When constructing environmental policies in democratic regimes, there is a need for a theory that can be used not only by academics but also by politicians and activists. So why has the major part of environmental ethics failed to penetrate environmental policy and serve as its rationale? Obviously, there is a gap between the questions that environmental philosophers discuss and the issues that motivate environmental activists. Avnerde‐Shalit attempts to bridge this gap by combining tools of political philosophy (...) with questions of environmental ethics and environmental politics. He defends a radical position in relation to both environmental protection and social policies, in order to put forward a political theory, which is not only philosophically sound, but also relevant to the practice of environmental activism. The author argues that several directions in environmental ethics can be at odds with the contemporary political debates surrounding environmental politics. He then goes on to examine the environmental scope of liberalism, communitarianism, participatory democracy, and socialism, and concludes that while elements of liberalism and communitarianism may support environmental protection, it is participatory democracy and a modified version of socialism that are crucial for protecting the environment. (shrink)
Power to the People examines the teaching of political philosophy in what is taken to be skeptical times. Author Avner de-Shalit encourages political philosophers to remain committed to the analytical achievements of political philosophy while also revising and improving the teachings of the discipline to be more in tune with the demands of democratic society.
What does it mean to be disadvantaged? Is it possible to compare different disadvantages? What should governments do to move their societies in the direction of equality, where equality is to be understood both in distributional and social terms? Linking rigorous analytical philosophical theory with broad empirical studies, including interviews conducted for the purpose of this book, Wolff and de-Shalit show how taking theory and practice together is essential if the theory is to be rich enough to be applied to (...) the real world, and policy systematic enough to have purpose and justification. The book is in three parts. Part 1 presents a pluralist analysis of disadvantage, modifying the capability theory of Sen and Nussbaum to produce the 'genuine opportunity for secure functioning' view. This emphasises risk and insecurity as a central component of disadvantage. Part 2 shows how to identify the least advantaged in society even on a pluralist view. The authors suggest that disadvantage 'clusters' in the sense that some people are disadvantaged in several different respects. Thus identifying the least advantaged is not as problematic as it appears to be. Conversely, a society which has 'declustered disadvantaged' - in the sense that no group lacks secure functioning on a range of functionings - has made considerable progress in the direction of equality. Part 3 explores how to decluster disadvantage, by paying special attention to 'corrosive disadvantages' - those disadvantages which cause further disadvantages - and 'fertile functionings' - those which are likely to secure other functionings. In sum this books presents a refreshing new analysis of disadvantage, and puts forward proposals to help governments improve the lives of the least advantaged in their societies, thereby moving in the direction of equality. (shrink)
The paper describes a project in which the thesis of the social determinants of health is used in order to help identify groups that will be among the least advantaged members of society, when disadvantage is understood in terms of lack of genuine opportunity for secure functioning. The analysis is derived from the author's work with Avner de-Shalit in Disadvantage (Oxford University Press, 2007).
In their excellent book Disadvantage, Jonathan Wolff and Avner de-Shalit (hereafter: the Authors) state that their aim “is to provide practical guidance to policy makers by providing a version of egalitarian theory which can be applied to actual social policy.”1 This is a worthy project and their execution of it is full of insight. However, I doubt that they succeed in fulfilling their stated aim.
In this article I review Jonathan Wolff and Avnerde‐Shalit’s recent book Disadvantage (2007), highlighting its many contributions to egalitarian theory and practice. These contributions build to the authors’ central prescription: that policy‐makers work to create a society of equals by reducing the tendency for disadvantages to cluster around certain individuals or groups. From there, I discuss the idea of declustering disadvantage in an American context, and consider its implications for the politically salient ideal of equality of opportunity. (...) The purpose of this discussion is not to posit Wolff and de‐Shalit’s theory of disadvantage as a theory of justice as equal opportunity. Instead, I illustrate their approach by reference to an influential theory of justice, whose proponents include those taken to affirm the authors’ consensual starting point. (shrink)
When viewed as a question of distributive justice the evaluation of workfare typically reflects exclusively on the distribution of income: do the physically capable have a justified claim for state support, or is it fair to demand from those who do work to subsidise this support? Rarely is workfare appraised in terms of how it affects other parties such as employers or other workers, and on the structural effects the pattern of incentives it generates brings about, or as an issue (...) of distributive justice related to a more extensive range of objects of distribution such as access to pleasing jobs. -/- We propose to evaluate workfare by looking at its effects more broadly: (1) we discuss and dismiss on empirical grounds the two most common arguments in favour of workfare, namely that workfare develops self-reliance among participants and it is more economical in the use of altruism among taxpayers. (2) We suggest that workfare focuses on work as a burden and as a means to income, ignoring other beneficial aspects that are conducive to the worker’s self expression. These other benefits are distributed unevenly between two main groups: the privileged well off and the disadvantaged. (3) we argue that workfare functions as a mechanism to preserve these privileges to one class of workers at the expense of another. Or, to put it the other way, the payment of unconditional welfare to the long term unemployed might be justified as one method of mitigating unjustified privileges. (shrink)
The essays collected in this volume reflect the many facets of the debate between communitarianism and individualism and examine its implications for the political arena. They cover a wide spectrum of thought and opinion and include work by Ronald Dworkin, Marilyn Friedman, David Gauthier, Amy Gutmann, Will Kymlicka, Alasdair MacIntyre, David Miller, Robert Nozick, John Rawls, Michael Sandel, Charles Taylor, and Michael Walzer.
Recent works on the historical sources of the environmental movement neglect environmental philosophy. They therefore fail to distinguish between two different currents of thought: ruralism – the romantic glorification of rural life; and environmentalism – a philosophy which is based on scientific information, anti-speciesism and respect for all organisms. These works, therefore, mistakenly identify 'political ecology' with right-wing ideologies.