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Game of Justice, The

A Theory of Individual Self-Government

Ruth Lane

Publication Year: 2007

The Game of Justice argues that justice is politics, that politics is something close to ordinary people and not located in an abstract and distant institution known as the State, and that the concept of the game provides a new way to appreciate the possibilities of creating justice. Justice, as a game, is played in a challenging environment that makes serious demands on the participants, in terms of self-knowledge and individual self-government, and also in terms of understanding social behavior. What the term game provides is a radical opening of all established institutions: the status quo is neither absolute nor inevitable, but is the result of past political controversy, a result created by the winners to express their victory. At the same time, the game of justice, like all games, is played over and over again, with winners and losers changing places over time. This serves as encouragement to past losers and provides a cautionary reminder to past winners.

Published by: State University of New York Press

The Game of Justice

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pp. v

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p. vii-vii

Typically I do not write prefaces, feeling that a book should explain itself without outside help, but The Game of Justice has had a sufficiently irregular provenance that a brief introductory comment may be in order. The book centers on three themes, which are not so much controversial in themselves as they are unexplored. First, I have separated the political from the state, so that politics is not restricted ...

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Prologue: Politics, Democracy, and the Game of Justice

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pp. 1-18

Democracy means many contradictory things to many different people, and most definitions of democracy are unsatisfactory because their high level of abstraction fails to capture the ambiguities of the democratic experience. Sometimes a metaphor is more effective. Picture one of the Independence Day celebrations that have traditionally marked the Fourth of July in communities of all ...

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1. Pitkin’s Dilemma: The Wider Shores of Political Theory and Political Science

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pp. 19-40

Thirty years ago in the conclusion to her study of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s significance for political philosophy, Hanna Fenichel Pitkin posed a dilemma that arose from Wittgenstein’s transformation of philosophical method and the impact of this change on traditional political theory. Traditional political theory, Pitkin argued, had been inherently tyrannical. Plato solved the political problem ...

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2. Political Society: A Blind Spot in the Liberal Field of Vision

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pp. 41-60

Political theory has traditionally directed its attention exclusively to ‘the state,’ that is, to the (1) officially constituted government and institutions of (2) the whole society, as a united, self-governing collectivity. Classical theory was more flexible in this regard, and broader in its approach to the political, but modern theory has made the state its central problem and its primary solution. The ...

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3. Standing Aloof from the State: Thoreau on Self Government

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pp. 61-80

Henry Thoreau’s vigorously critical attitude to the state, his refusal to be considered a party to any contract he had not explicitly acknowledged, and his belief that human beings have more important things than the state with which to concern themselves,1 have long ensured his exclusion from the canons of political philosophy. Even in American political theory his contribution is usually ...

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4. Wittgenstein’s Games: The Philosophy and Practice of Justice

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pp. 81-102

The game model has tied together the major themes of the present work, from the micropolitical hazards of interpersonal social interaction to the self-governed integrity of a Thoreau confronting those challenges. The game concept has been used here, both explicitly and implicitly, as a light but firm analytic structure, one that is simultaneously empirical in explaining human ...

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5. Foucault’s Justice: Agent-Centered Theory and the Game Position

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pp. 103-122

The use of a game framework in analyzing human behavior has implications beyond the micropolitical aspects of everyday affairs into the construction of societies as wholes and the claims of legitimacy made for those societies. From a naive social perspective, it is tempting to believe that existing societies have been established on immemorial principles laid down by farseeing statesmen. ...

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6. Rousseau on Self-Government: The Late Individualist Model of the Promeneur Solitaire

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pp. 123-140

At the end of his life, isolated, ill, and paranoid, Jean-Jacques Rousseau defined in the Tenth Walk of Les Rêveries du Promeneur Solitaire what may have been the central obsession in an amply obsessed life, the task of “unraveling what there is of my own in my own conduct” (Butterworth 1982:141; emphasis added).1 Rousseau had initiated this existentially important inquiry in his early ...

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Epilogue: Politics, Strategy, and the Game of Justice

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pp. 141-154

The inquiry into the game of justice has led along diverse paths and has arrived at sometimes unexpected locations: Boston bowling alleys with William Whyte; the politics of everyday life with Foucault, Garfinkel, and Schelling; through the backwoods of Concord with Henry Thoreau; along the faint trails left by the participants across Wittgenstein’s open fields; into the intricacies of ...


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pp. 155-186


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pp. 187-202


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pp. 203-208

E-ISBN-13: 9780791480236
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791470558
Print-ISBN-10: 0791470555

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 1 figure
Publication Year: 2007