Lecture: Democratic Justice: Theory

Ian Shapiro - Yale

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Lecture Description

Professor Shapiro takes up again Schumpeter's minimalist conception of democracy. When operationalized as a two turnover test, this conception of democracy proves far from minimalist, yet people often expect other things from democracy, like delivering justice. Although people experiencing injustice under other types of governments often clamor for democracy, they become disillusioned with democracy when a particular regime fails to ensure greater justice for society. However, societies are also unwilling to swoop in with a scheme of justice that has not been democratically legitimated. Professor Shapiro proposes an approach that synthesizes both democracy and justice and pursues them together. His theory of democratic justice has several features which he outlines: (1) it rests on a broad conception of politics, (2) it is semi-contextual, (3) it distinguishes between superordinate and subordinate goods, and (4) embodies two dimensions of democracy, which are (a) collective self-government grounded in the principle of affected interest, and (b) institutionalized opposition and presumption against hierarchy.

Course Description

This course explores main answers to the question "when do governments deserve our allegiance?" It starts with a survey of major political theories of the Enlightenment—Utilitarianism, Marxism, and the social contract tradition—through classical formulations, historical context, and contemporary debates relating to politics today. It then turns to the rejection of Enlightenment political thinking. Lastly, it deals with the nature of, and justifications for, democratic politics, and their relations to Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment political thinking. Practical implications of these arguments are covered through discussion of a variety of concrete problems.

from course: The Moral Foundations of Politics


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