Phronetic Statebuilding:
: an analytical framework

  • Andreas Aagaard Nøhr

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


This dissertation aims to construct an analytical framework for international statebuilding. This framework is based on the reading of to interrelated themes. The first theme is phronésis – practical wisdom on how to inquire and act on social prob-lems; while the second theme is that of parrhésia – the practice of truth-telling which involves an ontological commitment to the truth. Here, the question of what is good and bad for man in particular circumstances, takes predominance over theoretical con-cerns of social problems. Chapter one outlines the ideas of phronésis, from Aristotle’s initial arguments to the later re-emergence and formulation as a social science ideal. The second chapter consists in a thorough reading of Michel Foucault’s lectures on parrhésia. Here, the main argument is that while traditional political philosophy has been preoccupied with scrutinizing institutional frameworks, the secret of politics to the Ancient Greeks was to bring into play the ‘ethical difference’ in regards to the truth-telling of the political man indexed to the concrete exercise of power. Chapter three explores the synergies and similarities between phronésis and parrhésia and ar-gues that they are mutually dependent, where after the chapter scrutinizing the rela-tionship between parrhésia and Foucault’s concept of ‘governmentality’. In chapter four, a genealogy of the statebuilding literature reveals that the statebuilding debate has been one between, on the one hand, those who emphasise the importance of de-contextualised knowledge and institutional frameworks, and on the other hand, those who emphasise contextual knowledge and the importance of including ‘local ele-ments’ in institutional design; neither of which is an emphasis on phronésis and parrhésia. Based on the newly constructed framework of Phronetic Statebuilding, the dissertation argues that the statebuilding literature has to move in the direction of phronésis and parrhésia if international efforts of statebuilding are to be successful.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorHuw Lloyd Williams (Supervisor)

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