A General Theory of Domination and Justice

ISBN : 9780199579419

Frank Lovett
288 Pages
163 x 241 mm
Pub date
May 2010
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In all societies, past and present, many persons and groups have been subject to domination. Properly understood, domination is a great evil, the suffering of which ought to be minimized so far as possible. Surprisingly, however, political and social theorists have failed to provide a detailed analysis of the concept of domination in general. This study aims to redress this lacuna. It argues first, that domination should be understood as a condition experienced by persons or groups to the extent that they are dependent on a social relationship in which some other person or group wields arbitrary power over them; this is termed the 'arbitrary power conception' of domination. It argues second, that we should regard it as wrong to perpetrate or permit unnecessary domination and, thus, that as a matter of justice the political and social institutions and practices of any society should be organized so as to minimize avoidable domination; this is termed 'justice as minimizing domination', a conception of social justice that connects with more familiar civic republican accounts of freedom as non-domination. In developing these arguments, this study employs a variety of methodological techniques - including conceptual analysis, formal modelling, social theory, and moral philosophy; existing accounts of dependency, power, social convention, and so on are clarified, expanded, or revised along the way. While of special interest to contemporary civic republicans, this study should appeal to a broad audience with diverse methodological and substantive interests.


1. Introduction
2. Social Relationships and Dependency
3. The Imbalance of Power Conception
4. Arbitrariness and Social Conventions
5. Domination and Human Flourishing
6. Domination and Justice
7. Applications of Minimizing Domination
8. Conclusion
Appendix I: Historical Notes on 'Domination'
Appendix II: Formal Models of Domination

About the author: 

Frank Lovett is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis, and from 2008 - 2009 was a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellow, University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. He received his PhD in Political Science from Columbia University in 2004, and prior to coming to Washington University he held a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Clinical Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health. His primary research concerns the role of freedom and domination in developing theories of justice, equality, and the rule of law. He teaches courses in political theory.

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