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Majorities and Minorities


John Chapman, Alan Wertheimer

Publication Year: 1990

In this thirty-second annual volume in the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy's NOMOS series, entitled Majorities and Minorities, thirteen distinguished contributors consider a diverse selection of topics. Included are essays on legitimacy of the majority, the utilitarian view of majoritarianism, majorities and elections, pluralism and equality, democratic theory, and American democracy and majority rules.

Of Interest to political scientists, philosophers, and legal scholars, this collection brings together a variety of viewpoints. Each author is a leading voice within his or her specialized field.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

This thirty-second volume of NOMOS grew out of the meetings of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy held in conjunction with the American Political Science Association in Chicago in September, 1987. The topic, "Majorities and Minorities...

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pp. 1-8

"If majorities are often wrong, why is it right for them to rule?,"1 asks Elaine Spitz. It is certainly not right, in any fundamental sense, says John Rawls: "the procedure of majority rule, however it is defined and circumscribed, has a subordinate place as...

Part I: Historical Introduction

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1. The Demise of the Confessional State and the Rise of the Idea of a Legitimate Minority

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pp. 11-23

The issue of majorities and minorities within a common political community is a recent topic in Western political thought. Indeed, prior to the early nineteenth century, this issue scarcely existed; it found no resonance in the public and educated discourse...

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2. Majorities and Minorities: A Classical Utilitarian View

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pp. 24-43

A traditional criticism of utilitarianism has focused on its alleged inability to provide an adequate theoretical foundation for securing individual rights and the protection of minorities. The very phrase, "the greatest happiness of the greatest number,"...

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3. Rights and Majorities: Rousseau Revisited

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pp. 44-76

The distinction between political theory and political philosophy often seems artificial. The two terms pick out much the same discipline pursued under the auspices of different academic departments. But one topic where there has been a considerable...

Part II: Conceptual and Procedural Issues

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4. Three Fallacies Concerning Majorities, Minorities, and Democratic Politics

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pp. 79-125

Minorities and majority rule is our subject—and it is a peculiarly American one. The tricky task for this constitutional democracy is to devise "ways of protecting minorities from majority tyranny that is not a flagrant contradiction of the principle...

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5. Democratic Theory and the Democratic Agent

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pp. 126-150

Democratic theories as opposed as those of James Buchanan and Benjamin Barber, not to mention the many shades of opinion in between, advocate liberty and equality—the two values that have assumed preeminence in modern democratic theory...

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6. Political Equality

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pp. 151-183

Philosophical thinking about democracy has not come very far in spelling out the standards that legitimate democratic institutions should meet. Political philosophers and theorists have not got beyond general justifications of democracy and some vague...

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7. Public Choice Versus Democracy

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pp. 184-204

Public-choice theory offers two main classes of findings. First, aggregation from individual to collective preferences may not be well defined. Even though every individual may have a clear preference ranking of all alternatives before us, we may not be...

Part III: Cultural Pluralism and Group Rights

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8. Pluralism and Equality: The Status of Minority Values in a Democracy

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pp. 207-225

In his book, Justice, Equal Opportunity, and the Family, James Fishkin claims, "I should not be able to enter a hospital ward of healthy newborn babies and, on the basis of class, race, sex, or other arbitrary characteristics predict the eventual position in...

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9. Difference and Domination: Reflections on the Relation Between Pluralism and Equality

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pp. 226-250

Can we respect differences among groups without blindly endorsing existing patterns of inequality? Can we distinguish between domination and diversity without forfeiting our claim to pluralism? These are the sorts of questions we should ask ourselves...

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10. Electoral Power, Group Power, and Democracy

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pp. 251-264

It has been suggested that the tendency of American courts in recent years to acknowledge discrimination only in cases where an intent to discriminate can be demonstrated has exacerbated social inequalities; and the application of this standard to voting...

Part IV: The American Experience

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11. American Democracy and Majority Rule

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pp. 267-307

Robert Dahl points out that "the Framers [of the U.S. Constitution] intended . . . to impede the operation of majority rule. In few other democratic countries are there so many obstacles in the way of government by electoral and legislative majorities...

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12. "Yes, But . . .": Principles and Caveats in American Racial Attitudes

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pp. 308-336

Analysts of Americans' racial attitudes agree on four points. Whereas a majority of whites expressed overt racism in the 1950s, only a small minority do in the 1980s. Whereas a minority of whites supported the principles of racial equality and...


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pp. 337-344

Further Reading

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814790151
E-ISBN-10: 0814790151
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814714331
Print-ISBN-10: 0814714331

Publication Year: 1990