Does Reflexive Justice Adequately Address Problems of Postnational Legitimation?

In his piece, The Postnational Constellation and the Future of Democracy, Jürgen Habermas examines the effects of globalization on national democratic legitimation and reflects on the possibility of democratic processes beyond the nation-state. Habermas frames this discussion as the ‘opening’ of intersubjectively shared lifeworlds and he explores the possibilities of ‘closure’. Nancy Fraser, in her book, Scales of Justice: Reimagining Political Space in a Globalizing World, proposes a solution to this discourse of opening and closure in the form of reflexive justice. I have certain reservations concerning the ability of reflexive justice to adequately deal with problems of closure that Habermas elaborates, specifically concerning the generation of civic solidarity for the legitimation of postnational institutions. However, before I turn to this evaluation, I want to briefly outline Habermas’ discourse of opening and closure as well as Fraser’s concept of reflexive justice. Continue reading

Mickalene Thomas: Explorations of Blackness and Femininity

Mickalene Thomas was born in Camden, NJ in 1971. She earned a BA in Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute in 200 and a MA in Fine Arts from Yale University 2002 (Mickalene Thomas, 2018). Thomas is known for her use of rhinestones, colorful acrylics, and collage in her works to explore themes of blackness and femininity. In this piece, I undertake a formal and iconographic analysis of three of Thomas’s works: Afro Goddess Looking Forward (2015), Left Behind #2 (2014), and Raquel: I See You (2018). These pieces share common formal element as well as thematic elements that I will explore in greater depth in the following sections.

Afro Goddess Looking Forward (2015)

     This work uses rhinestones, acrylic, and oil on a wood panel. The work depicts an unidentified African-American woman resting on a couch indoors. The background consists of a collage of different multi colored acrylic prints segmented into approximations of different geometric shapes including rectangles, squares, and triangles. In the upper left corner, a green textured flower is painted. The visual focus of the piece is the women reclined in the middle of the work. She is wearing a colorful print robe and has Afro style hair. The hair of the women is created using sparkling black rhinestones and her eyes are a printed image of a photograph of eyes. The photographed eyes stare out from the painting seemingly directly at and almost through the viewer creating both a sense of intimacy and distance. Continue reading

The Role of Sincere Social Scientific Communication for Lenin and Dewey

     Social scientific knowledge is important to both John Dewey and Lenin for achieving democracy in the fullest sense. Lenin and Dewey generally agree on the social ends they are trying to achieve however they disagree on the role of sincere communication of social scientific knowledge in achieving democratic ends because of their conflicting understandings of the role of the people or mass in politics. Dewey argues that the public is vital to the full understanding of social inquiry because knowledge requires communication for it to be fully known and effect political change. Conversely Lenin argues that the sincere communication of social inquiry to the masses for political change is not possible because of the spontaneous tendencies of the masses. This disagreement is fundamentally based on different understandings of the people and the nature of social inquiry as Lenin and Dewey examine the best methods for achieving democratic ends.

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An Evaluation of Melodramatic Political Discourse

      Due to rise of easily consumable media and rapid transmission of information through visual media we are constantly exposed to horrific events around the world and often this is the sole way we experience these events. Elisabeth Anker argues our desire to understand and find meaning in these events leads us to utilizing a melodramatic political discourse that uses Nietzsche’s venomous eye as a conceptual framework. I argue that her conception of melodramatic political discourse ignores its function of incorporating unprecedented events into our liberal democratic discourse and the benefit this provides.

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The Psychological Benefit of Ahistorical Morality in Times of Unprecedented Crisis

     Richard Rorty in his essay “Postmodernist Bourgeois Liberalism” describes the political philosophy of the same name, as the Hegelian attempt to justify modern day liberal institutions without relying upon any kind of a priori moral justification. His aim is “to suggest how such liberals might convince our society that loyalty to itself is morality enough” (Rorty 1983). Rorty makes an excellent case to this point. However, there are a few unique cases, such as the Vietnam War (which Rorty brings up) and the 9/11 terror attack, where an appeal to ahistorical morality in democratic discourse is psychologically beneficial to the continuation of the fostering of liberal democratic principles.

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Societal Complacency Regarding The Disabled

     According to a recent report, “Disabled people are being ‘left behind in society’ and have ‘very poor’ life chances” (BBC). This report covered six key aspects: “education, work, standard of living, health and care, justice and detention, and participation and identity.” (BBC). In all of these aspects disabled people have faced an increase in disadvantage. It is very difficult for people to take care of the disabled and this burden often falls on the family of the disabled. These costs can be enormous and unduly burdening to those who of no fault of their own are disabled or have a disabled child or family member that they have to take care of.

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A Justification for Universal Basic Income

     The political philosophy of Liberal Egalitarianism, which is broadly outlined in Rawls’ seminal work “A Theory of Justice”, was furthered by Dworkin when he suggested a few key additions to try and account not just for unequal distribution of social goods but also for unequal distribution of natural goods, such as intelligence and physical strength. Dworkin’s theories have been used as theoretical justification for a host of after-market wealth redistribution programs but he does not go so far as to recommend the implementation of more radical policies that would occur before-market. I argue that these before-market policies are integral in creating a just society and that the best way to achieve genuine equality of resources is through a before-market policy of universal basic income. This policy proposal of universal basic income is consistent with Dworkin’s theories.

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