Constructing Community

Constructing Community: Moral Pluralism and Tragic Conflicts

J. Donald Moon
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Constructing Community
    Book Description:

    In developing a new theory of political and moral community, J. Donald Moon takes questions of cultural pluralism and difference more seriously than do many other liberal thinkers of our era: Moon is willing to confront the problem of how community can be created among those who have very different views about the proper ends of human life. Experiencing such profound disagreement, can we live together in a society under norms we all accept? In recent years, traditional ways of looking at this query have come under attack by post-modernists, feminists, and thinkers concerned with pluralism. Respectfully engaging their critiques, Moon proposes a reformulated liberalism that is intended to overcome the problems they have identified.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2111-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Introduction: Political Liberalism and Plurality
    (pp. 3-12)

    Modernity, it might be said, has produced three distinctive forms of political and social order, fascism, state socialism or communism, and democratic capitalism, but only the last has proven to be durable. While it is obviously premature to declare the “end of history,” liberalism—the political theory underlying democratic capitalism—appears to have gained a certain ideological hegemony in the industrialized world today. Although there are only twenty or thirty countries that can claim to be liberal-democratic regimes, liberalism has few serious ideological competitors. Ironically, the triumph of liberalism in practical politics is not matched by its success in the...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Moral Pluralism and Political Theory
    (pp. 13-35)

    The “standard form” of a political theory can be said to be “Aristotelian,” using this term in a broad sense. That is, the theorist begins with a conception of human nature, including an account of basic or essential human needs and capacities, such as the ability to reason, fundamental motivations, sociality, and emotional makeup, and a description of central human experiences, such as birth and death. On the basis of this conception, the theorist offers a vision of human flourishing or the human good—an account of the conditions that contribute to the fulfillment of beings who have these traits....

  6. CHAPTER THREE Appealing to Nature
    (pp. 36-73)

    One broad class of responses to the problem of moral pluralism—which we can (roughly) identify as liberal—attempts to create as much scope as possible for the differences among individuals and groups to be expressed. For liberals, toleration of difference is a crucial premise or starting point. Another broad set of theories, often arising in reaction to the first group, is what might be called “moral-transformative” theories. Rather than attempting to accommodate the differences among groups, moral transformers would reorder social relationships in such a way that these differences are either transcended or no longer cause conflict and division....

  7. CHAPTER FOUR From Contract to Discourse
    (pp. 74-97)

    “Discourse” and “contractarian” strategies are obviously closely related. They both seek to ground political and other associations on the “free agreement” of participants, and they both, therefore, must offer some account of what is meant by “free agreement.” Various theories have been proposed to answer these questions. The more ambitious have attempted to specify in a reasonably full way what substantive agreements we could expect to see reached if the conditions of free agreement were realized. Others, more modestly, offer only “a particular way of thinking about fair procedures for adjudicating normative claims” (White 1988:73). Contractarian theories attempt to specify...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Political Liberalism
    (pp. 98-120)

    Traditional liberalism sought to provide a normative framework that would make political community possible in the face of moral pluralism. What is distinctive about political liberalism is, first, that it is not based on an “ontology” of human nature but is offered as astrategyto achieve political community. Second, it rejects the “prestructuring” of normative arguments characteristic of “contractarian” approaches, adopting instead a model of generalized discourse. Third, while rejecting the ideal of unconstrained discourse, it seeks to remain open to criticism of its fundamental presuppositions. It is open, but not unconstrained. In order to accommodate fundamental criticism, political...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Rights, Private Property, and Welfare
    (pp. 121-145)

    Political liberalism takes agency as its provisional starting point, and asks what exclusions may lurk there, and how it must be amended to include all voices in the discourse necessary to constituting a political community. This self-critical process does not proceed in a vacuum: we do not seek a standpoint that is universally inclusive, but to address the particular objections and frustrations that arise in specific institutional contexts. Because liberalism has emerged in “market” societies, one of the most vexing questions has to do with property rights. In particular, doesn’t a society constructed on the basis of agency rights alone...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Citizenship and Gender
    (pp. 146-162)

    The suspicion that exclusions lurk in the liberal strategy has always focused on liberalism’s support of property and markets, but the issues raised in that context can and have been extended to the commitment to agency rights in general. In recent years some of the deepest and most perplexing objections to the liberal strategy concern gender. There is a certain irony here, since feminists, like the advocates of other oppressed and disadvantaged groups, have often invoked the language of rights. Indeed, the first major theoretical statements of a feminist position were articulated within a liberal framework by Mary Wollstonecraft, Harriet...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Are Rights Exclusive?
    (pp. 163-189)

    The last two chapters have reviewed charges that political liberalism, because of the primacy it accords agency rights, silences the voices of women and of those without property or valued skills. For some critics, these exclusions are only two examples of many, for they see agency itself as a form of exclusion. In this view, a social order based on agency does not provide individuals with the social space within which they can pursue their different ideals and ends, nor does the commitment to equality of agency rights and equal treatment secure the moral equality of persons. On the contrary,...

  12. CHAPTER NINE Democracy
    (pp. 190-210)

    Individual rights, I have been arguing, are necessary to accommodate moral pluralism and to make a discourse-based polity possible. But, as we have seen in the last three chapters, a rights-based system is not without its own antinomies, its own exclusions and evasions. By providing scope for individual action, rights may protect differences, but they also function to reproduce inequality. By guaranteeing equal treatment of individuals, a system in which rights have primacy may actually undermine valued forms of community. Intended to enable individuals to exercise direct control over different aspects of their lives, a rights-based system creates large areas...

  13. CHAPTER TEN Conclusion: Consensuality—and Nonconsensuality
    (pp. 211-222)

    “The farthest i would go,” Foucault has said, “is to say that perhaps one must not be for consensuality, but one must be against nonconsensuality.” To be for consensuality would be to “grant that it is indeed under its governance that the phenomenon has to be organized” (Foucault 1984:379). In this brief interview Foucault does not tell us what is problematic about taking consensus as a regulatory ideal, nor how we can be against nonconsensuality without being for consensuality. In this book I have tried to explore and sometimes even to answer these questions. I have been concerned with the...

  14. References
    (pp. 223-232)
  15. Index
    (pp. 233-235)