Provisional Politics: Kantian Arguments in Policy Context
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If we are to vindicate moral reasoning in politics, Elisabeth Ellis argues in this original and provocative work, we must focus on the conditions of political discourse rather than the contents of any particular ethical system. Written in an engaging, direct style, Provisional Politics builds on Ellis’s prize-winning interpretation of Kant’s theory of provisional right to construct a new theory of justice under conditions of agency and plurality. She develops this new perspective through a series of cases ranging from the treatment of AIDS widows in Kenya to the rights of non-citizens everywhere, as well as the clash between democratic decision-making and the politics of species conservation. The book concludes with a sobering discussion of the probable limits of political agency.
to bring grievances before the throne.75 Other contexts have different requirements. Robert Reich has argued that citizens in the contemporary United States have to achieve quite a high level of competence (the “symbolic analyst” level) before they can hope to exercise political leverage.76 Similar arguments may be found in Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson’s and Theda Skocpol’s recent work.77 Regardless of the context in question, however, discursive dynamics direct the theorist’s attention to
all other concerns? Certainly not.9 Instead of reasoning from the hypothetical example of the transition from the state of nature, which has never been more than a highly useful mode of illustration for the logic of contractarianism, we ought to reason from the social contract’s most basic commitment: legitimate rule is by consent. Rule by consent is a provisional principle, and the conditions of its even partial satisfaction vary according to the political context. In present-day rich
respond to the injustices that arise from the imposition of arbitrary territorial boundaries, without sacriﬁcing the important goods that depend on some demarcation of the subjects and objects of political will. In the present day, national governments provide the most important forum for the vindication of individual rights, for example. One need not support the use of boundaries as a means of defending traditional cultures in order to see that potentially empowered citizens need some route to
FWS undertook this obligation despite the fact that it had no reason to believe that vernal pool species would not be driven to extinction by development of those areas allowed under the MSCP and not in fact protected by ACOE or other agencies (27, 36). Brewster lists some of the many weakness of the FWS’s plan for protection: the MSCP includes an arbitrary measure of allowable loss of vernal pool habitat (12 percent), calculates losses by pool surface area while measuring mitigation according to
that individuals in order to exercise substantive freedom must have some independent access to their means of subsistence, and thus that some private property rights ought to be protected in order to render citizen autonomy practicable, it does not grant any a priori status to property rights as such. Limited property rights—how limited is a political question to be left open by provisional theory—are justiﬁed provisionally and hypothetically in the name of the complex imperatives of modern