24. Democratic Justice: Theory

24. Democratic Justice: Theory


Prof: We ended last time
by talking about the sense in which Schumpeter’s competitive
democracy is minimalist, and I said that it is in an
important sense minimalist. It’s linked to this idea of the
competitive struggle for power and the notion that turfing the
rascals out is the sine qua non of democratic politics.
There’s one respect in which
even if this is a minimal requirement it’s nonetheless a
very substantial minimal requirement in that the way it
has been operationalized as…>
Professor Ian Shapiro:
So the basic issue was, is this conception of democracy
too minimalist? It is minimalist in an
important sense in that it reduces democracy to this
competitive struggle for the people’s vote.
I said there’s one respect in
which it clearly is not minimalist which is that if
one’s expectation is as Huntington and others would come
to argue later that we can’t call a country a democracy until
there’ve been two turnovers of power.
That means the US was not a
democracy until 1840. Japan has only recently become
a democracy. Countries like South Africa are
not yet democracies or at least we can’t say they are because we
don’t know what would happen if the ANC lost an election,
so minimalist not negligible. And I think that for those who
complain that Schumpeterian democracy is too minimalist try
living in a country that doesn’t have it and you will find that
minimal is indeed not negligible.
Still you might say that raises
the question of what it is that we can reasonably expect from
democracy, because most people typically
expect more from democracy than just the turnover of government.
If we go back to the large
themes of this course remember that when I introduced the
subject of democracy and we looked at Plato and
Tocqueville’s critiques of it, we really were left wondering,
“Well why would anyone think that if protecting
individual rights and basing politics on scientific
principles of truth is the answer,
why would we want to pursue democracy as the goal to
achieving that answer?” But if you now take a step back
and ask, “Well, compared to what?”
democracy starts to look pretty
good. Because what we have seen in
the literature on democracy is that no other political system
does a better job of protecting individual rights.
We saw that Madison was greatly
concerned with the separation of power and the creation of we
might call republican constraints on democracy,
but the literature from the twentieth century has
established, principally by Bob Dahl but
also from many others, that if you look at the
addition of judicial review, it’s just not something that
lawyers like to hear, but if you look at the addition
of judicial review to democratic politics it doesn’t really add
anything. That is to say the way in which
empirically rights are best protected is by creating
Schumpeterian democracy. Adding judicial review on top
of that doesn’t seem to make any difference as far as preserving
individual rights is concerned. The big thing is to get and
keep democracy, not to get and keep judicial
review, and I think that is reflected
in the fact that separation of powers,
at the end of the day, is words upon a parchment
whereas the pluralism that guarantees competitive politics
is embedded in the society and that is ultimately the guarantor
of freedom under democratic conditions.
If we think about the truth
coming out in politics, finding a political system that
as Mill would have it could best track the truth,
again what we find when we asked the question
“compared to what?” democracy does better than the
going alternatives. You can think of Schumpeterian
competition as institutionalizing Mill’s demand
that we have to have competition of ideas.
Remember how Mill got from
freedom to utility through his idea of the truth coming out of
competitive argument, not deliberation,
not sitting around and contemplating things together,
but people having to argue for their views and defend them on
the grounds that they can meet the objections of their critics.
And so Schumpeterianism is a
kind of institutionalization of the competitive argumentative
ideal that Mill talks about in the long chapter on freedom of
speech in On Liberty. And so, again,
when we say “compared to what?”
democracy does better than the
going alternatives in preserving the freedom of speech and the
competition of ideas that is likely to make the truth come
out in the long run. So, despite the fears of Plato
and Tocqueville when we pose the question “compared to
what?” democracy does better than the
going alternatives in vindicating these Enlightenment
ideals. As Churchill said,
“Democracy is the worst system of government except for
the others that have been tried from time to time.”
Now you could buy everything
I’ve just said now but still feel that this is too minimalist
a conception of democracy to meet the sort of expectations
that people have when they make demands for the creation of
democracy in the real world. And I think there’s merit to
that objection, and these last two lectures are
designed to address it to the extent that I think it’s
possible to address it. If we think about the
conditions under which people demand democracy,
they’re usually conditions under which people have a strong
experience of injustice. So those of us who were around
in the 1980s would hear objections from behind the iron
curtain to communism. People didn’t like communism,
and what they demanded was democracy.
Or if you go to apartheid South
Africa what you find is, again, people find themselves
appalled by and rejecting of apartheid,
but what do they demand? They demand democracy.
Now, if in either of those
instances you went to those people,
those anti-communists who were demanding democracy in the
former Soviet Union or the anti-apartheid activists who
were demanding democracy in South Africa,
and you said to them, “Well,
tell us what a perfect democracy would look like in
Russia or in South Africa,” they wouldn’t have been able to
tell you, and I think that that’s an
important observation. It’s an important observation
because it captures a feature of human nature that we haven’t
commented on very much, although it came to the surface
in our discussion of MacIntyre, namely that human beings are
reactive creatures. They shy away from what does
not work and then fumble in the darkness in search of something
that works better or at least something that fails less badly.
The famous economist,
Amartya Sen who I mentioned to you briefly,
I think, made this point brilliantly in a new book of his
called The Idea of Justice,
and it expressed some of his frustration with the academic
literature on justice, which seems to get caught up in
debating questions that are three points to the right of the
decimal without moving on the big questions of justice.
And Sen said,
“Imagine that you were sitting in a sauna and the
controls for the sauna were outside so that you couldn’t
reach them, and it got hotter,
and hotter, and hotter, and you were really,
really hot, and you said to the person who had their hand on the
controls outside the sauna, ‘Turn it down.
It’s way too hot.’
And his reply was ‘Well,
I’m not going to turn it down until you tell me what the
optimal temperature is.'” And,
of course, what Sen’s point is you don’t know what the optimal
temperature is. What you know is this is much
too hot. And so I think Sen’s little
story in a more imaginative way than anything I have come up
captures this idea that human beings are reactive creatures
and we say, “This doesn’t work.
This doesn’t work.
This doesn’t work,”
and we’re constantly looking for something that does better.
And so the fact that
anti-communists in the 1980s couldn’t describe what a
well-functioning post-Soviet democracy would look like,
or the fact that anti-apartheid activists in the 1970s and 80s
couldn’t characterize a democratic South Africa for you
in any detail, doesn’t detract from the fact
that their demands for democracy captured something about what
they thought was fundamentally unacceptable about the existing
state of affairs. And so people demand democracy
because they experience injustice, and they want
justice, and they hope that democracy will deliver it.
Now some Schumpeterians,
Huntington foremost among them, have said, “This is really
bad. This is really a bad thing,
because what’s going to happen when people experience injustice
and demand democracy is they are inevitably going to be
disappointed.” Indeed there was a very
interesting poll, I thought, out of South Africa
on this very point last year where they found a majority of
South African Blacks saying, “Things were better under
apartheid than now.” But then when asked would they
rather go back to apartheid the majority said,
“No.” It captures,
I think, this tension and this paradoxical expectation that
people have of democracy. But the Huntingtonian point
was, “Well, that you would jeopardize
democracy if you get people to load too many expectations onto
it.” This, to some extent,
is defied in the second half of that poll I just mentioned to
you because even though people say things were better in the
apartheid years they still don’t want to go back there.
But I think Huntington might
say, “Well, eventually things are going to
change. Eventually when South African
democracy fails to deliver on people’s expectations about
justice, the regime itself is going to
come into jeopardy.” If you look at South Africa,
just to pursue this example, we’ve now had four elections
since apartheid. South Africa is one of the most
unequal countries in the world, has one of the highest Gini
coefficients, yet the top marginal tax rate
today is lower than it was at the end of apartheid.
There hasn’t been land reform.
There hasn’t been significant
redistribution of income or wealth.
There’s been the creation of a
small black millionaire class, but for the vast majority of
blacks, they’re still as badly off as they were before.
And so the Huntingtonian
thought is that if people load expectations onto democracy that
can’t be met then when those expectations are frustrated
eventually the problem is going to be that people are going to
blame democracy rather than the government of the day and turn
on democracy when some populous dictator comes along and
promises, say as we’ve seen in Zimbabwe,
promises massive land redistribution at the expense of
democracy. And so the modern
Schumpeterians have tended to say,
“We should try and disabuse people of their
unrealistic expectations of democracy so that we don’t lose
at least the minimal benefits of competitive democracy which
we’ve already agreed are not negligible.”
And so this was presented as a
kind of realist realpolitik take on democracy,
that people shouldn’t expect it to diminish injustice.
The problem with the
Huntingtonian view is that people are not going to change
their expectations because some professor of political science
tells them to. There are deep-seated reasons
why people turn to democracy when they experience injustice,
and are not going to give up on the appeal to democracy in order
to remedy it. And those reasons have to do
with, I think, with the topic we
ended at the very tail end of last Wednesday’s lecture,
is that democracy is motivated, the impulse for democracy comes
from the impulse to resist domination.
And there’s a connection
between democracy and fighting injustice because both of those
things are connected with resistance to domination.
So if we think that the
Schumpeterians are right to say that democracy is often going to
fail to deliver on the project of diminishing injustice,
but na�ve to think that people are therefore going to
stop creating expectations of democracy,
that creates a different kind of agenda.
That creates the agenda that I
want to talk to you about for the rest of today’s lecture and
Wednesday’s lecture and that is; how can we think about
promoting justice by democratic means?
Given that people are going to
have expectations from democracy the better course is to try and
find institutions that can deliver on those expectations.
And I think it’s an important
reason not only when we reason about democracy,
but also when we reason about justice.
Many years ago when I was
teaching this course, before I had written
Democratic Justice, and indeed one of the events
that caused me to write it was a question from a student in the
class. I had been teaching Rawls and I
had gone through the principles, the difference principle and
all of that, and I had explained that Rawls
was the most influential political philosopher of his
generation, and that this theory of justice
had completely revolutionized modern political philosophy.
And this student put up their
hand and said, “Professor Shapiro,
now that Rawls’s theory has been established,
why hasn’t The Constitution been changed to include
it?” and many of the students in the
class laughed. And they laughed why?
Does anyone have a guess?
Why do you think people laughed?
It seemed like a na�ve
question, why though? John Rawls got the answer,
so our Constitution doesn’t reflect that answer,
why haven’t they changed it? Why do you think students would
have laughed? Yeah?
Student: People think there’s a
disconnect sometimes between political philosophy and actual
politics and policy-making. Prof: They think there’s
a disconnect between political philosophy and actual politics,
but why is there a disconnect? I mean, these political
philosophers are trying to get the right answer.
So let’s suppose it’s true that
Rawls got the right answer, and Nozick didn’t,
and Dworkin didn’t, and Shapiro didn’t.
Rawls got the right answer.
He solved the problem.
Why don’t we just implement it?
This was, after all,
what Bentham thought. Bentham thought he’d figured it
all out and he went running around the world with his
constitutions and was deeply disappointed when countries
wouldn’t adopt them. Why do we resist this idea?
Yeah?
At the back,
can we get the microphone to the back?
Student: Because
generally we don’t think that claims are absolutely true and
we maintain that they can be proved false in the future.
Claims are fallible.
Prof: So part of it is
the fallibilism of the mature Enlightenment.
That people somehow resist the
idea that anybody’s got it perfectly right in the sense of
getting a geometric proof. Anything else? Yeah, over here?
Student:
>Prof: Just hold on a
second. We want to record what you say
for posterity. Student: The democratic
system doesn’t change that fast. I mean, part of the nature of
the system that we have is that it’s slow moving.
Prof: It’s slow moving,
yeah, but still why shouldn’t it move?
The student might say,
“Well yeah, okay, but so they had these
ideas in the eighteenth century, now Rawls has better ideas,
why shouldn’t we move to Rawls’s ideas?”

I think there’s something that
will make people resist. There are many people who might
concede that Rawls has a better argument than Nozick,
or Dworkin, or Shapiro, or any of the other people,
Mill that you’ve been reading, and still want to say it
shouldn’t be imposed on the society;
that somehow principles of justice have to be
democratically legitimated in order for us to be forced to
live by them. And so I think whether you
start from the justice end and you are confronted by this
reality that people demand democracy when they experience
injustice, or when you start from the
democracy end, you realize that people are not
going to embrace principles of justice unless they can triumph
through democratic institutions, you realize that pursuing
democracy and justice together is important.
After all, as I said to you
when I talked to you about Madison,
even though they thought they had designed the best
constitution that they could agree to at the time nobody had
any illusions that this would be acceptable if it had not been
adopted by the people of the state of New York.
So having the right answer is
not enough. You’ve got to have the right
answer but convince people through democratic mechanisms
that you’ve got the right answer.
So democracy and justice have
to be pursued together. I said that the animating idea
behind democracy is the appeal of resisting domination,
but I think the procedural ground rule is what I’m going to
call the principle of affected interest.
And this was nowhere better
articulated than by Nelson Mandela in 1962 in his statement
to the court before sentencing. A little piece of relevant
background that you may not know, you don’t have to write
this down, I will put it up on the server.
A piece of background is that
they had been convicted of treason.
The ANC had finally suspended
their peaceful opposition about five years earlier and turned to
armed struggle. And then a number of ANC
leaders had been arrested and tried and convicted of treason.
And their attorneys told them
that they were going to get the death sentence,
and the only way they could possibly avoid the death
sentence was to get up and be contrite and beg to be let off.
And the young Nelson Mandela
said, “No, I’m not going to do
that,” and he stood up and he made this famous speech in
which he said, “I’m charged with inciting
people to commit an offence by way of protest against the law,
a law which neither I or any of my people had any say in
preparing. “But in weighing up the
decision as to the sentence which is to be imposed for such
an offence, the court must take into
account the question of responsibility,
whether it is I who is responsible or whether,
in fact, a large measure of the responsibility does not lie on
the shoulders of the government which promulgated that law,
knowing that my people, who constitute the majority of
the population of this country, were opposed to that law,
and knowing further that every legal means of demonstrating
that opposition had been closed to them by prior legislation,
and by government administrative action.”
“We played no role in
making the laws that affect us, and we have no means of
opposing the laws that affect us,” is what he was saying,
“and that’s why we turned to the armed struggle,
and it’s not our failing.” Of course the government was
calling them terrorists. Of course, why wouldn’t they
call them terrorists? But Mandela’s position was that
the principle of affected interest had been violated.
This notion that I think is
very close to the most fundamental procedural idea in
democratic theory, that people whose interests are
affected by a decision presumptively should have some
say in making that decision. If you think about the Boston
Tea Party, which the current Tea Partiers
are trying to piggyback on the legitimacy of,
it was the same notion, no what without representation,
no what? Student: Taxation..
Prof: Yes.
So it’s the same idea that
people who are affected by decisions,
if you’re going to tax us we want to be involved in–
we want to have representation in the decisions about taxation.
And so it’s trying to capture
that idea that I’m talking about when I talk about democratic
justice. And I want to describe first a
general argument and then some particulars.
The first is that this rests on
a broad conception of politics. What do I mean by a broad
conception of politics? Well, consider this fact.
When we talk about–those of
you who have read political philosophy in the history of the
tradition will know that for most of the great theorists of
the past the organization of the political system was only one
piece of a theory of politics. Plato, Aristotle,
Locke, Mill, all of these thinkers thought
that it was important to have a theory of family life,
a theory of education, a theory of how the whole
society operated. Politics is not just about what
goes on in buildings in Washington and in Hartford.
It was a broad conception of
politics. And one of the criticisms of
much contemporary political theory has been that it ignores
the broad society. So for example,
it was a criticism made of Rawls’s theory of justice by
feminists that it ignored the structure of the family.
Rawls talked about heads of
households as the basic representative individuals
behind the veil of ignorance. And when he was saying that
this was part of the basic– his theory was a theory of the
basic structure of society feminist theorists such as Susan
Okin, now deceased,
and others made the argument, “How can you say you’re
talking about the basic structure of society while
ignoring the family?” And Rawls eventually conceded
the validity of that criticism and came to say toward the end
of his life that had he to do it over he would have included the
family as part of the basic structure of society.
So if politics is about power
relations, then presumably you should
think about power relations wherever they occur in social
life and not simply power relations as they occur in the
political system narrowly defined.
And so the spirit of my
argument for democratic justice is to base it on a broad
conception of politics rather than a narrow one.
Of course that doesn’t mean
that every political relationship is a politicized
relationship. We might say the family is an
intensely political institution, and indeed debates about
education, and debates about abortion,
and debates about many other subjects have politicized the
family in recent times, but in the 1950s it was not a
politicized institution. It was seen as something beyond
politics, of no relevance to politics.
So what institutions are
politicized in that sense, consciously conceived of as
political, is a separate question from
what institutions are in fact political,
if we define political as involved in the reproduction of
power relationships in the society?
So we have a broad conception
of politics. And then secondly we have a
semi-contextual argument, and this is to try and take
account of what people like MacIntyre have argued.
That what people are willing to
accept is largely conditioned by the social circumstances into
which they are born, the traditions that they find
structuring their lives, and that we have to take into
account the context in which people find themselves.
But there’s more to life than
just the context. That is to say there are
inherited traditions and practices,
but as we reproduce them into the future we have choices to
make, and we need principles to guide
those choices. And so the argument of
democratic justice is that we do develop general principles of a
sort, but they’re semi-contextual.
That is, they play themselves
out differently in different historical circumstances and in
different parts of the world. So you may, for example,
have an affirmation of the idea of non-domination in family
life, but that’s going to have to be
worked out very differently in America in 2010 than it might
have been in America in 1950, not to mention in countries
that have inherited polygamist systems of traditional marriage.
We’re going to have to think in
context-sensitive ways about how to realize those general
principles in the different circumstances.
A third point,
and I apologize here I did swear off impenetrable jargon at
the beginning of this course and you might think talking about
superordinate and subordinate goods is a use of not very
user-friendly terminology, but let me explain what I mean
by this. If we take a broad conception
of politics one of the things that follows from it is that
power relations are everywhere. Power infuses everything we do.
There are power relations in
the family. There are power relations in
the workplace. There are power relations in
sports teams. There are power relations in
classrooms. Power infuses everything.
This is, of course,
an idea for which the French political commentator,
now deceased, by the name of Foucault,
is famous for pointing out that power is everywhere,
but of course it’s as old as the hills.
Plato was of the same view that
power relations are everywhere, and indeed the reason Plato
affirmed a broad conception of politics was because he
recognized that power is exercised everywhere in the
society, and so if the theory of
politics is really a theory of power relations it’s going to
have to track power wherever it goes.
So if power relations are
ubiquitous and politics is ubiquitous then it seems like,
well, everything is politics. And it’s that last phrase that
I want to dissent from, that last phrase in Foucault or
in Plato that I want to dissent from because,
in fact, what we really see is not that everything is power,
but that power infuses everything and there’s an
important difference. Yes, there are power relations
in the classroom. Your teaching fellow has a
certain kind of power over you. I have a certain kind of power
over you, but that’s not the only thing that goes on in the
classroom. Presumably also what goes on in
the classroom is enlightenment, not in the big E sense of the
Enlightenment, but enlightenment in the sense
of communicating knowledge to you.
In the firm,
yes there are power relations in the firm.
Managers have power over
workers. Shareholders have power over
managers, at least in certain circumstances.
Of course there are power
relations in firms, but the exercise of power is
not the only thing that goes on in firms.
There’s the production of goods
and services that goes on in firms.
Yes, there are power relations
in sports teams. Again, coaches have power over
players. Donors, you might say,
have power over coaches, even university presidents
sometimes. So of course there are power
relations associated with sports teams,
but again, sports teams are not just about power relations
they’re also about playing sports well.
So you can get the point from
these examples. We could go everywhere through
society and see, yes, social relations often
involve power, but that’s not all they
involve. So to my way of thinking the
superordinate good is the playing excellent sport,
or producing goods and services, or communicating
enlightenment to students. Those are the superordinate
goods, or what MacIntyre called the internal goods when he was
talking about his practices. Those are the superordinate
goods that guide our activities in different walks of life.
The subordinate goods have to
do with the power relations. And what I want to say is that
the goal of a democratic conception of justice should be
to democratize the subordinate relations as much as possible
while interfering with the superordinate goods as little as
possible. You, at the end of the day,
want the sports team to be able to play the best football it can
play, or you want the students to
learn as much as they can possibly learn,
or you want the firm to produce as efficiently as possible the
goods and services that it produces.
So those are the superordinate
goods. However, there is this fact
about power being mixed up in the pursuit of superordinate
goods, and democratic justice is about
democratizing the power dimensions of human interaction
while interfering with the non-power dimensions as little
as possible, and the creative challenge is
to find ways to do that. And I think that when we’re
thinking about conditioning the subordinate dimensions
democratically, there are really two dimensions
of democratic justice that are both present in that famous
quote from Nelson Mandela that I read to you a few moments ago.
One is the idea of collective
self-government. It’s the idea that,
as the principle of affected interests intimates,
anyone who is affected by a decision should have a
presumptive say in the making of that decision.
It doesn’t necessarily mean
everybody has an equal say. We’ll get to those issues
later, but everybody is presumed to have a say in the making of
decision that affect them. No taxation without
representation. It’s the idea of collective
self-government. If we’re going to be affected
by decisions, we should have a say in making
them. But then separate from that and
independent of it is the idea of the legitimacy of opposition,
the legitimacy of resisting decisions that you don’t like,
and I think there are two reasons for this.
Forget about the presumption
against hierarchy for a minute. I’ll get to that shortly.
Just focus on the idea of
institutionalizing opposition. There are two reasons for that.
One I’ve already alluded to
today, which is that we’re always fumbling in the dark.
We’re always resisting things
that haven’t worked well in the past.
We’re trying to change things.
We might be rebuilding the ship
at sea, as Devlin says, but we are trying to rebuild
the ship. We are trying to make things
better as we reproduce them into the future,
and unless we have the freedom to oppose the existing order,
then the possibility of change becomes illusive.
But a second and more
fundamental reason that we should institutionalize rights
of opposition is that you now know from taking this course
that there are no perfect decision rules.
We saw that if we just focus on
the arms-length types of transactions that characterize
national-level politics, politics in buildings in
Washington, we did end up with a
presumption in favor of majority rule when we worked our way
through the difficulties with Buchanan and Tullock,
and Brian Barry, and Rae, and all of that.
That other things being equal
you protect yourself best with majority rule,
but it’s not a perfect decision rule.
You know from Condorcet and
Kenneth Arrow that there is no perfect way to aggregate
preferences into a social welfare function.
So if there’s no perfect
decision rule, one of the things that follows
from that is that whatever the decision rule,
whatever the result, there are going to be people
who object to it and who object to it legitimately.
People are going to feel that
their interests have not been taken adequately into account.
And so opposition is important
for that reason to give people the possibility of trying to get
things changed; very important for the
stability of democracy as well, because if you don’t create
avenues for loyal opposition over time you’re more likely to
get disloyal opposition. If people feel there’s no
possibility of change they might as well reach for their guns.
So there are two dimensions of
democratic justice for that reason.
There’s collective
self-government and then this idea of institutionalizing
opposition. In practice I suggest that one
of the most important ways in which we institutionalize
opposition is with a presumption against hierarchy.
If you think of the examples I
just gave you– sports teams,
classes, firms, you could think of many others,
armies, families–they’re all hierarchical to a very
considerable extent. All those social forms are
hierarchical, and often the hierarchy is
essential to the realization of the superordinate good in
question. So it’s not the case that
hierarchies are necessarily bad, but it’s when hierarchies
atrophy into systems of domination that they become bad.
Power corrupts and the problem
is to prevent those who are higher up in hierarchies from
taking advantage of their hierarchical authority in order
to dominate others. And so when we confront
hierarchical social arrangements there are a number of questions
that we can ask, what I’m calling here.
We can interrogate hierarchies.
We can ask, “Is a
hierarchy inevitable?” Well, the hierarchy of a parent
over a child is inevitable, but the hierarchy in,
say, in the 1950s of a husband over a wife was not inevitable.
If the hierarchy is inevitable
we’re going to have to think about it in one way.
If it’s not inevitable we’re
going to think about it in a different way.
Is the degree of hierarchy
appropriate? Children must be subordinated
to their parents, but maybe they don’t have to be
subordinated for 18 years. We have the arguments of the
Children’s Rights Movement that wanted to treat children as
miniature adults almost from infanthood.
So we have to think about,
“Is the hierarchy appropriate?
Whose interest does the
hierarchy serve? Is it really in the interest of
the production of the superordinate good?”
Think of a boss who has
hierarchical authority over a secretary and says to the
secretary at some point, “Unless you’re willing to
go to bed with me, you’re not going to get a
promotion.” Then the hierarchical authority
has atrophied into a system of domination because the
efficiencies that would be gained from the boss having
authority over his secretary have been perverted into
something that operates in the interest of the boss,
perhaps, but it doesn’t serve the hierarchy as it was created.
How fluid is a hierarchy?
Is it self-liquidating?
If you think of the situation
where a child becomes a parent, a child becomes an adult,
that’s a self-liquidating hierarchy.
Whereas, if we go back to the
nineteenth century and the father turned his daughter over
to her husband, that would be a
non-self-liquidating hierarchy. Is there vertical mobility
within the hierarchy? Think of the debates in the
Catholic Church about whether a woman can become a priest.
There’s not a lot of vertical
mobility within that hierarchy. Is the hierarchy symmetrical?
We think of the defense of
polygamy, but most societies that have polygamy allow a
husband to have many wives, but not a wife to have many
husbands. Asymmetrical hierarchies are
more suspect than symmetrical ones.
What are the opportunities for
exit? Can people leave hierarchical
social situations? You think about polygamy in
South Africa, it’s essentially elective.
People can choose polygamist
arrangements, but they don’t have to,
whereas in some societies in fundamentalist cultures
polygamist marriage is enshrined in the legal system.
Other things being equal,
hierarchical systems are more suspect when the costs of exit
are high for the people at the bottom.
How insular is the hierarchy?
For instance we look at the
Amish. It’s a withdrawing sect.
They don’t want to restructure
the rest of the social order, so that is presumptively less
suspect than a fundamentalist group that does want to
restructure the social order. So there are all of these
questions one can ask about hierarchical social
relationships. You have to ask them in a
context sensitive fashion, and then you can get some
answers that tell you what we should be trying to pursue in
the name of democratic justice. And I will pick up with some of
those answers on Wednesday.

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