosophies, generates models of political action. No mere philosophical abstractions, the Hobbesian and Lockean models of sovereign and contractual action have dominated the very practice of politics for centuries.

    Today it is time to recuperate the Leveller-agitator model of joint action, a model unique in its adequacy to the threat of failure and in its vocation for building the common-wealth. An historical, political and philosophical account of political action, drawing on the work of Alain Badiou. Show more Show less.

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    Staged with theatrical flair, Oliver Feltham's new book about the relation between principled ideals and political realities avoids the twin perils of 'angelic critique or servile apology', and finds in the fragile but revolutionary alliance of the Levellers and the New Model Army some answers to perennial questions about the relation between right and might. His erudition ranges effortlessly over the complete works of Hobbes, Locke and Spinoza.


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    He reconstructs, with economy and accuracy, the de-substantialisation of classical conceptions of action and the modern transfer of the ability to act to judicial and political institutions