Democratic Justice

Democratic Justice

Ian Shapiro
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Democratic Justice
    Book Description:

    Democracy and justice are often mutually antagonistic ideas, but in this innovative book Ian Shapiro shows how and why they should be pursued together. Justice must be sought democratically if it is to garner legitimacy in the modern world, he claims, and democracy must be justice-promoting if it is to sustain allegiance over time.Democratic Justicemeets these criteria, offering an attractive vision of a practical path to a better future.Wherever power is exercised in human affairs, Shapiro argues, the lack of democracy will be experienced as injustice. The challenge is to democratize social relations so as to diminish injustice, but to do this in ways that are compatible with people's values and goals. Shapiro shows how this can be done in different phases of the human life cycle, from childhood through the adult worlds of work and domestic life, retirement, old age, and approaching death. He spells out the implications for pressing debates about authority over children, the law of marriage and divorce, population control, governing the firm, basic income guarantees, health insurance, retirement policies, and decisions made by and for the infirm elderly. This refreshing encounter between political philosophy and practical politics will interest all those who aspire to bequeath a more just world to our children than the one we have inherited.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14801-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. 1 Why Democratic Justice?
    (pp. 1-16)

    HOW COMFORTABLY DO OUR COMMITMENTS TO DEMOCRACY fit with our convictions about social justice? This question is rooted in two observations about our circumstances. First, in spite of democracy’s unexpected triumph in much of the world since the 1980s, little attention has been paid to democracy’s rightful place in a just social order, or even to what democracy is and what it requires. Perhaps this is inevitable. Those who fight for democracy often define their goals reactively. Sure as they are about the fine details of what they are against, they are less clear about the texture of what they...

  5. 2 Preliminaries
    (pp. 17-28)

    LIKEJUSTICE,THE TERMDEMOCRACYMEANS different things to different people. Sometimes it is identified with a particular decision rule; at other times it conjures up the spirit of an age. Democracy can be defined by reference to lists of criteria (such as regular elections, competitive parties, and a universal franchise), yet sometimes it is a comparative idea: the Athenian polis exemplified few characteristics on which most contemporary democrats would insist, but it was relatively democratic by comparison with other ancient Greek city-states. Many people conceive of democratic government in procedural terms; others insist that it requires substantive—usually egalitarian...

  6. 3 The General Argument
    (pp. 29-63)

    ANY FOUNDATIONAL DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACY will reasonably make level-headed people nervous, yet my argument for it is intended partly to quell—and even draw on—understandable fears of the organized power of others, of the potential for politics to undermine many values people cherish, and of the workability of all blueprints for social justice.¹ The suggestion that these claims can be squared with a foundational democratic commitment will raise skeptical eyebrows, at least in the absence of further clarification. I hope to show that such skepticism is misplaced and that, properly construed, democracy both speaks better than other foundational political...

  7. 4 Governing Children
    (pp. 64-109)

    WE FIRST CONFRONT POWER RELATIONS as children. It is logical, therefore, to start pursuing democratic justice through the life cycle by developing its account of governing children. This also provides a good initial test of my claim that the general argument for democratic justice can usefully be tailored to power relations of all kinds. Dependent children, particularly in their early years, are not much capable of meaningful decision making or effective opposition to the power relations that structure their lives. Nor, on many conceptions of the matter, ought they to be. Given the centrality of inclusive participation and meaningful opposition...

  8. 5 Consenting Adults
    (pp. 110-142)

    MARRIAGE HAS USUALLY BEEN UNDEMOCRATIC, but this need not be the case. Marriages can be governed by agreement in all significant particulars, and those involved in them can oppose aspects of married life that they find unsatisfactory—either to modify or end them. Nor is this merely a theoretical possibility. In many countries marriage has become dramatically less hierarchical over the past several decades, at least as a matter of law. The ready availability of divorce, enactment of various egalitarian measures to restructure marriage, and a growing willingness in many countries to consider legalizing unconventional forms of domestic partnership all...

  9. 6 Controlling Work
    (pp. 143-195)

    WORK PRESENTS DEMOCRATIC JUSTICE with challenges and possibilities that differ from those discussed in the preceding two chapters, though there is some overlap with each. Like the adult domestic realm, work in market-based industrial societies generally involves fully competent adults who are presumed sovereign over their interests.¹ Also in parallel with the adult domestic realm, work revolves around voluntary individual transactions that take place in larger, more or less coercive, contexts. Like adult-child relations, on the other hand, much work involves unequally distributed knowledge and expertise, hierarchical organization, and substantial exercises of power. True, the organization of work is not...

  10. 7 Life’s Ending
    (pp. 196-229)

    LIFE’S ENDING MIRRORS ITS BEGINNING. Whereas children develop from conditions of utter dependence to comparative independence, aging adults lose autonomy as their reliance on others grows. This inverted sequence means that some questions about the elderly arise for democratic justice that parallel those concerning children, although there are also significant differences. Adults know of their impending dependence and can plan for it, at least to a degree. They may be able to put aside resources during their productive years on which to draw later, and they can make their wishes known through various means, while still competent, as to how...

  11. 8 Deepening Democratic Justice
    (pp. 230-240)

    INDIVIDUALS DIE BUT SOCIETIES PERSIST, with ongoing challenges for democratic justice. Some challenges result from hostility to democracy, most obviously when military coups wipe out representative institutions. Other challenges are due to failed attempts to democratize, as when worker-owned firms do not take root in the economy. Yet other challenges are by-products of partial democratic successes: payment for politicians ends politics as a part-time hobby for the wealthy, but it ushers in new problems surrounding the role of money in political life. Even full-blown democratic successes can present novel questions, as when securing national democracy frees people to focus on...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 241-318)
  13. Index
    (pp. 319-333)