Systemic domination, social institutions and the coalition problem

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 19 (4):382-402 (2020)
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This article argues for a systemic conception of freedom as non-domination. It does so by engaging with the debate on the so-called coalition problem. The coalition problem arises because non-domination holds that groups can be agents of power, while also insisting that freedom be robust. Consequently, it seems to entail that everyone is in a constant state of domination at the hands of potential groups. However, the problem can be dissolved by rejecting a ‘strict possibility’ standard for interpreting non-domination’s robustness requirement. Frank Lovett and Philip Pettit propose to restrict the relevant domain of possible worlds by reference to two epistemic conditions pertaining to potential group members. I argue that this strategy unduly limits non-domination’s critical potential. I then argue that a suitably systemic conception of domination avoids this problem. By placing explanatory emphasis on social institutions, and how these bear on the feasibility of individual and collective action, a systemic conception of non-domination avoids the coalition problem in a way that retains its critical potential. The article clarifies the relationship between the rule of law and the social norms and objects to the claim that non-domination is bound to deem the latter irrelevant from the point of view of freedom.



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Hallvard Sandven
Freie Universität Berlin

Citations of this work

Civic Equality as a Democratic Basis for Public Reason.Henrik D. Kugelberg - forthcoming - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy.
Freedom as Non-Domination, Robustness, and Distant Threats.Alexander Bryan - 2021 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (4):889-900.

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