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  • Response to Bohman, Drexler, and Hames-Garcia
  • Iris Marion Young (bio)

It is a pleasure to respond to these two insightful and largely sympathetic critical essays on Inclusion and Democracy. From each I have learned something about my own project.

I accept Bohman's claim that the account I offer of the interdependence that grounds the scope of obligations of justice lacks some of the normative force required. Bohman's interpretation of Onora O'Neill's conception of the scope and grounds of imperfect obligation puts the point well, and if I were to reformulate the account, I would adopt his interpretation. Within the "indefinite cooperative schemes" that serve as background conditions for the lives of most of us, some local and some global in their reach, some agents are better able to set terms, and others find terms set for them without their having means of exit.

From Drexler and Hames-Garcia I accept the very interesting point that the expanded conception of communication that I argue should inform a discussion-based notion of democracy entails classifying as illocutionary speech acts that Habermas classifies as perlocutionary. This repositioning, as I understand it, involves opening a wider space in political theory and practice for forms of communication whose content and intent is the act of their expression itself - that is, as performatives. Illocutionary speech acts change the scene of expression, interpretation and acceptance, rather than make claims to be tested as to whether they cohere with the results of observation or deliberation. I agree with this interpretation of my project as shifting some of that communication which Habermas thinks is perlocution into the category of illocution.

In these ways I have learned from the two commentaries and intend to internalize their insights. In some other ways I disagree, however, either with the interpretation the authors have made of my ideas or with the critical responses they make to them. Rather than run through a tedious list of my reactions, I will focus on three issues: the meaning of objectivity, the relation of state institutions to global governance, and the political value of disruption.

I. Social Perspective and Objectivity

James Bohman criticizes the theory I offer in Chapter 3 of the role of perspectives expressed from structural social positions. The very idea that people stand in structural positions such as gender, race, and class, he suggests, must adopt the objectivist position of the social scientist who is outside of the process of political communication. Theorizing communication across difference as simply the expression of the social perspectives of differently positioned persons in a political debate, he further asserts, does not go far enough. In an emancipatory communicative political process people change their understanding of political issues and possible solutions to problems as a result of listening to and internalizing the diverse perspectives of people differently situated with respect to the issues.

I think that Bohman has reversed the argument that I make in that chapter. I myself explicitly defend inclusive communicative democratic practices partly on the grounds that the expression of structurally differentiated perspectives on the society are likely to transform the opinions of people in perspective. I imagine the logic of the process as follows.

Participants begin a process of discussion and dispute over issues of conflict or problems among them, each bringing their own limited experiences and narrow self-interest to that discussion. If they are open to listening to one another, and if the opinions and arguments expressed represent the diversity of social experiences and interests that make up the society in which the dispute occurs, then the views of each participant are likely to be transformed. If nothing else, individuals learn how others understand the problem, what their positions are, and they learn how the others regard their own position. When some people believe they have legitimate claims and others respond that they are petty and biased, this sometimes produces revision of the claims. What we might learn from interaction with differently situated people, however, isn't only the partiality of our view of what ought to be done, but also the partiality of our understanding of the constitution of the society, its processes and relationships, that generate...


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pp. 61-63
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