The legacies of liberalism and oppressive relations: facing a dilemma for the subject of moral education

Journal of Moral Education 33 (1):3-22 (2004)
In modern Western moral and political theory the notion of the liberal subject has flourished as the locus of moral experience, interpretation and critique. Through this conceptual lens on subjectivity, individuals are enabled to shape and regulate their interactions in arguably desirable ways, e.g. through principles of respect for persons and the constraints of reciprocal rights, and moral education has largely adopted this perspective. However, this article argues that some kinds of morally significant relations?those framed by social groups related to each other through structures of hierarchical power?constitute a different kind of subjectivity that needs more theoretical and empirical attention. In contrast to four core characteristics of liberal subjectivity, a view of subjectivity that can be located in how individuals are members of particular kinds of social groups is offered. It is argued that unless it can accommodate working with attention to this form of subjectivity as well, moral education runs the risk of itself contributing to forms of oppression such as racism, instead of being a means of combating them
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