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Ian Shapiro on Non-Domination

The current issue of University of Toronto Law Journal (Volume 62, Number 3, Summer 2012) has an important essay by Ian Shapiro, titled On Non-Domination, followed by a response by David Dyzenhaus (University of Toronto). This is the prolegomenon to a larger work by Shapiro entitled Justice against Domination that will be published by Harvard University Press. At Ian Shapiro’s webpage, you can download both his On Non-Domination [PDF] and Dyzenhaus’s Response [PDF].

Here is the abstract:

My aim here is to defend a view of non-domination as providing a better basis for justice than the going alternatives. I differentiate it from two kinds of alternatives: those whose proponents reject my claim that non-domination is the bedrock of justice and those who agree with me but understand non-domination differently than I do. The first group divides into partisans of equality, on the one hand, and of freedom, on the other. Their arguments concern me in the first half of the essay. Then I turn to conceptions of non-domination put forward by Jürgen Habermas, Michel Foucault, Michael Walzer, Quentin Skinner, and Philip Pettit. There is considerable overlap among these various views and between them and mine but there are also notable disagreements. I spell out what is at stake in the alternative formulations, indicating why my own conception, rooted in power-based resourcism, is preferable.

Ian Shapiro is Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University. He is a democratic theorist of  Schumpeterian tradition of competitive democracy. He has argued, notably in The State of Democratic Theory (2003) that democracy is best thought of as a means of managing power relations in order to reduce domination. He considers non-domination as the foundational principle of democracy.

Contrasting his account of non-domination with other alternative formulations in this essay, Shapiro goes on to criticise heavily Philip Pettit’s model of institutional arrangements as “a recipe for protecting the status quo”:

Pettit seems to be at cross-purposes with himself. On the one hand, he agrees that efficacious action by democratic governments is likely essential to any project of rooting out entrenched systems of domination. On the other, he seems to be so fearful of democratic politics and government that he wants to hem them in at every turn, insisting that ‘[e]very interest and every idea that guides the action of a state must be open to challenge from every corner of the society; and where there is dissent, then appropriate remedies must be taken.’ Given the many opportunities for special pleading, forum shopping, and delay that are disproportionately afforded to those with time and resources on their side by Pettit’s model of dispersed power and institutional checks, it is hard to imagine governments in the world as he envisages it doing much of anything at all – let alone tackling entrenched systems of domination.

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