Democratic Society and Human Needs

Democratic Society and Human Needs

Jeff Noonan
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Democratic Society and Human Needs
    Book Description:

    In Democratic Society and Human Needs Noonan examines the moral grounds for liberalism and democracy, arguing that contemporary democracy was created through needs-based struggles against classical liberal rights, which are essentially exclusionary. For him, a democratic society is one in which human beings collectively control necessary life-resources, using them to promote the essential human value of free capability realization. His critique of globalization and liberal-capitalism vindicates radical social and economic democratization and provides an essential step towards understanding the vast discrepancies between rich and poor within and between democratic countries.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6016-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Toward a Renewed Critique of Liberal Capitalism
    (pp. xi-xxii)

    TWO PHOTOGRAPHS dramatically illustrate the argument that I will develop in this text. The first, which I saw while perusing a commuter newspaper in April 2001, pictured a young South African demonstrator holding a placard protesting the price of AIDS drugs in Africa. It read, “To hell with patent rights when it comes to our lives.”¹ The second I saw in theGlobe and Mailthe Monday after the largest global anti-war rallies in history. It showed a pregnant protester in New York City with a sign that said simply, “Power is in Giving Life.”² The first photograph highlights the...

    • 1 The Social Context of Early Liberal Theory
      (pp. 3-9)

      IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND classical liberal rights-based social morality, the historical context in which it developed must be examined. Its first systematic expression emerged in England during the period in which a market economy in land was developing. The development of a market economy in land could not proceed unless the structure of rural village life, in particular its reliance upon common use of certain lands, was radically transformed. The enclosure of lands formerly used in common created a social crisis for the peasantry, driving them into new relations of wage labour. It also created, however, a moral crisis, insofar...

    • 2 The Evolution of Rights-Based Social Morality: Hobbes to James Mill
      (pp. 10-37)

      THE SOCIETY from which liberal capitalism emerged was legitimated by appeal to an organicist principle of social hierarchy. Social order reflected the natural order which was in turn understood as the creation of God. If all persons accepted their natural place then society would function as a harmonious body. The political theory underlying this conception of naturally grounded social hierarchies has roots in Western philosophy stretching back at least to Plato.

      For Plato, society could only function properly if political power was steered by philosophical knowledge of an eternal Good. This knowledge was essential because, according to Plato, the Good...

    • 3 Case Study in Anti-Democratic Liberalism: The Property Defence League
      (pp. 38-43)

      AS LIBERAL RIGHTS-BASED SOCIAL morality tried to accommodate itself to growing demands that it be consistent with its abstract universal principles proclaiming the equality of “man,” fears emerged within a segment of the liberal movement that too many concessions to the formerly disenfranchised would destroy the very foundations of liberalcapitalist society. Liberal proponents of a minimal state and unregulated markets openly avowed that the enemy of liberal capitalism was democracy. From their perspective, democracy was indistinguishable from “collectivism” and “collectivism” was identical to “socialism.” What they feared about democratic movements was not the demand for political rights in the abstract,...

    • 4 Liberal Rights-Based Social Morality and Its Social Presuppositions
      (pp. 44-50)

      AS THE PREVIOUS SECTIONS of this part revealed, classical liberal rights-based social morality co-evolved with the development of the capitalist market. The development of the capitalist market created a socially specific form of dependence of human life, in terms of both its maintenance and its qualitative development, upon the ability to pay market price for basic resources and for the creation of opportunities for self-realization. Initially, as I have argued, rights-based social morality did not challenge this form of dependence; it defended its legitimacy. The protection it afforded to the development of capitalist market relations simultaneously enabled epochal increases in...

    • 5 Capitalism as Moral Revolution
      (pp. 53-58)

      THE EMERGENCE OF classical liberal rights-based social morality expresses, in the words of Christopher Hill, a moral revolution. As he argues, “the victory of the capitalist economy involved a moral revolution, the assertion of the sanctity of private property, and its absolute right to override the customary rights of the poor.”¹ I have argued that the implication of this revolution for the peasantry and emergent working class was a new form of dependence of human life on capitalist market forces. The rights of owners of productive property to use it in the way most profitable to themselves trumped the needs...

    • 6 Gerrard Winstanley: Freedom and the Needs of Life
      (pp. 59-68)

      ON 1 APRIL 1649, a small band of men led by Gerrard Winstanley began tilling the unused land around St George’s Hill in southern England. Moved by Winstanley’s mystical vision and an earthly calamity (the failure of the Commonwealth to secure land for decommissioned soldiers), the Diggers, or “True Levellers,” attempted to establish a community based upon need satisfaction through collective labour. Initially, the group aroused indifference, then curiosity, and finally hostility. Sir Francis Drake, owner of the land upon which the Diggers had camped, finally tired of their presence. On 23 June he brought suit against Winstanley and by...

    • 7 The Dialectic of Rights and Needs in the French Revolution
      (pp. 69-90)

      WINSTANLEY’S CRITIQUE of the life-destructive implications of classical liberal social morality did not yield any practical victories of significance for the development of democratic society. The same is not true of the struggles of radical republican forces against supporters of classical liberal social morality in the French Revolution. Here the struggle between political liberalism and democratic social organization took on world-historical significance. I will argue that this struggle cannot be fully understood as a struggle between different interpretations of liberal rights-based social morality.¹ Rather, the explanation of the distinct conception of social or positive rights that develops here resides in...

    • 8 Needs and Social Struggles in England and France in the Nineteenth Century
      (pp. 91-110)

      WHILE THE JACOBINS were the first political movement to attempt to institutionalize needs-based social morality, they did not succeed in creating an institutional context in which the democratic power of French citizens increased. Indeed, viewed from a political perspective, the Jacobins might be accused of instituting an early version of what Feher, Heller, and Marcus, referring to Stalinism, called, the “dictatorship over needs.”¹ If it is the case that, historically and conceptually, needs-based social morality must entail bureaucratic-authoritarian forms of domination over citizens then it would be the antithesis to, rather than the necessary normative framework of, a democratic society....

    • 9 Socialism and Democratic Need Satisfaction
      (pp. 111-130)

      MARX’S CRITIQUE of capitalism and his positive understanding of human freedom synthesizes, in effect, the insights into the nature and content of human needs and their instrumental relation to substantive human freedom that the various struggles against classical liberal social morality generated. His famous assertion “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” is more than a slogan or a utopian principle. It is a conscious recognition of the essential interdependence of human life, the social grounds of individuation, and the intrinsic link between social and individual life value. Individuals can individuate themselves if and only...

    • 10 Social Rights
      (pp. 133-140)

      IN THE FIRST TWO PARTS I have abstracted and contrasted two distinct grounds of social morality. I have treated them as ideal types in order to sharpen their distinct logical structures, that is, their opposed implications for the development of a democratic society. Whereas the classical liberal conception of equality permitted the inclusion of formerly excluded groups to political citizenship, it ruled out the legitimacy of democratic governance of the economy in the interests of need satisfaction and capability development. Whilepoliticaldemocratization can be understood as the universalization of the right to participate in the process of government, the...

    • 11 John Rawls: Self-Determination – Moral or Material?
      (pp. 141-158)

      MARSHALL’S CONCEPTION of social rights addresses the failure of classical liberal social morality to satisfy the material conditions of selfdetermination. At the same time, however, the passive mode of need satisfaction that it affirms leads to another contradiction. On the one hand, positive rights recognize that full citizenship is incompatible with mass need deprivation. On the other hand, the institutions of the welfare state left intact the capitalist market as a productive systemand simply sought to ameliorate the quantitative asymmetries of wealth and power that its normal operations caused without addressing the deeper forms of coercion and dependence essential to...

    • 12 Habermas’s One-Dimensional Democracy
      (pp. 159-184)

      MY EXAMINATION of Habermas’s work will not concern itself with negotiating between the myriad criticisms and defences his oeuvre has generated over the past thirty years and will steer clear of questions relating to the intrinsic soundness of his theory of communicative action and philosophy of language. I will confine my arguments regarding his theory of modernization and communicative action to their implications for his theory of democracy. The hermeneutic thread that I will follow is determined by the links Habermas himself establishes between his sociology of modernity, his theory of communicative action, and his discourse-theoretic reconstruction of democratic theory...

    • 13 Chantal Mouffe: The Self-Contradictions of “Political” Democracy
      (pp. 185-198)

      EVOLVED RIGHTS-BASED social morality focuses theoretical attention on the relationship between pluralism and democracy. Given the differences that characterize conceptions of the good life in modern society, legitimate authority must reconcile binding public law with private moral autonomy. Democracy is thus understood as the political system most compatible with the structure of modern society. By engaging the rationality of citizens in the production and testing of laws, democratic political structures are able to preserve autonomy and elicit respect for the law. Given this twin stress on pluralism and autonomy, contemporary democratic theory has concentrated on civil society as the structural...

    • 14 The Reaction Against Social Democratization
      (pp. 201-213)

      THE FIRST THREE PARTS of this book have reconstructed, from the standpoint of their respective social moralities, the debate between liberals and democrats “about the kind of social agenda necessary to make the principle of political control by equal citizens properly effective.”¹ Judging over the long term, democrats have been successful in transforming the strong form of separation of political and economic power justified by classical liberal rights-based social morality. The high point reached thus far by that trend is theexternalregulation of economic power by laws enacted by duly elected governments. Those regulations include health and safety legislation,...

    • 15 Needs-Based Social Morality, the Life Ground of Values and the Good for Human Beings
      (pp. 214-226)

      ONE MIGHT AGREE that the principles of the value system and social morality underlying the globalization of market forces are totalitarian in their implications and yet reasonably fear that plans for a fundamental alternative run at least as strong a risk of totalitarian implications. This fear would appear to be sharpened if the normative justification of that alternative is ultimately a universal conception of the human good. Globalization itself, after all, has expanded the communication links between cultures, further sensitizing political philosophers to the reality of differences in the values that govern cultural wholes and individual lives. Does not the...

    • 16 Negotiated Coordination and the Project for a Democratic Society
      (pp. 227-248)

      The previous chapter argued that human beings have proven themselves capable, over the long term, of distinguishing their universal life interests from socially contingent private interests. While we are far from a society in which sexism, racism, and inequality are overcome, naturalistic explanations of those forms of unfreedom no longer convince. Few people in the liberal-capitalist world would want to publically argue that women are the natural inferiors of men or that the poor deserve their fate because they cannot control their sexual desires. Judged against the long-term tendencies of social development, neo-liberal social morality appears as a reaction against...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-258)
  10. Index
    (pp. 259-265)