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The Capacity Contract

The Capacity Contract: Intellectual Disability and the Question of Citizenship

Stacy Clifford Simplican
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Capacity Contract
    Book Description:

    In the first sustained examination of disability through the lens of political theory,The Capacity Contractshows how the exclusion of disabled people has shaped democratic politics. Stacy Clifford Simplican demonstrates how disability buttresses systems of domination based on race, sex, and gender. She exposes how democratic theory and politics have long blocked from political citizenship anyone whose cognitive capacity falls below a threshold level⎯marginalization with real-world repercussions on the implementation of disability rights today.

    Simplican's compelling ethnographic analysis of the self-advocacy movement describes the obstacles it faces. From the outside, the movement must confront stiff budget cuts and dwindling memberships; internally, self-advocates must find ways to demand political standing without reinforcing entrenched stigma against people with profound cognitive disabilities. And yet Simplican's investigation also offers democratic theorists and disability activists a more emancipatory vision of democracy as it relates to disability⎯one that focuses on enabling people to engage in public and spontaneous action to disrupt exclusion and stigma.Taking seriously democratic promises of equality and inclusion,The Capacity Contractrejects conceptions of political citizenship that privilege cognitive capacity and, instead, centers such citizenship on action that is accessible to all people.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4422-7
    Subjects: Sociology, Language & Literature, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Anxiety, Democracy, and Disability
    (pp. 1-24)

    In November 2008, I attended my first self-advocacy meeting for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Held in the banquet room of a buffet restaurant, I expected to find self-advocates telling stories of institutional abuse and demanding political rights. Instead, I found nondisabled staff members and advisers orchestrating a meeting that mainly consisted of taking the roll and reading last month’s minutes. When people with intellectual and developmental disabilities actually participated in the meeting, they often parroted lines told to them by staff. If they managed to raise an objection, nondisabled advisers and staff easily shut them down. In general,...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Locke’s Capacity Contract and the Construction of Idiocy
    (pp. 25-46)

    In the 2013 NPR seriesUnfit for Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America,Chana Joffe-Walt reported that one in four Americans in Hale County, Alabama, receive assistance through federal disability programs.¹ The “startling” percentage sparked disagreement. Some used it to prove that federal disability programs are awash with former welfare recipients scamming their way onto disability,² whereas others argued that NPR missed the bigger picture about the ways in which economic downturns produce disability.”³ What is clear from the story is the contested identity of disability itself: How do we measure disability? Who is disabled? And how can...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Manufacturing Anxiety: The Medicalization of Mental Defect
    (pp. 47-70)

    At the end of the eighteenth century in France, Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard undertook the first experiment to educate an idiot child, and he drew inspiration from John Locke. Locke may seem an unexpected muse for Itard; as chapter 1 documents, Locke believed idiots to be incapable of thought, speech, and action. Nevertheless, Itard set upon a six-year struggle to prove Locke’s theory of education and, in so doing, inspired a new generation of physicians to take up the rehabilitation of idiots. By examining Itard and the medical practitioners after him, we see one reason why Locke’s capacity contract is so seductive:...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Disavowal of Disability in Contemporary Contract Theory
    (pp. 71-92)

    Psychologists find stark incongruities between our explicit and implicit beliefs about disability. “People are particularly unwilling to admit—or more likely, are unaware of—their implicit bias against individuals with disabilities.”¹ Research confirms that most people harbor negative implicit attitudes about disability,² even as they believe that negative attitudes are socially unacceptable³ and significantly impede the societal inclusion of people with disabilities.⁴ The unconscious nature of ableist bias likely renders it more potent, as individuals fail to see their complicity with discriminatory behavior toward people with disabilities.

    Likewise, the most pernicious philosophical biases against people with intellectual disabilities likely operate...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Rethinking Political Agency: Arendt and the Self-Advocacy Movement
    (pp. 93-117)

    At the 2010 Annual Conference of SABE (Self Advocates Becoming Empowered), Max Burrows, a young African American man, articulated the success and mission of the movement in his speech for SABE’s vice presidency: “In Vermont, we’ve got sticks and we’ve got mountains, but there’s one thing we don’t have . . . and that’s no institutions! [sic]. No sheltered workshops! And no enclaves!” Like most candidates running for office within SABE, Burrows attacked the isolating and exploitative conditions promoted by state policies for people with intellectual disabilities. Burrows’s passionate speech earned lots of audience applause. Burrows urged the crowd onward:...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Self-Advocates and Allies Becoming Empowered
    (pp. 118-136)

    When I met Charles at the self-advocacy meeting that I described in the introduction, I was skeptical that he and the self-advocacy group of which he was a part could offer new insight into the relationship between disability and democratic theory. At the time, I could not see how our shared dinner offered new possibilities for freedom. My observations that evening yielded few examples of political agency as traditionally conceptualized in scholarship, which emphasize control, autonomy, and rationality. But when my adult brother with autism moved into a state-run facility for people with intellectual disabilities three months after I met...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 137-138)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 139-170)
  12. Index
    (pp. 171-181)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 182-182)