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Brake, Elizabeth, and . Rawls and Feminism: What Should Feminists Make of Liberal Neutrality?

2004, Journal of Moral Philosophy 1 (3):293-309.

Abstract: I argue that Rawls’s liberalism is compatible with feminist goals. I focus primarily on the issue of liberal neutrality, a topic suggested by the work of Catharine MacKinnon. I discuss two kinds of neutrality: neutrality at the level of justifying liberalism itself, and state neutrality in political decision-making. Both kinds are contentious within liberal theory. Rawls’s argument for justice as fairness has been criticized for non-neutrality at the justificatory level, a problem noted by Rawls himself in Political Liberalism. I will defend a qualified account of neutrality at the justificatory level, taking an epistemic approach to argue for the exclusion of certain doctrines from the justificatory process. I then argue that the justification process I describe offers a justificatory stance supportive of the feminist rejection of state-sponsored gender hierarchy. Further, I argue that liberal neutrality at the level of political decision-making will have surprising implications for gender equality. Once the extent of the state’s involvement in the apparently private spheres of family and civil society is recognized, and the disproportionate influence of a sexist conception of the good on those structures—and concomitant promotion of that ideal—is seen, state neutrality implies substantive change. While—as Susan Moller Okin avowed—Rawls himself may have remained ambiguous on how to address gender inequality, his theory implies that the state must seek to create substantive, not merely formal, equality. I suggest that those substantive changes will not conflict with liberal neutrality but instead be required by it.

Comment: A sympathetic treatment of Rawls's Political Liberalism from a feminist perspective. It introduces the alleged clash between liberalism and feminism in a clear way and goes on to argue that (political) liberalism's commitment to substantive rather than merely formal equality makes it compatible with core feminist concerns.

Chambers, Clare, and Phil Parvin. Teach Yourself Political Philosophy: A Complete Introduction

2012, Hodder & Stoughton

Publisher’s Note: Written by Phil Parvin and Clare Chambers, who are current political philosophy lecturers and leading researchers, Political Philosophy – The Essentials is designed to give you everything you need to succeed, all in one place. It covers the key areas that students are expected to be confident in, outlining the basics in clear jargon-free English, and then providing added-value features like summaries of key thinkers, and even lists of questions you might be asked in your seminar or exam. The book’s structure follows that of most university courses on political philosophy, by looking at the essential concepts within political philosophy (freedom, equality, power, democracy, rights, the state, political obligation), and then looking at the ways in which political philosophers have used these fundamental concepts in order to tackle a range of normative political questions such as whether the state has a responsibility to alleviate inequalities, and what interest liberal and democratic states should take in the cultural or religious beliefs of citizens.

Comment: 'Phil Parvin and Clare Chambers have produced a state of the art textbook, which provides students with a comprehensive and bang up-to-date introduction to contemporary political philosophy. Topics are introduced in a clear and eminently readable fashion, using accessible real world examples whilst drawing on sophisticated scholarly literature. There is no comparable book which covers such a wide range of topics in such a student-friendly manner.' (Dr Daniel Butt, Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Bristol.) 'A lively, accessible and engaging read. Comprehensive and well organized, it provides an updated account of key concepts in contemporary political philosophy, and highlights their relevance to political life in the 21st century. A valuable book for anyone taking their first steps in the world of political philosophy, or anyone who seeks to understand the normative challenges faced by our society today.' (Dr Avia Pasternak, Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Essex.) 'Written in a clear and accessible style, it is an engaging introduction for those who are new to political philosophy and wish to think through some of its most important questions. In addition to offering outlines of key arguments, each chapter also contains a summary of main concepts, self-test questions, a wonderful selection of quotations and some attention-grabbing 'nuggets'' (Dr Zosia Stemplowska, University Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Oxford)

Hampton, Jean, and . Political Philosophy

1996, Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Publisher’s Note: Political philosophy, perhaps even more than other branches of philosophy, calls for constant renewal to reflect not just re-readings of the tradition but also the demands of current events. In this lively and readable survey, Jean Hampton has created a text for our time that does justice both to the great traditions of the field and to the newest developments. In a marvelous feat of synthesis, she links the classical tradition, the giants of the modern period, the dominant topics of the twentieth century, and the new questions and concerns that are just beginning to rewrite contemporary political philosophy.Hampton presents these traditions in an engaging and accessible manner, adding to them her own views and encouraging readers to critically examine a range of ideas and to reach their own conclusions. Of particular interest are the discussions of the contemporary liberalism-communitarianism debates, the revival of interest in issues of citizenship and nationality, and the way in which feminist concerns are integrated into all these discussions. Political Philosophy is the most modern text on the topic now available, the ideal guide to what is going on in the field. It will be welcomed by scholars and students in philosophy and political science, and it will serve as an introduction for readers from outside these fields.

Comment: Many of the chapters would make for good introductory readings to standard topics in political philosophy, including: social contract theories, political authority, distributive justice, liberalism vs communitarianism, nationalism.

McTernan, Emily, and . How to Make Citizens Behave: Social Psychology, Liberal Virtues, and Social Norms

2014, Journal of Political Philosophy 22(1): 84-104.

Abstract: It is widely conceded by liberals that institutions alone are insufficient to ensure that citizens behave in the ways required for a liberal state to flourish, be stable, or function at all. A popular solution proposes cultivating virtues in order to secure the desired behaviours of citizens, where institutions alone would not suffice. A range of virtues are proposed to fill a variety of purported gaps in the liberal political order. Some appeal to virtues in order to secure state stability; Rawls, for instance, claims that ‘citizens must have a sense of justice and the political virtues that support political and social institutions’ in order to ensure an ‘enduring society’. For Galston, citizens must possess a range of virtues in order for the state to function, including the virtues of courage, independence, tolerance, willingness to engage in public discourse, and law-abidingness.

Comment: Challenges the relevance of debates about virtue for liberals concerned with stability and argues that they would be better advised to look to social norms for assistance. Raises some interesting questions for proponents of liberalism and does a nice job of envisioning the instrumental potential of social norms for political theorists. Very useful further reading for anyone interested in (or writing on) either stability or social norms.