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1. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Janosch Prinz Introduction to the Special Issue on Realist and Pragmatist Approaches to Democratic Legitimacy
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2. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Ugur Aytac Political Realism and Epistemic Constraints
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This article argues that Bernard Williams’ Critical Theory Principle (CTP) is in tension with his realist commitments, i.e., deriving political norms from practices that are inherent to political life. The Williamsian theory of legitimate state power is based on the central importance of the distinction between political rule and domination. Further, Williams supplements the normative force of his theory with the CTP, i.e., the principle that acceptance of a justification regarding power relations ought not to be created by the very same coercive power. I contend that the CTP is an epistemic criterion of reflective (un)acceptability which is not strictly connected to the question of whether people are dominated or not. I show that there are cases of non-domination that fail the epistemic requirements of the CTP.
3. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Samuel Bagg Realism against Legitimacy: For a Radical, Action-Oriented Political Realism
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This article challenges the association between realist methodology and ideals of legitimacy. Many who seek a more “realistic” or “political” approach to political theory replace the familiar orientation towards a state of (perfect) justice with a structurally similar orientation towards a state of (sufficient) legitimacy. As a result, they fail to provide more reliable practical guidance, and wrongly displace radical demands. Rather than orienting action towards any state of affairs, I suggest that a more practically useful approach to political theory would directly address judgments, by comparing the concrete possibilities for action faced by real political actors.
4. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Ilaria Cozzaglio Legitimacy between Acceptance and Acceptability: A Subjects-First View
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Political realists argue that the concept of political legitimacy should be linked to subjects’ beliefs, while still offering normative guidance. In this article, I suggest doing so by referring to the concepts of acceptance and acceptability. I argue that a regime is legitimate if its power is accepted by subjects, provided that such acceptance meets the requirements of acceptability: subjects’ beliefs about the regime’s legitimacy need to successfully satisfy three requirements—coherence, fact-sensitivity, and politics-sensitivity—via entering public debate. I rely on pragmatism to investigate the link between subjects’ beliefs and their experience of facing political authority.
5. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Thomas Fossen Political Legitimacy as a Problem of Judgment: What Distinguishes Moralist, Realist, and Pragmatist Approaches?
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This paper examines the differences between moralist, realist, and pragmatist approaches to political legitimacy by articulating their largely implicit views of judgment. Three claims are advanced. First, the salient opposition among approaches to legitimacy is not between “moralism” and “realism.” Recent realist proposals for rethinking legitimacy share with moralist views a distinctive form, called “normativism”: a quest for knowledge of principles that solve the question of legitimacy. This assumes that judging legitimacy is a matter of applying such principles to a case at hand. Second, neither Rawls nor Habermas is a normativist about political legitimacy. The principles of legitimacy they proffer claim to express rather than adjudicate the legitimacy of a liberal-democratic regime, and thus cannot solve the question of legitimacy at a fundamental level. But perhaps we should question the normativist aspiration to theoretically resolving the problem to begin with. My third claim is that a “pragmatist” approach enables us to rethink political legitimacy more deeply by shifting focus from the articulation of principles to the activity of judging. Implicit in Rawls’s and Habermas’s theories I then find clues towards an alternative account of judgment, in which the question of legitimacy calls not for theoretical resolution but for ongoing practical engagement.
6. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Janosch Prinz, Enzo Rossi Financial Power and Democratic Legitimacy: How to Think Realistically about Public Debt
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To what extent are questions of sovereign debt a matter for political rather than scientific or moral adjudication? We answer that question by defending three claims. We argue that (i) moral and technocratic takes on sovereign debt tend to be ideological in a pejorative sense of the term, and that therefore (ii) sovereign debt should be politicised all the way down. We then show that this sort of politicisation need not boil down to the crude Realpolitik of debtor-creditor power relations—a conclusion that would leave no room for normative theory, among other problems. Rather, we argue that (iii) in a democratic context, a realist approach to politics centred on what Bernard Williams calls ‘The Basic Legitimation Demand’ affords a deliberative approach to the normative evaluation of public debt policy options.
7. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Peter J. Verovšek A Realistic European Story of Peoplehood: The Future of the European Union beyond Williams's Basic Legitimation Demand
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The divisions emanating from the Eurozone crisis have led political realists to argue that European identity should be conceived of via “basic legitimation demand” (Williams) that prioritizes the creation of order in backward-looking, non-utopian terms. In contrast, I suggest that Europe would do better by building an ethically-constitutive “story of peoplehood” (Smith) that looks both backward and forward. I argue that the EU should build on the ideals drawn from the continent’s shared past as well as its desire to retake control from the global economic forces that threaten democratic political sovereignty in the twenty-first century.
8. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Manon Westphal For an Agonistic Element in Realist Legitimacy
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The article shows that an uncritical view of domination is a weakness of current accounts of realist legitimacy and it argues that an agonistic supplement can help overcome that weakness. Two accounts of realist legitimacy are discussed: the moral minimum account and the acceptance account. In each case, certain modifications of the argument are needed to establish a distance from moralism, but these modifications create an indifference to domination. The incorporation of an agonistic principle into realist legitimacy can solve this problem. The agonistic case for effective possibilities for contestation endows realist legitimacy with a critical stance towards arrangements that are unresponsive to criticism on the part of those who are subject to them without, however, introducing a moralist argument.
9. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
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10. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 47 > Issue: 4
Lillian Cicerchia Why Does Class Matter?
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This article explores an under-examined theme, which is who or what is the working class and what is wrong with the situation that members of this class share. It argues that class divisions impose a unique harm for a diverse and interdependent group within capitalist societies both in spite and because of differences among group members. Class matters not just because it creates economic groups in which some are rich and others are poor, but because competition creates conditions that militate against solidarity, toward cleavage and conflict. Class is a constraint on collective self-determination and, therefore, a source of domination.
11. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 47 > Issue: 4
Christopher W. Love The Epistemic Value of Civil Disagreement
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In this article, I argue that the practice of civil disagreement has robust epistemic benefits and that these benefits enable meaningful forms of reconciliation—across worldview lines and amid the challenging information environment of our age. I then engage two broad groups of objections: either that civil disagreement opposes, rather than promotes, clarity, or else that it does little to help it. If successful, my account gives us reason to include civil disagreement among what Mill calls “the real morality of public discussion,” a fact that should stir us to take more seriously the decline of civility in contemporary life.
12. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 47 > Issue: 4
Josh Milburn, Sara Van Goozen Counting Animals in War: First Steps towards an Inclusive Just-War Theory
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War is harmful to animals, but few have considered how such harm should affect assessments of the justice of military actions. In this article, we propose a way in which concern for animals can be included within the just-war framework, with a focus on necessity and proportionality. We argue that counting animals in war will not make just-war theory excessively demanding, but it will make just-war theory more humane. By showing how animals can be included in our proportionality and necessity assessments, we provide a crucial first step towards developing an animal-inclusive account of just-war theory.
13. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 47 > Issue: 4
Kevin Todd Mintz Paying Attention to the Mouse Behind the Curtain: Dilemmas of Disability Justice in a Lawsuit against Disney
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Is it possible that justice requires giving people with disabilities like autism sufficient opportunities to pursue a flourishing life by promoting accessibility at theme parks and other places of public accommodation? I explore this question by analyzing the ethical issues at play in a series of disability lawsuits against Disney Parks and Resorts. Drawing on the work of Martha Nussbaum and Chiara Cordelli, I argue that Disney has an obligation of justice to provide these plaintiffs with their requested disability modification. I further articulate how public accommodations other than Disney should accommodate disabled customers, sometimes with government assistance.
14. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 47 > Issue: 4
Brian Rosebury Informed Altruism and Utilitarianism
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Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory that assigns value impartially to the well-being of each person. Informed Altruism, introduced in this article, is an intentionalist theory that relegates both consequentialism and impartiality to subordinate roles. It identifies morally right or commendable actions (including collective actions such as laws and policies) as those motivated by a sufficiently informed intention to benefit and not harm others. An implication of the theory is that multiple agents may perform incompatible actions and yet each be acting rightly in a moral sense.
15. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 47 > Issue: 4
Daniel Halliday Positional Consumption and the Wedding Industry
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Recent decades have seen substantial increases in the average amount of money spent on wedding ceremonies in economically developed countries. This article develops an account of wedding expenditure as a form of positional competition where participation involves purchasing services in a market. The main emphasis is on the role that conspicuously expensive weddings can play in enabling certain kinds of signalling, most notably the signalling of commitment to a personal relationship and a distinct signalling of personal wealth. The analysis seeks to demonstrate how wedding expenditure is both similar to but distinct from the positional consumption associated with markets in other goods and services. While much of the work in this article is descriptive, it aims to complement more normatively engaged work on the moral status of marriage, and on the proper evaluation and response to excessive positional consumption.
16. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 47 > Issue: 4
Alida Liberman For Better or for Worse: When Are Uncertain Wedding Vows Permissible?
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I answer two questions: (1) what are people doing when they exchange conventional wedding vows? and (2) under what circumstances are these things morally and rationally permissible to do? I propose that wedding pledges are public proclamations that are simultaneously both private vows and interpersonal promises, and that they are often subject to uncertainty. I argue that the permissibility of uncertain wedding promises depends on whether the uncertainty stems from doubts about one’s own internal weakness of will and susceptibility to temptation or from the expectation that external circumstances might change. I then explain why uncertainty is a prima facie challenge for unconditional wedding vows, and I offer a solution: rational wedding vows are unconditional in their content but implicitly conditional in their structure; the spouse pledges to act in certain ways unconditionally, so long as they remain in the spousal role. I respond to objections to my view (including Elizabeth Brake’s claim that the permissibility of unilateral divorce undermines an understanding of wedding vows as promises), and conclude with some suggestions about what marrying couples should do to ensure permissible pledges.
17. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 47 > Issue: 4
Rosa Terlazzo Weddings and Counter-Stereotypic Couples
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In this article, I argue that opposite-sex couples planning weddings have a duty to make their choices in ways that undermine the harmful norms that lead to most women taking their husband’s last names when they marry, and most weddings being extremely expensive. This duty, however, is not a duty to significantly reduce the prevalence of those norms, since doing so is generally not in the power of individual couples. Rather, it is a duty to provide observing couples around them with new live options for their own weddings.
18. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 47 > Issue: 3
Paul Billingham, Jonathan Chaplin Introduction to the Special Issue on Religious Diversity, Political Theory, and Theology: Public Reason and Christian Theology
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19. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 47 > Issue: 3
Christopher J. Eberle Irreconcilable Disagreement: Supreme Emergency, Respect, and Restraint
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John Rawls’s articulation of what makes for justice in war includes one of his most interesting, yet least discussed, assessments of religion and state coercion. Rawls claims that “the duties of the statesman in political liberalism” are incompatible with adherence to “the Catholic doctrine of double effect” when that doctrine precludes the deliberate targeting of innocent and harmless human beings in a “supreme emergency.” I explicate Rawls’s argument in favor of that claim, articulate various theological objections, and assess some proposed restrictions on the justificatory role of religious reasons in the light of that disagreement.
20. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 47 > Issue: 3
Joshua Hordern The Challenge of Healthcare for Consensus Public Reason
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This article argues that religious and other "non-public" reasoning can have a legitimate and beneficial role in justifying health-related resource allocation decisions affecting individuals, subpopulations and whole communities. Section I critically examines Norman Daniels’s exclusion of such reasoning from such justifications. Section II shows the inadequacy of Daniels’s approach to healthcare as a matter of basic justice, arguing that consensus public reason is indeterminate in certain areas of healthcare policy, including the use of life-sustaining resources and issues related to risk and responsibility. Section III shows how resource allocation decision-making can appropriately incorporate religious and "non-public" reasoning via the medical professional practice of collaborative deliberation.