This article introduces the concept of a Moment of Equal Opportunity (MEO): a point in an individual’s life at which equal opportunity must be applied and after which it need not. The concept of equal opportunity takes many forms, and not all employ an MEO. However, the more egalitarian a theory of equal opportunity is, the more likely it is to use an MEO. The article discusses various theories of equal opportunity and argues that those that employ an MEO are (...) problematic. Unjust inequalities, those that motivate the use of equal opportunity, occur throughout people’s lives and thus go unrectified after an MEO. However, it is not possible to abandon the MEO approach and apply more egalitarian versions of equal opportunity throughout a person’s life, since doing so entails problems of epistemology, efficiency, incentives, and counter-intuitive results. The article thus argues that liberal egalitarian theories of equality of opportunity are inconsistent if they support an MEO and unrealizable if they do not. (shrink)
This paper sets out the case for abolishing state-recognized marriage and replacing it with piecemeal regulation of personal relationships. It starts by analysing feminist objections to traditional marriage, and argues that the various feminist critiques can best be reconciled and answered by the abolition of state-recognized marriage. The paper then considers the ideal form of state regulation of personal relationships. Contra other recent proposals, equality and liberty are not best served by the creation of a new holistic status, such as (...) civil union, nor by leaving regulation to private contracts. Instead, the state should develop piecemeal regulations that apply universally. (shrink)
Autonomy is fundamental to liberalism. But autonomous individuals often choose to do things that harm themselves or undermine their equality. In particular, women often choose to participate in practices of sexual inequality—cosmetic surgery, gendered patterns of work and childcare, makeup, restrictive clothing, or the sexual subordination required by membership in certain religious groups. In this book, Clare Chambers argues that this predicament poses a fundamental challenge to many existing liberal and multicultural theories that dominate contemporary political philosophy. Chambers argues that (...) a theory of justice cannot ignore the influence of culture and the role it plays in shaping choices. If cultures shape choices, it is problematic to use those choices as the measure of the justice of the culture. Drawing upon feminist critiques of gender inequality and poststructuralist theories of social construction, she argues that we should accept some of the multicultural claims about the importance of culture in shaping our actions and identities, but that we should reach the opposite normative conclusion to that of multiculturalists and many liberals. Rather than using the idea of social construction to justify cultural respect or protection, we should use it to ground a critical stance toward cultural norms. The book presents radical proposals for state action to promote sexual and cultural justice. (shrink)
This essay considers the tension between political liberalism and gender equality in the light of social construction and multiculturalism. The tension is exemplified by the work of Martha Nussbaum, who tries to reconcile a belief in the universality of certain liberal values such as gender equality with a political liberal tolerance for cultural practices that violate gender equality. The essay distinguishes between first? and second?order conceptions of autonomy, and shows that political liberals mistakenly prioritise second?order autonomy. This prioritisation leads political (...) liberals to seek to limit state interference in individuals' choices. However, the essay argues that if options, choices and the preferences which lead to them are socially influenced or constructed, it is no longer clear that state non?interference secures autonomy. Instead, it becomes a matter of justice what the content of the social or state influence is, which options are open to people, and political liberalism cannot deal with many forms of injustice. Rather than emphasising state neutrality, liberals should endorse state prohibition of practices which cause significant harm to those who choose them, if they are chosen only in response to unjust norms. (shrink)
This paper investigates the possibility of what Sally Haslanger calls ‘ideology critique’. It argues that ideology critique cannot rely on epistemological considerations alone but must be based on a normative political theory. Since ideological oppression is denied by those who suffer from it is it is not possible to identify privileged epistemological standpoints in advance.
In “Feminist ethics, autonomy and the politics of multiculturalism”, Sawitri Saharso argues that the feminist concern to protect women’s autonomy legitimates and permits two practices which might otherwise seem antithetical to feminism: hymen repair surgery and sex-selective abortion. Sex-selective abortion is given pragmatic support: since it is rare in the Netherlands (the focus of Saharso’s paper), and since limitations on abortion would adversely affect the autonomy of women who sought an abortion for other reasons, Saharso concludes that Dutch law ought (...) not to be changed to make such abortions more difficult. Hymen repair surgery is given much stronger support: she concludes that making it available is “both a multiculturalist action and good feminism” (Saharso, 2003: 211), thus suggesting that there need be no clash between feminism and multiculturalism. In this paper, I argue that Saharso’s argument takes inadequate account of the ways in which the practices reinforce sex inequality in the culture as a whole. As a result, her treatment of women’s autonomy gives insufficient weight to culture despite her aim to support multiculturalism. (shrink)
This paper claims that a focus on gender as a source of controversy, and on feminism as a theoretical and practical approach, prompts a rethinking of the role of dialogue away from the liberal constitutionalist focus of deliberative democracy and towards a more fluid, reflexive approach.
Feminists are starting to look to the work of Pierre Bourdieu, in the hope that it might provide a useful framework for conceptualising the tension between structure and agency in questions of gender. This paper argues that Bourdieu’s analysis of gender can indeed be useful to feminists, but that the options Bourdieu offers for change are problematic. The paper suggests that Bourdieu’s analysis of gender echoes the work of earlier radical feminists, particularly Catharine MacKinnon, in important ways. Consciousness-raising, one of (...) MacKinnon’s strategies for change, sits well with Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, despite Bourdieu’s own scepticism. The paper argues that recasting the role of consciousness-raising in Bourdieu’s theory helps to undermine the deterministic elements of his work. It concludes that a feminist turn to Bourdieu as an attempt to understand gender’s entrenchment-andmalleability can be fruitful, and that such a turn might find a re-engagement with the idea of consciousness-raising helpful. (shrink)
Liberals like choice.1 Human flourishing, they believe, is to some degree dependent on individuals’ ability to choose their ends and actions. However, liberals sometimes fail to note that this principle does not always work in reverse: it does not follow that an individual acting according to her own choices will flourish, or that she will necessarily have the freedom and autonomy which are crucial to flourishing. In this paper, I shall show that even outcomes which result from the choices of (...) the individuals concerned may be unjust, if two conditions hold. I call these conditions the disadvantage and influence factors. Together, they express the idea that if an individual is encouraged to make choices which disadvantage her, then the ensuing inequality is unjust – particularly if the disadvantage is significant and enduring, and if the encouragement comes from those who make different choices and so end up better off. Egalitarian liberals, I argue, should be particularly worried about such outcomes, despite a temptation to rely on choice as the determinant of justice. (shrink)
Clare Chambers argues that marriage violates both equality and liberty and should not be trecognized by the state. She shows how feminist and liberal principles require creation of a marriage-free state: one in which private marriages, whether religious or secular, would have no legal status.
This chapter sets out the state of contemporary feminism, including considering the sense in which it is and is not an ideology. It argues that contemporary feminism must argue against two patriarchal claims: The Prison of Biology and The Fetishism of Choice. In their place, feminism argues for three theses: The Entrenchment of Gender, The Existence of Patriarchy, and The Need for Change.
This paper starts by discussing Alan Brudner's overall project: the project of inclusivity. It argues that the idea of inclusivity is problematic both conceptually and normatively, for three reasons. First, it is not clear that Brudner's aim to provide a unified theory of the liberal constitution is either possible or desirable. Second, Brudner assumes but does not adequately demonstrate the need for public justification of the liberal constitution. Third, Brudner does not sufficiently explain who should have a veto over his (...) final theory. The paper then turns to Brudner's analysis of sex and family, and argues that his position on these matters is one that liberals would reject. In the case of marriage, Brudner’s conclusions may be compatible with liberalism but the arguments supporting them are not. In the case of abortion, neither argument nor policy is compatible with liberalism. Either his position requires that we attribute differential status to human persons, in direct contravention of the fundamental equality of moral worth that liberalism accords to all individuals. Or it requires that we override the rights of individuals by asserting that their own self-authorship is less important to them than a symbol of their personal relationship, a judgment that profoundly undermines individual autonomy. (shrink)
Publisher's Note: Written by Phil Parvin and Clare Chambers, who are current political philosophy lecturers and leading researchers, Political Philosophy - The Essentials is designed to give you everything you need to succeed, all in one place. It covers the key areas that students are expected to be confident in, outlining the basics in clear jargon-free English, and then providing added-value features like summaries of key thinkers, and even lists of questions you might be asked in your seminar or exam. (...) The book's structure follows that of most university courses on political philosophy, by looking at the essential concepts within political philosophy (freedom, equality, power, democracy, rights, the state, political obligation), and then looking at the ways in which political philosophers have used these fundamental concepts in order to tackle a range of normative political questions such as whether the state has a responsibility to alleviate inequalities, and what interest liberal and democratic states should take in the cultural or religious beliefs of citizens. (shrink)