Center «Res Publica»
The Res Publica centre was founded in 2006 as a place for scholars from various disciplines – including sociology, political science and history – to come together to work on issues of republican theory as the principal alternative to liberal political worldviews. The interest in republicanism stemmed from a classical problem of liberalism: how can supposedly self-interested individuals strive for the good of the common cause (one translation of the Latin phrase res publica)? Liberal political theory does not give us a clear answer to this question.
Researchers studying republicanism look for answers to the experience and practices of the republics of Antiquity, Renaissance-era republics in Italy, and contemporary municipal governments. What is it that unites people and induces them to work for the common good or res publica (another translation would be “things held in common”). The answer to this question lies far outside the boundaries of classical political theory.
In terms of scholarship, this means an interest on the part of the centre's researchers in the history of republican administration and republican political theory (from classical Antiquity, the Italian Renaissance and, of course, today's world). This involves both the study of classical mechanisms of republican administration (for example, the drawing of lots) and contemporary theorizations of republican freedoms and the limits of state power.
However, political theory alone cannot explain what genuinely unites people; therefore, the interests of the centre's researchers also include Latour's sociology of objects and social theory. Latour made it clear that civic engagement is possible if there are common objects (res publica) that bring people together and around which such activity can begin - for example, bridges and streets in ancient Novgorod, and plumbing networks and freeholders' associations in the modern city. It is this idea that unites researchers working in the field of the history of concepts, who seek to explain the origin of social terminology in Russian history, with sociologists analyzing present-day life.
The centre's employees work on their own research projects and translations, as well as organizing conferences, seminars and round-tables on the theme of republicanism. You can find more information about their work on this site.