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Majorities and Minorities: Nomos XXXII

John W. Chapman
Alan Wertheimer
Copyright Date: 1990
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 356
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfw5f
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  • Book Info
    Majorities and Minorities
    Book Description:

    In this thirty-second annual volume in the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy's NOMOS series, entitled Majorities and Minorities, thirteen distinguished contributors consider a diverse selection of topics. Included are essays on legitimacy of the majority, the utilitarian view of majoritarianism, majorities and elections, pluralism and equality, democratic theory, and American democracy and majority rules. Of Interest to political scientists, philosophers, and legal scholars, this collection brings together a variety of viewpoints. Each author is a leading voice within his or her specialized field.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-9015-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xii)
    J.W.C. and A.W.
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)
    ALAN WERTHEIMER

    “If majorities are often wrong, why is it right for them to rule?,”¹ asks Elaine Spitz. It is certainly not right, in any fundamental sense, says John Rawls: “the procedure of majority rule, however it is defined and circumscribed, has a subordinate place as a procedural device.”² Indeed, if anything characterizes the American disposition toward majorities and majority rule, it is a considerable skepticism. For no sooner do we say majority rule then we add the crucial, “but there must be protection for the rights of minorities.” The presuppositions of majority rule, the justification of majority rule, the status of...

  6. PART 1: HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION

    • 1 THE DEMISE OF THE CONFESSIONAL STATE AND THE RISE OF THE IDEA OF A LEGITIMATE MINORITY
      (pp. 11-23)
      JOSEPH CHARLES HEIM

      The issue of majorities and minorities within a common political community is a recent topic in Western political thought. Indeed, prior to the early nineteenth century, this issue scarcely existed; it found no resonance in the public and educated discourse before that day. In the advanced Western states, any examination of majority-minority problems is premised on the idea of a neutral state, empowered to act by the results of universal franchise, responding to the concerns of all members of society within its borders. No idea could have been further removed from the men who exercised the responsibility and care of...

    • 2 MAJORITIES AND MINORITIES: A CLASSICAL UTILITARIAN VIEW
      (pp. 24-43)
      FREDERICK ROSEN

      A traditional criticism of utilitarianism has focused on its alleged inability to provide an adequate theoretical foundation for securing individual rights and the protection of minorities. The very phrase, “the greatest happiness of the greatest number,” has been interpreted as a clear declaration of majority ascendancy. This criticism may be traced to the heart of utilitarianism in John Stuart Mill’s notion of the “tyranny of the majority,” which Mill regarded as a partial criticism of the utilitarian theory of government that he inherited from Jeremy Bentham and James Mill. The object of this chapter is to examine the problem of...

    • 3 RIGHTS AND MAJORITIES: ROUSSEAU REVISITED
      (pp. 44-76)
      JEREMY WALDRON

      The distinction between political theory and political philosophy often seems artificial. The two terms pick out much the same discipline pursued under the auspices of different academic departments. But one topic where there has been a considerable divergence of emphasis between political theorists and political philosophers—or between those who study political morality in philosophy departments and those who study it in departments of political science—is the topic of fundamental rights. Those who believe in rights hold the view that individuals and minorities have certain interests that they can press, certain claims they can make against the rest of...

  7. PART II: CONCEPTUAL AND PROCEDURAL ISSUES

    • 4 THREE FALLACIES CONCERNING MAJORITIES, MINORITIES, AND DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
      (pp. 79-125)
      IAN SHAPIRO

      Minorities and majority rule is our subject—and it is a peculiarly American one. The tricky task for this constitutional democracy is to devise “ways of protecting minorities from majority tyranny that is not a flagrant contradiction of the principle of majority rule.” The terms of the problem are set, John Hart Ely elaborates, by the fact that “a majority with untrammeled power to set governmental policy is in a position to deal itself benefits at the expense of the remaining minority.” In Bruce Ackerman’s words, “no modern contractarian has succeeded in vindicating majority rule without, at the same time,...

    • 5 DEMOCRATIC THEORY AND THE DEMOCRATIC AGENT
      (pp. 126-150)
      DIANA T. MEYERS

      Democratic theories as opposed as those of James Buchanan and Benjamin Barber, not to mention the many shades of opinion in between, advocate liberty and equality—the two values that have assumed preeminence in modern democratic theory.¹ Despite the divergent interpretations of these values proffered by different theories, liberty and equality are seen as valuable from the personal as well as the social point of view. The rights that liberty and equality mandate shield individuals from the frustrations and humiliations of others’ unwarranted interference or pretended superiority. Moreover, through the enfranchisement of every citizen, democratic theories capitalize on the distinctive...

    • 6 POLITICAL EQUALITY
      (pp. 151-183)
      THOMAS CHRISTIANO

      Philosophical thinking about democracy has not come very far in spelling out the standards that legitimate democratic institutions should meet. Political philosophers and theorists have not got beyond general justifications of democracy and some vague outlines of what the ideal they use in justifying democracy might entail when it comes to defining standards for institutions.¹ Elsewhere I have worked out a justification of political equality in terms of a conception of egalitarian justice that requires equality in the distribution of resources. I have shown how that notion of equality ought to apply in circumstances of conflict over certain goods. Those...

    • 7 PUBLIC CHOICE VERSUS DEMOCRACY
      (pp. 184-204)
      RUSSELL HARDIN

      Public-choice theory offers two main classes of findings. First, aggregation from individual to collective preferences may not be well defined. Even though every individual may have a clear preference ranking of all alternatives before us, we may not be able to convert these individual rankings into a collective ranking. Second, individual motives for action may not fit collective preferences for outcomes even when the latter are well defined. We may all agree, for example, that we would all be better off if we would all pay extra for better pollution control equipment on our cars, but no individual has an...

  8. PART III: CULTURAL PLURALISM AND GROUP RIGHTS

    • 8 PLURALISM AND EQUALITY: THE STATUS OF MINORITY VALUES IN A DEMOCRACY
      (pp. 207-225)
      ROBERT L. SIMON

      In his book,Justice, Equal Opportunity, and the Family, James Fishkin claims, “I should not be able to enter a hospital ward of healthy newborn babies and, on the basis of class, race, sex, or other arbitrary characteristics predict the eventual position in society of these children.”¹ In a similar vein, Onora O’Neill maintains that “Substantively equal opportunity is achieved when the success rate of certain major social groups—such as the two sexes, various ethnic groups and perhaps various age groups—are equalized.”²

      It is not difficult to reconstruct the reasoning that might have led Fishkin and O’Neill to...

    • 9 DIFFERENCE AND DOMINATION: REFLECTIONS ON THE RELATION BETWEEN PLURALISM AND EQUALITY
      (pp. 226-250)
      JOSEPH H. CARENS

      Can we respect differences among groups without blindly endorsing existing patterns of inequality? Can we distinguish between domination and diversity without forfeiting our claim to pluralism? These are the sorts of questions we should ask ourselves as we reflect on the relation between pluralism and equality.

      Robert Simon offers an eloquent defense of pluralism in his contribution to this volume. But in his eagerness to avoid the Charybdis of egalitarian assimilationism he embraces the Scylla of inegalitarian pluralism. To choose between these two is to succumb to a myth. The right sort of egalitarianism does not require us to make...

    • 10 ELECTORAL POWER, GROUP POWER, AND DEMOCRACY
      (pp. 251-264)
      ANDREW LEVINE

      It has been suggested that the tendency of American courts in recent years to acknowledge discrimination only in cases where an intent to discriminate can be demonstrated has exacerbated social inequalities; and the application of this standard to voting rights has diminished the electoral strength of blacks.¹ I have no quarrel with this suggestion, though I would emphasize, as a realist would, that the decline of progressive social movements in the United States and the rise of the right to commanding positions in the state apparatus, including its courts, are largely to blame. It is beyond my competence to provide...

  9. PART IV: THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

    • 11 AMERICAN DEMOCRACY AND MAJORITY RULE
      (pp. 267-307)
      JONATHAN RILEY

      Robert Dahl points out that “the Framers [of the U.S. Constitution] intended … to impede the operation of majority rule. In few other democratic countries are there so many obstacles in the way of government by electoral and legislative majorities.”¹ These antimajoritarian obstacles include indirect methods of election or appointment for some government officials; intragovernmental checks designed to maintain a degree of separation of powers among the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches and between the two houses of the legislative branch; a federal division of powers between national and state governments; and a complex supermajoritarian constitutional amendment procedure. More specifically,...

    • 12 “YES, BUT …”: PRINCIPLES AND CAVEATS IN AMERICAN RACIAL ATTITUDES
      (pp. 308-336)
      JENNIFER L. HOCHSCHILD and MONICA HERK

      Analysts of Americans’ racial attitudes agree on four points. Whereas a majority of whites expressed overt racism in the 1950s, only a small minority do in the 1980s. Whereas a minority of whites supported the principles of racial equality and racial integration in the 1950s, a large majority do in the 1980s. White endorsement of specific means for implementing those principles still varies tremendously. Finally, blacks have become increasingly pessimistic during the past three decades about ending racial prejudice and discrimination, and blacks see much more persistent white racism than whites do.

      Beyond these points of agreement, controversy rages. Some...

  10. INDEX
    (pp. 337-344)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 345-345)