The Soul of Justice: Social Bonds and Racial Hubris

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Overview

Cynthia Willett brings together diverse insights from social psychology, classical and contemporary literature, and legal and justice theory to redefine the basis of the moral and legal person.Feminists, communitarians, and postmodern thinkers have made clear that classical liberalism, with its emphasis on individual autonomy and excessive rationalism, is severely limited. Although she is sympathetic with the liberal view, Willett finds it necessary to go further. For her, attention to the social dimensions of the family and civil society is critical if issues of race, gender, class, and sexuality are to be taken seriously. Interdependency, not autonomy, is of increasing significance in an era of globalization.Willett proposes an alternate normative theory that recognizes the impact of social forces on individual well-being. Citizenship in a democracy should not be defined solely on the basis of rights to autonomy, such as bare rights to property or free speech, she explains. Rather, citizenship should be defined first of all in terms of the rights, responsibilities, and capacities of the social person.It is within the African American tradition of political thought that Willett finds a more useful definition of human identity and political freedom. The African American experience offers a compelling vision of social change and a deeper understanding of what it means to be a social person. By focusing on everyday battles against racism, Willett contends, we can gain valuable insight into the meaning of justice.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"'Freedom's most sublime meaning is eros.' This is the central claim of Cynthia Willett's powerful new book, The Soul of Justice. . . . Therein Willett brings together critical theory, care ethics, and other forms of feminist theory, and the 'visionary pragmatism' of African American thought to challenge liberal conceptions of individuality and freedom. Perhaps because love often has been sentimentalized, philosophers have tended to turn to other phenomena, such as alienation, separation, and fear, in which to ground freedom. Understanding eros as something other than sentimentality, however, we can tap into its potential power and increase the chances for racial justice."—Shannon Sullivan, Pennsylvania State University, The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 17:4, 2003

"This largely convincing account raises important questions for democracy. . . . Willett's book sends us in new directions to answer questions with ancient origins."—Ange-Marie Hancock, Pennsylvania State University, American Political Science Review, vol. 96, no. 4, December 2002

"In her brilliant new book, Cynthia Willett forcefully argues that a theory of radical democrary needs both a notion of hubris and a notion of social eros. Her criticisms of liberal notions of the individual cut to the quick and open onto more fluid conceptions of sociality. Willett takes us to the heart of tensions between need and independence, autonomy and ultruism, self and others, rights and duties, equality and difference. This book will change the way that we think about justice and democracy in an era of globalization."—Kelly Oliver, State University of New York, Stony Brook

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801487156
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 8/23/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.94 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Prologue: Eros and Hubris: Social Justice in Old and New World Settings 1
Pt. I A Marriage of Autonomy and Care
1 The Ethics of Care and Its Limits 31
2 Hidden Narratives and Discourse Ethics 45
3 Joining Together Reason and Care 65
4 The Outsider Within: A Model of the Citizen as Worker and Friend 80
Pt. II A Dialectic of Eros and Freedom
5 The Erotic Soul of Existential Marxism: Marcuse 101
6 This Poem That Is My Body: Irigaray 123
Pt. III A Discourse of Love, A Practice of Freedom
7 The Mother Wit of Justice: Eros and Hubris in the African-American Context 157
8 The Genealogy of Freedom in Slave America: Frederick Douglass 188
9 Narratives of Hubris, Songs of Love: Toni Morrison's Beloved 203
Down Here in Paradise: A Coda 227
Index 237
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