Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 23 (5):797-813 (2020)

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Federica Liveriero
Universita' degli Studi di Pavia
Abstract
Democratic legitimacy is often grounded in proceduralist terms, referring to the ideal of political equality that should be mirrored by fair procedures of decision-making. The paper argues that the normative commitments embedded in a non-minimalist account of procedural legitimacy are well expressed by the ideal of co-authorship. Against this background, the main goal of the paper is to argue that structural forms of epistemic injustice are detrimental to the overall legitimacy of democratic systems. In §2 I analyse Young’s notion of political powerlessness and claim that in structurally unjust social contexts members of powerless groups often are not properly acknowledged as functioning members of the polity, hence being jeopardized in their ability to develop part of their personal identity. In §III, I define gerrymandering as an example of political disempowerment that involves an epistemic harm for oppressed citizens, namely, to be prejudicially excluded from the community of epistemic trust. My thesis is that being epistemically disempowered has a negative impact on the way in which citizens understand themselves as political actors, since they suffer a lack of social recognition that may impede a proper development of their reflexive agency. In §IV, I discuss the proposal of granting epistemic privilege to members of oppressed groups, given their specific experience of social injustices. I introduce two concerns about this proposal, one morally grounded and one pragmatically oriented. Finally, in §V, I briefly sketch some institutional remedies that can be employed in order to politically fight systemic forms of epistemic injustice.
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-020-10097-w
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