Democratic Justice / Edition 1

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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 Justice meets 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.

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Editorial Reviews

David Runciman
A compelling attempt to map philosophical arguments about justice on to some of the contours of actual political practice.
Michael Walzer
Shapiro’s argument is wonderfully lucid.
Jennifer L. Hochschild
Shapiro successfully tackles not only one but both of the great divides in contemporary political philosophy :that between fair procedures and good outcomes, and that between theory and practice.
David Runciman
A compelling attempt to map philosophical arguments about justice on to some of the contours of actual political practice.
Times Literary Supplement
Kirkus Reviews
Good intentions are not rewarded with good results in this scholarly look at fundamental political values. It seems that the more one thinks about democracy and justice the less compatible they become. In the popular mind they are automatically linked, yet academics point out that justice usually implies a fixed standard and democracy an inescapably contextual majoritarian principle. Rather than dismissing popular opinion as an unreflective association of democracy with all good things, however, Shapiro maintains that "we should rise to the challenge implicit in the popular identification" and produce an account of justice that places democracy at the center of social relations. In doing so, he focuses on the distribution of authority rather than goods, assessing the world in terms of power relationships and decision-making rather than outcomes. Shapiro takes us through the life cycle, considering first the position of children and parents, then relations among adults in marriage and the workplace, and finally responsibilities toward the elderly and euthanasia. The goal is to provide "concrete recommendations" advancing the cause of democratic justice "in contemporary political controversy." Unfortunately, while the discussion is well grounded within the scholarly literature, as political analysis it illustrates how ambiguity can result from immersion in context no less than philosophical abstraction. For example, it may be true that determining whose interests should be included in questions of governance "varies with time and circumstance" and that in setting decision rules "many choices are dictated by peculiarities of context," but this level of sensitivity to different conditionsmakes it difficult to pin down the actual content of any principles that may be present. Shapiro's recurring vagueness may be unavoidable when trying to reconcile the tensions between justice and democracy, but it nevertheless leaves the reader unsatisfied. Intellectually stimulating but politically disappointing, precisely the opposite of the author's stated intentions.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300089080
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2001
  • Series: The Institution for Social and Policy St
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,220,360
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Why Democratic Justice? 1
2 Preliminaries 17
3 The General Argument 29
4 Governing Children 64
5 Consenting Adults 110
6 Controlling Work 143
7 Life's Ending 196
8 Deepening Democratic Justice 230
Notes 241
Index 319
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