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Cover Issues in Political Theory

4. Democracy  

Thomas Christiano

This chapter looks at democracy. The term ‘democracy’ refers very generally to a method of group decision making that is characterized by a kind of equality among the participants at an essential stage. To evaluate the arguments of democratic theorists, we must decide on the merits of the different principles, and conceptions, of humanity and society from which they proceed. We can evaluate democracy along at least two different dimensions: instrumentally, by reference to the outcomes of using it compared with other methods of political decision making; or intrinsically, by reference to qualities that are inherent in the method — for example, whether there is something inherently fair about making democratic decisions about matters on which people disagree. A vexing problem of democracy is whether ordinary citizens are up to the task of governing a large society. The chapter then offers some solutions for the problem of democratic citizenship.


Cover Contemporary Political Philosophy

7. Citizenship Theory  

This chapter examines theories of citizenship as an important supplement to, rather than a replacement for, theories of justice. It first considers what sorts of virtues and practices are said to be required by democratic citizenship, focusing on two different forms of civic republicanism: a classical view which emphasizes the intrinsic value of political participation, and a liberal view which emphasizes its instrumental importance. The chapter then explains how liberal states can try to promote the appropriate forms of citizenship virtues and practices. It also discusses the seedbeds of civic virtue, taking into account a variety of aspects of liberal society that can be seen as inculcating civic virtues, including the market, civic associations, and the family. It concludes with an analysis of the politics of civic republicanism.


Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

22. Iris Marion Young  

Neus Torbisco-Casals

This chapter explores American philosopher Iris Marion Young’s central contributions to contemporary political theory. Young remains well known as a leading socialist, feminist political theorist, whose ground-breaking work on oppression, equality, and democratic theory has had an enduring impact, despite her premature death. After introducing Young’s multifaceted engagements with issues of justice and equality against the backdrop of her personal and political contexts, the chapter examines her influential account of oppression. This analysis is essential to understanding Young’s conception of equality as inclusion. The chapter then analyses her critique of the universal model of citizenship as delineated in her celebrated 1990 book Justice and the Politics of Difference.