Republicanism and democratic injustice

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 5 (2):175-200 (2006)
A Theory of Freedom and Government has provided a systematic basis for republican theory in the idea of freedom as non-domination. Can a pure republican view, which confines itself to the normative resources thus afforded, adequately address the full range of issues of social justice? This article argues that while there are many sorts of structural injustice with which a pure republican view can well cope, unfair disparities in political influence, of the kind that Rawls labeled failures of the ‘fair value’ of the equal political liberties, cannot be well addressed by a pure republican view. In arguing the point, the article assesses the reach not only of the core ideal of freedom as non-domination itself, but also of three further layers in Pettit’s republican theory: its suggestion that domination is to be minimized, its account of a set of institutions needed to restrict domination, and its requirement that, to prevent governments from having the power to act arbitrarily and so to dominate, they be made responsive to the common good. Some of these further conceptual resources are shown to be of no help in addressing unfair disparities in political influence, while the ones that are promising are so only because they rely on distinctively liberal ideals, and so depart from a pure republican basis. Key Words: republicanism • liberalism • justice • common good • non-domination • fair value • Philip Pettit • John Rawls.
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