“Conceptions of Time in the Rhetoric of Political Legitimation” by Nomi Claire Lazar (Mar 19)

This paper draws from my book manuscript How Time Frames: Temporal Rhetoric in the Politics of Legitimation, which engages the striking correlation between calendar reform and legitimacy crises. Why, at such moments would a political leader expend resources on a seemingly technical exercise? From Kinich Yax Kuk Mo’s time monuments in Mayan Copan, to Khubilai Khan’s Yuan calendar revision, and from the Julio-Augustan reform to French revolutionary time and Stalin’s five day week, I draw on empirical cases to develop a general theory of time technologies as political tools of legitimation.

For the workshop, I focus on the theory of conceptions of the flow of time, which underlies the argument of the book as a whole. I argue that time is the sort of thing which can be made to serve political aims because, first, time can never be experienced as such and hence there is no objective, independent measure of temporal accuracy. Our only experience of time is of time shaped by technologies, found or made. We simultaneously employ a variety of technologies (conceptual and mechanical), because we have a number of distinct uses for time. Hence, we are always open to multiple conceptions of the flow of time and we continually oscillate between nature- and technology- generated marks of accuracy. Because accuracy is necessarily aim-dependent, these can never be reconciled. This makes time always ripe for reform, and hence for political use. I will conclude with a summary of those political uses time can fruitfully serve.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 19 Mar 2015
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Nomi Claire Lazar, Yale-NUS College
Moderator: Dr. Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

LazarNomi Claire Lazar is Associate Professor of Social Sciences and Acting Head of Study, PPE at Yale-NUS College. She is a political theorist at work on problems which manifest when the ‘hedges’ of political institutions don’t or can’t fix political agents in their way. This work spans the history of political thought, contemporary philosophy, and public policy. In addition to a number of scholarly articles, she is the author of States of Emergency in Liberal Democracies (Cambridge, 2009) and is completing revisions to a new book, How Time Frames. Professor Lazar holds a Ph.D in Political Science from Yale, an MA from the School of Public Policy, University College, London, and a HonBA in philosophy from Toronto, where she was the recipient of the Douglas Bond Symons Prize in philosophy. Before beginning the PhD, she worked in the Criminal Law Policy section of the Department of Justice, Canada. And before joining Yale-NUS, she served as Harper-Schmidt Collegiate Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago, as Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, and as Canadian Bicentennial Visiting Fellow at Yale University.

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