Sen, ethics, and democracy

Abstract
Amartya Sen’s ethical theorizing helps feminists resolve the tensions between the claims of women’s particular perspectives and moral objectivity. His concept of ‘‘positional objectivity’’ highlights the epistemological significance of value judgments made from particular social positions, while holding that certain values may become widely shared. He shows how acknowledging positionality is consistent with affirming the universal value of democracy. This article builds on Sen’s work by proposing an analysis of democracy as a set of institutions that aims to intelligently utilize positional information for shared ends. This epistemological analysis of democracy offers a way to understand the rationale for reserving political offices for women. From a political point of view, gendered positions are better thought of as an epistemological resource than as a ground of identity politics – that is, of parochial identification and solidarity.
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