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All political argument employs political concepts. They provide the building blocks needed to construct a case for or against a given political position. Justifications of oppression in the name of liberty are no mere products of the liberal imagination, for there are notorious historical examples of their endorsement by authoritarian political leaders. This book explores two approaches to rights: the interest-based (IB) approach, and the obligation-based or Kantian view. Both are shown to offer coherent justifications that can avoid turning all political concerns into a matter of rights. The concept of social justice emerged in both at the start of the twentieth century, and justified institutions for the democratic modification for market outcomes, on utilitarian, maximin or common good grounds. The book explores whether people do in fact have good and justifiable reasons for complying with laws that go beyond mere fear of punishment, and, if so, whether they are bound or obligated by those reasons to comply. It discusses national ties and how they are supposed to act as glue that holds the state together in the eyes of its citizens. The book also explores the link between the weakening of states and this change in criminal policies, and outlines their implications for individual rights. Theorists have used the idea of social exclusion to advocate an approach to social justice that sees increased labour-market participation as the key to equal to citizenship. The contemporary understandings of the public-private distinction and feminist critiques of these are also examined.

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All political argument employs political concepts. They provide the building blocks needed to construct a case for or against a given political position. Is development aid too low, income tax too high, pornography violence against women, or mass bombing unjust? Any response to topical questions such as these involves developing a view of what individuals are entitled to, what they owe to others, the role of

in Political concepts
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with positive freedom being more relevant to psychology or individual morality than to political theory. This, however, would be premature, for among the most hotly debated issues in political theory are the following: is the positive concept of freedom a political concept? Can individuals or groups achieve positive freedom through political action? Is it possible for the state to promote the positive freedom of citizens on

in Political concepts
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years later in the 1970s. When it arrived, gender was itself a highly political concept, signalling a rearrangement of the scope, terms and politics of political theory itself. Gender theorists at that point conceived of their work within political theory as a further engagement of feminism with ‘malestream’ thought, that is, theorisations of politics written by men and reflecting their assumptions and interests. The feminist

in Political concepts
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Their basis and limits

Rights appear in every plausible theory of justice and dominate contemporary political rhetoric. Critics, as a matter of course, raise two objections to this proliferation of rights talk. First, they argue that no clear justification exists for rights. As a result, every political issue can be turned into a demand for rights. Second, they object that rights encourage individualistic and anti-social behaviour. This chapter explores two approaches to rights: the interest-based (IB) approach and the obligation-based or Kantian view. Both approaches are shown to offer coherent justifications that can avoid turning all political concerns into a matter of rights. The chapter compares the ways the approaches relate to other social duties. It shall be argued that only the Kantian approach fully escapes the second criticism by positively requiring that we supplement rights with other social virtues.

in Political concepts
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The place of equal opportunity

This chapter introduces the basic elements of John Rawls's theory as they were presented in A Theory of Justice, for it is here that Rawls gives the most sustained treatment of equality of opportunity. In the widespread disagreement over which the principles of justice should govern our major institutions, Rawls draws upon the social contract tradition in order to develop a method which he hopes can secure agreement on a particular conception of justice. Rawls begins his discussion of equality of opportunity by endorsing the idea that careers should be open to talents in the sense that everyone should have 'the same legal rights of access to all advantaged social positions'. Rawls develops his argument for the priority of liberty in a way that might seem to promise an explanation of why he thinks the principle of fair equality of opportunity should take priority over the difference principle.

in Political concepts
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Most people who talk of political obligation have one thing in mind: the citizens' duty to obey the laws in their own country. This chapter discusses whether people do in fact have good and justifiable reasons for complying with laws that go beyond mere fear of punishment and whether they are bound or obligated by those reasons to comply. Socrates believed that people had a moral duty to obey the law. It is a very strict duty based on an agreement they have made. Dissatisfaction with consent theory has led political theorists to consider other possible grounds of an obligation to obey law. The arguments based on consent, on gratitude for benefits, and on fair play have been looked at in turn and each has failed. Some have concluded from this that there simply is no obligation, no moral obligation, for everyone to obey all laws in their own country.

in Political concepts

This chapter is about national ties and how they are supposed to act as a glue that holds the state together in the eyes of its citizens. A nation-state is one where all the people in the state are bound together by ties of national solidarity. Nationalists argue that solidarity derived from 'thin' concepts like 'justice' and 'utility' cannot bind people to their states. Conceptually, the sources of solidarity have either derived from the ideas of ethnicity or of civic unity. The questions provoked by the attempts to redeem civic nationalism concern the coherence and practicality of civic solidarity. Some contemporary political theorists regard nationalism as an anachronistic vestige of less enlightened times or as a distraction from the real issues of politics. The rise of ethnic nationalism and of imperialist racialism led to the sidelining in the more established nation-states of the republican traditions associated with civic nationalism.

in Political concepts
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This chapter explores the link between the weakening of states and the changes in criminal policies and outlines their implications for individual rights. Zygmunt Bauman and Loïc Wacquant regard the criminalisation of poverty by western states as the paradoxical outcome of their weakened capacity for social intervention due to the erosion of their political sovereignty by global pressures. From Cesare Beccaria in the eighteenth century to H.L.A. Hart and John Rawls in the twentieth, liberal theories of punishment have attempted to combine the general deterrence of crime with due retribution against actual criminals. The early liberal theories of punishment assumed a conception of individuals as owning themselves and freely choosing and taking responsibility for their own conduct on the basis of a calculus of its personal and social consequences.

in Political concepts

Political theory has responded to the central questions about redistributive welfare systems, their justification, and the institutional means for implementing them, raised by the political economy. This chapter traces the transition from welfare to social exclusion, and the various theoretical responses it has elicited. The idea that political justice should deal in issues about the distribution of roles and resources, presupposes a political community which corresponds to an economic system for production and exchange. The libertarian challenge to liberal and communitarian political theorists over welfare and social exclusion is to reconstruct a convincing version of social justice, one which retains the appealing aspects of individual autonomy, but deals with its undesirable social consequences. The liberal response attacks the libertarian account of justice by pointing out that it is not only when rights are violated that freedom is restricted.

in Political concepts