Agency without autonomy: valuational agency

Journal of Global Ethics 6 (3):239-254 (2010)
Abstract
National minority women’s defense of nonliberal minority cultures that encompass sexist customs and rules has greatly perplexed liberal theorists. Many attempted to resolve this puzzle by attributing constrained agency to such women and dismissing their defense as unreasonable. This article argues that this liberal assessment of minority women’s position is philosophically indefensible and that the failure of mainstream liberalism to make sense of these women’s response indicates not that these women’s agency is compromised but rather that the liberal conception of agency as autonomy at the heart of the liberal framework has limits in its crosscultural applicability. A conception of agency, valuational agency, that illuminates minority women’s agency is proposed as a more plausible alternative for radically pluralistic societies.
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