September 20, 2023

Doing Politics with Wild Animals


An increasing number of theorists are challenging the idea that only humans can engage in politics, and propose that humans must learn how to do politics with animals. But what does it mean to do politics with animals, particularly wild animals? Will begins with two recent proposals in the literature. The first focuses on the institutional representation of animals’ interests in human political decision-making processes. The second focuses on the growing ethological evidence that wild animals have their own sophisticated capacities for collective decision making, and proposes that they should be seen as forming their own self-determining communities. While both of these proposals are important, neither offers an account of politics as something that humans and animals do together, of how humans and animals can co-author shared norms about shared spaces. Will concludes with some speculations about what joint human-animal politics might look like, including ideas about how humans and other animals can jointly govern an interspecies commons.


Will Kymlicka is the Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy in the Philosophy Department at Queen's University in Kingston, Canada, where he has taught since 1998. He is the co-author with Sue Donaldson of Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights, published by Oxford University Press in 2011.