Cover Image: Justice by Means of Democracy

Justice by Means of Democracy

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Member Reviews

Danielle Allen’s Justice by Means of Democracy is a timely book about the importance of ensuring the right to/opportunity for political participation as a necessary condition of justice and human flourishing. She is, in particular, concerned about what she sees as a “ramifying mistake” and “20th century blindspot” in the Rawlsian model of basic liberties and subsequent economics-based theories. Specifically, she seeks to re-establish positive liberties alongside negative liberties as "non-sacrificiable." She argues for a principle of “difference without domination” instead of Rawls’s difference principle, seeking to ensure political equality and to enfranchise all members of society in political participation that allows them personal autonomy/self-determination and the ability to help guide the society of which they are part. Her command is capacious and her argument brings in along the way interesting observations about topics such as the lacuna in Posner’s Bowling Alone theory of diminished social capital (which did not account for court decisions prohibiting single-gender membership of organizations such as the Rotary club as a factor participation declines), significant differences in political engagement between two highly educated groups (humanities majors vs. STEM majors), intentional dilution of labor’s/unions' influence through increased reliance on immigrant labor that is excluded from political participation, and the importance of “listening to strangers” and civil disagreement--understanding that “we need to call each other in, not out” when we encounter the fallibility of others acting in good faith. A distinguished scholar, Allen (Conant University Professor and director of the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard) makes her work remarkably accessible to non-academics.

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