Non-Domination and Egalitarian Welfare Politics

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Abstract

Recently in the debate over the nation state and particularly the welfare state, new (or perhaps one should say ”recycled”) arguments have come into play, possibly as a consequence of an overall shift of focus in political philosophy. Critics of the welfare state was previously most concerned with what they saw as violations of individual property rights, that is, arguments concerning the philosophical grounds of the welfare state. Now in the wake of a renewed interest in citizenship and the viability of the nation state as such, questions concerning the sustainability of the welfare state have arisen anew, that is, arguments about the consequences of a welfare state, and not any consequences but its civic consequences. The worry has two components: 1. The welfare state idea, concerned as it is with justice claims that citizens can level against the state and each other is antagonistic and threatens to destroy those very sentiments of loyalty that are necessary to sustain it. 2. The welfare state is too vast and centralized to be able to foster public identification and will leave its citizens feeling powerless and disenchanted.
One of several spokespersons for these concerns is Michael J. Sandel who, in his latest book Democracy’s Discontent (1996), in the aftermath of the liberal-communitarian debate believes himself to be reviving the republican tradition with its emphasis on civic virtues. In this article I will, first, argue that Sandel not only misdiagnoses the republican tradition but that his position is actually, and contrary to his own opinion, worse equipped to deal with solidarity and social vulnerability than welfare state theories. Working from a radicalization of Philip Pettit’s republican reconceptualization of ”freedom” as non-domination, I will, secondly, argue for those connections between this notion and strong claims about social justice that Pettit believes are not there.

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Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Philosophy, Ethics and Religion

Keywords

  • social justice, Philip Pettit, Michael Sandel, property, non-domination, freedom, welfare state, welfare politics
Original languageEnglish
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Volume1
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes