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REIMAGINING DEMOCRATIC THEORY FOR SOCIAL INDIVIDUALS

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Abstract:

Abstract. 

The Western conception of the individual as a rational, self-directing agent is a mythology that organizes and distorts religion, science, economics, and politics. It produces an abstracted and atomized form of engagement that is fatal to collective self-governance. And it turns democracy into the enemy of equality. Considering the meaning of democracy and autonomy from a perspective that takes the subject as truly social would refocus our attention on the constitutive contexts and practices necessary for the production of citizens who are capable of meaningful self-governance. Under modern conditions, it is in the development of sexual autonomy that we learn how to take initiative with respect to our well-being and do so in concert with others. Where the view of rational agency as the defining characteristic of humanity yields a deracinated view of autonomy, a more realistic, humanistic view that we are, necessarily, social beings yields a view of freedom and self-governance as social phenomena that require empathy, negotiation, compromise, cooperation, and mutual recognition and respect.

Keywords: agency; autonomy; choice; collectivity; commodification; consumerism; democracy; dependency; equality; individualism; rationality; self-governance; sexuality; social construction; social fragmentation

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01167.x

Affiliations: Steven L. Winter is the Walter S. Gibbs Professor of Constitutional Law at the Wayne State University Law School, 471 West Palmer Street, Detroit, MI 48202, USA;, Email: swinter@wayne.edu.

Publication date: 2011-03-01

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