Theories of justice are haunted by a paradox: the more ambitious
the theory of justice, the less applicable and useful the model is
to political practice; yet the more politically realistic the
theory, the weaker its moral ambition, rendering it unsound and
equally useless. Brokering a resolution to this "judgment paradox,"
Albena Azmanova advances a "critical consensus model" of judgment
that serves the normative ideals of a just society without the help
of ideal theory.
Tracing the evolution of two major traditions in political
philosophy -- critical theory and philosophical liberalism -- and
the way they confront the judgment paradox, Azmanova critiques
prevailing models of deliberative democracy and their preference
for ideal theory over political applicability. Instead, she
replaces the reliance on normative models of democracy with an
account of the dynamics of reasoned judgment produced in democratic
practices of open dialogues. Combining Hannah Arendt's study of
judgment with Pierre Bourdieu's social critique of power relations,
and incorporating elements of political epistemology from Kant,
Wittgenstein, H. L. A. Hart, Max Weber, and American philosophical
pragmatism, Azmanova centers her inquiry on the way participants in
moral conflicts attribute meaning to their grievances of injustice.
She then demonstrates the emancipatory potential of the model of
critical deliberative judgment she forges and its capacity to guide
This model's critical force yields from its capacity to disclose
the common structural sources of injustice behind conflicting
claims to justice. Moving beyond the conflict between universalist
and pluralist positions, Azmanova grounds the question of "what is
justice?" in the empirical reality of "who suffers?" in order to
discern attainable possibilities for a less unjust world.
Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy
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