PLSC 118: The Moral Foundations of Politics

Lecture 24

 - Democratic Justice: Theory


Professor Shapiro takes up again Schumpeter’s minimalist conception of democracy. When operationalized as a two turnover test, this conception of democracy proves far from minimalist, yet people often expect other things from democracy, like delivering justice. Although people experiencing injustice under other types of governments often clamor for democracy, they become disillusioned with democracy when a particular regime fails to ensure greater justice for society. However, societies are also unwilling to swoop in with a scheme of justice that has not been democratically legitimated. Professor Shapiro proposes an approach that synthesizes both democracy and justice and pursues them together. His theory of democratic justice has several features which he outlines: (1) it rests on a broad conception of politics, (2) it is semi-contextual, (3) it distinguishes between superordinate and subordinate goods, and (4) embodies two dimensions of democracy, which are (a) collective self-government grounded in the principle of affected interest, and (b) institutionalized opposition and presumption against hierarchy.

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PLSC 118 - Lecture 24 - Democratic Justice: Theory

Chapter 1. What Can We Expect from Democracy? [00:00:00]

Professor Ian Shapiro: We ended last time by talking about the sense in which Schumpeter’s competitive democracy is minimalist, and I said that it is in an important sense minimalist. It’s linked to this idea of the competitive struggle for power and the notion that turfing the rascals out is the sine qua non of democratic politics. There’s one respect in which even if this is a minimal requirement it’s nonetheless a very substantial minimal requirement in that the way it has been operationalized as…

[crew talk]

Professor Ian Shapiro: So the basic issue was, is this [Schumpeterian] conception of democracy too minimalist? It is minimalist in an important sense in that it reduces democracy to this competitive struggle for the people’s vote. I said there’s one respect in which it clearly is not minimalist which is that if one’s expectation is as Huntington and others would come to argue later that we can’t call a country a democracy until there’ve been two turnovers of power.

That means the US was not a democracy until 1840. Japan has only recently become a democracy. Countries like South Africa are not yet democracies or at least we can’t say they are because we don’t know what would happen if the ANC lost an election, so minimalist not negligible. And I think that for those who complain that Schumpeterian democracy is too minimalist try living in a country that doesn’t have it and you will find that minimal is indeed not negligible.

Still you might say that raises the question of what it is that we can reasonably expect from democracy, because most people typically expect more from democracy than just the turnover of government. If we go back to the large themes of this course remember that when I introduced the subject of democracy and we looked at Plato and Tocqueville’s critiques of it, we really were left wondering, “Well why would anyone think that if protecting individual rights and basing politics on scientific principles of truth is the answer, why would we want to pursue democracy as the goal to achieving that answer?”

But if you now take a step back and ask, “Well, compared to what?” democracy starts to look pretty good. Because what we have seen in the literature on democracy is that no other political system does a better job of protecting individual rights. We saw that Madison was greatly concerned with the separation of power and the creation of we might call republican constraints on democracy, but the literature from the twentieth century has established, principally by Bob Dahl but also from many others, that if you look at the addition of judicial review, it’s just not something that lawyers like to hear, but if you look at the addition of judicial review to democratic politics it doesn’t really add anything. That is to say the way in which empirically rights are best protected is by creating Schumpeterian democracy. Adding judicial review on top of that doesn’t seem to make any difference as far as preserving individual rights is concerned.

The big thing is to get and keep democracy, not to get and keep judicial review, and I think that is reflected in the fact that separation of powers, at the end of the day, is words upon a parchment whereas the pluralism that guarantees competitive politics is embedded in the society and that is ultimately the guarantor of freedom under democratic conditions.

If we think about the truth coming out in politics, finding a political system that as Mill would have it could best track the truth, again what we find when we asked the question “compared to what?” democracy does better than the going alternatives. You can think of Schumpeterian competition as institutionalizing Mill’s demand that we have to have competition of ideas. Remember how Mill got from freedom to utility through his idea of the truth coming out of competitive argument, not deliberation, not sitting around and contemplating things together, but people having to argue for their views and defend them on the grounds that they can meet the objections of their critics. And so Schumpeterianism is a kind of institutionalization of the competitive argumentative ideal that Mill talks about in the long chapter on freedom of speech in On Liberty.

And so, again, when we say “compared to what?” democracy does better than the going alternatives in preserving the freedom of speech and the competition of ideas that is likely to make the truth come out in the long run. So, despite the fears of Plato and Tocqueville when we pose the question “compared to what?” democracy does better than the going alternatives in vindicating these Enlightenment ideals. As Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst system of government except for the others that have been tried from time to time.”

Now you could buy everything I’ve just said now but still feel that this is too minimalist a conception of democracy to meet the sort of expectations that people have when they make demands for the creation of democracy in the real world. And I think there’s merit to that objection, and these last two lectures are designed to address it to the extent that I think it’s possible to address it.

If we think about the conditions under which people demand democracy, they’re usually conditions under which people have a strong experience of injustice. So those of us who were around in the 1980s would hear objections from behind the iron curtain to communism. People didn’t like communism, and what they demanded was democracy. Or if you go to apartheid South Africa what you find is, again, people find themselves appalled by and rejecting of apartheid, but what do they demand? They demand democracy.

Now, if in either of those instances you went to those people, those anti-communists who were demanding democracy in the former Soviet Union or the anti-apartheid activists who were demanding democracy in South Africa, and you said to them, “Well, tell us what a perfect democracy would look like in Russia or in South Africa,” they wouldn’t have been able to tell you, and I think that that’s an important observation. It’s an important observation because it captures a feature of human nature that we haven’t commented on very much, although it came to the surface in our discussion of MacIntyre, namely that human beings are reactive creatures. They shy away from what does not work and then fumble in the darkness in search of something that works better or at least something that fails less badly.

The famous economist, Amartya Sen who I mentioned to you briefly, I think, made this point brilliantly in a new book of his called The Idea of Justice, and it expressed some of his frustration with the academic literature on justice, which seems to get caught up in debating questions that are three points to the right of the decimal without moving on the big questions of justice.

And Sen said, “Imagine that you were sitting in a sauna and the controls for the sauna were outside so that you couldn’t reach them, and it got hotter, and hotter, and hotter, and you were really, really hot, and you said to the person who had their hand on the controls outside the sauna, ‘Turn it down. It’s way too hot.’ And his reply was ‘Well, I’m not going to turn it down until you tell me what the optimal temperature is.’” And, of course, what Sen’s point is you don’t know what the optimal temperature is. What you know is this is much too hot.

And so I think Sen’s little story in a more imaginative way than anything I have come up captures this idea that human beings are reactive creatures and we say, “This doesn’t work. This doesn’t work. This doesn’t work,” and we’re constantly looking for something that does better. And so the fact that anti-communists in the 1980s couldn’t describe what a well-functioning post-Soviet democracy would look like, or the fact that anti-apartheid activists in the 1970s and 80s couldn’t characterize a democratic South Africa for you in any detail, doesn’t detract from the fact that their demands for democracy captured something about what they thought was fundamentally unacceptable about the existing state of affairs. And so people demand democracy because they experience injustice, and they want justice, and they hope that democracy will deliver it.

Now some Schumpeterians, Huntington foremost among them, have said, “This is really bad. This is really a bad thing, because what’s going to happen when people experience injustice and demand democracy is they are inevitably going to be disappointed.” Indeed there was a very interesting poll, I thought, out of South Africa on this very point last year where they found a majority of South African Blacks saying, “Things were better under apartheid than now.” But then when asked would they rather go back to apartheid the majority said, “No.” It captures, I think, this tension and this paradoxical expectation that people have of democracy.

But the Huntingtonian point was, “Well, that you would jeopardize democracy if you get people to load too many expectations onto it.” This, to some extent, is defied in the second half of that poll I just mentioned to you because even though people say things were better in the apartheid years they still don’t want to go back there. But I think Huntington might say, “Well, eventually things are going to change. Eventually when South African democracy fails to deliver on people’s expectations about justice, the regime itself is going to come into jeopardy.”

If you look at South Africa, just to pursue this example, we’ve now had four elections since apartheid. South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world, has one of the highest Gini coefficients, yet the top marginal tax rate today is lower than it was at the end of apartheid. There hasn’t been land reform. There hasn’t been significant redistribution of income or wealth. There’s been the creation of a small black millionaire class, but for the vast majority of blacks, they’re still as badly off as they were before.

And so the Huntingtonian thought is that if people load expectations onto democracy that can’t be met then when those expectations are frustrated eventually the problem is going to be that people are going to blame democracy rather than the government of the day and turn on democracy when some populous dictator comes along and promises, say as we’ve seen in Zimbabwe, promises massive land redistribution at the expense of democracy. And so the modern Schumpeterians have tended to say, “We should try and disabuse people of their unrealistic expectations of democracy so that we don’t lose at least the minimal benefits of competitive democracy which we’ve already agreed are not negligible.” And so this was presented as a kind of realist realpolitik take on democracy, that people shouldn’t expect it to diminish injustice.

The problem with the Huntingtonian view is that people are not going to change their expectations because some professor of political science tells them to. There are deep-seated reasons why people turn to democracy when they experience injustice, and are not going to give up on the appeal to democracy in order to remedy it. And those reasons have to do with, I think, with the topic we ended at the very tail end of last Wednesday’s lecture, is that democracy is motivated, the impulse for democracy comes from the impulse to resist domination. And there’s a connection between democracy and fighting injustice because both of those things are connected with resistance to domination.

So if we think that the Schumpeterians are right to say that democracy is often going to fail to deliver on the project of diminishing injustice, but naïve to think that people are therefore going to stop creating expectations of democracy, that creates a different kind of agenda. That creates the agenda that I want to talk to you about for the rest of today’s lecture and Wednesday’s lecture and that is; how can we think about promoting justice by democratic means? Given that people are going to have expectations from democracy the better course is to try and find institutions that can deliver on those expectations. And I think it’s an important reason not only when we reason about democracy, but also when we reason about justice.

Chapter 2. Democratic Justice [00:16:53]

Many years ago when I was teaching this course, before I had written Democratic Justice, and indeed one of the events that caused me to write it was a question from a student in the class. I had been teaching Rawls and I had gone through the principles, the difference principle and all of that, and I had explained that Rawls was the most influential political philosopher of his generation, and that this theory of justice had completely revolutionized modern political philosophy. And this student put up their hand and said, “Professor Shapiro, now that Rawls’s theory has been established, why hasn’t The Constitution been changed to include it?” and many of the students in the class laughed. And they laughed why? Does anyone have a guess? Why do you think people laughed? It seemed like a naïve question, why though? John Rawls got the answer, so our Constitution doesn’t reflect that answer, why haven’t they changed it? Why do you think students would have laughed? Yeah?

Student: People think there’s a disconnect sometimes between political philosophy and actual politics and policy-making.

Professor Ian Shapiro: They think there’s a disconnect between political philosophy and actual politics, but why is there a disconnect? I mean, these political philosophers are trying to get the right answer. So let’s suppose it’s true that Rawls got the right answer, and Nozick didn’t, and Dworkin didn’t, and Shapiro didn’t. Rawls got the right answer. He solved the problem. Why don’t we just implement it? This was, after all, what Bentham thought. Bentham thought he’d figured it all out and he went running around the world with his constitutions and was deeply disappointed when countries wouldn’t adopt them. Why do we resist this idea? Yeah? At the back, can we get the microphone to the back?

Student: Because generally we don’t think that claims are absolutely true and we maintain that they can be proved false in the future. Claims are fallible.

Professor Ian Shapiro: So part of it is the fallibilism of the mature Enlightenment. That people somehow resist the idea that anybody’s got it perfectly right in the sense of getting a geometric proof. Anything else? Yeah, over here?

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Ian Shapiro: Just hold on a second. We want to record what you say for posterity.

Student: The democratic system doesn’t change that fast. I mean, part of the nature of the system that we have is that it’s slow moving.

Professor Ian Shapiro: It’s slow moving, yeah, but still why shouldn’t it move? The student might say, “Well yeah, okay, but so they had these ideas in the eighteenth century, now Rawls has better ideas, why shouldn’t we move to Rawls’s ideas?” I think there’s something that will make people resist. There are many people who might concede that Rawls has a better argument than Nozick, or Dworkin, or Shapiro, or any of the other people, Mill that you’ve been reading, and still want to say it shouldn’t be imposed on the society; that somehow principles of justice have to be democratically legitimated in order for us to be forced to live by them.

And so I think whether you start from the justice end and you are confronted by this reality that people demand democracy when they experience injustice, or when you start from the democracy end, you realize that people are not going to embrace principles of justice unless they can triumph through democratic institutions, you realize that pursuing democracy and justice together is important.

After all, as I said to you when I talked to you about Madison, even though they thought they had designed the best constitution that they could agree to at the time nobody had any illusions that this would be acceptable if it had not been adopted by the people of the state of New York. So having the right answer is not enough. You’ve got to have the right answer but convince people through democratic mechanisms that you’ve got the right answer. So democracy and justice have to be pursued together.

I said that the animating idea behind democracy is the appeal of resisting domination, but I think the procedural ground rule is what I’m going to call the principle of affected interest. And this was nowhere better articulated than by Nelson Mandela in 1962 in his statement to the court before sentencing. A little piece of relevant background that you may not know, you don’t have to write this down, I will put it up on the server. A piece of background is that they had been convicted of treason. The ANC had finally suspended their peaceful opposition about five years earlier and turned to armed struggle. And then a number of ANC leaders had been arrested and tried and convicted of treason. And their attorneys told them that they were going to get the death sentence, and the only way they could possibly avoid the death sentence was to get up and be contrite and beg to be let off.

And the young Nelson Mandela said, “No, I’m not going to do that,” and he stood up and he made this famous speech in which he said, “I’m charged with inciting people to commit an offence by way of protest against the law, a law which neither I or any of my people had any say in preparing.

“But in weighing up the decision as to the sentence which is to be imposed for such an offence, the court must take into account the question of responsibility, whether it is I who is responsible or whether, in fact, a large measure of the responsibility does not lie on the shoulders of the government which promulgated that law, knowing that my people, who constitute the majority of the population of this country, were opposed to that law, and knowing further that every legal means of demonstrating that opposition had been closed to them by prior legislation, and by government administrative action.”

“We played no role in making the laws that affect us, and we have no means of opposing the laws that affect us,” is what he was saying, “and that’s why we turned to the armed struggle, and it’s not our failing.” Of course the government was calling them terrorists. Of course, why wouldn’t they call them terrorists? But Mandela’s position was that the principle of affected interest had been violated.

This notion that I think is very close to the most fundamental procedural idea in democratic theory, that people whose interests are affected by a decision presumptively should have some say in making that decision. If you think about the Boston Tea Party, which the current Tea Partiers are trying to piggyback on the legitimacy of, it was the same notion, no what without representation, no what?

Student: Taxation.

Professor Ian Shapiro: Yes. So it’s the same idea that people who are affected by decisions, if you’re going to tax us we want to be involved in — we want to have representation in the decisions about taxation. And so it’s trying to capture that idea that I’m talking about when I talk about democratic justice. And I want to describe first a general argument and then some particulars.

Chapter 3. Democratic Justice: The General Argument [00:26:05]

The first is that this rests on a broad conception of politics. What do I mean by a broad conception of politics? Well, consider this fact. When we talk about — those of you who have read political philosophy in the history of the tradition will know that for most of the great theorists of the past the organization of the political system was only one piece of a theory of politics. Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Mill, all of these thinkers thought that it was important to have a theory of family life, a theory of education, a theory of how the whole society operated. Politics is not just about what goes on in buildings in Washington and in Hartford. It was a broad conception of politics.

And one of the criticisms of much contemporary political theory has been that it ignores the broad society. So for example, it was a criticism made of Rawls’s theory of justice by feminists that it ignored the structure of the family. Rawls talked about heads of households as the basic representative individuals behind the veil of ignorance. And when he was saying that this was part of the basic — his theory was a theory of the basic structure of society feminist theorists such as Susan Okin, now deceased, and others made the argument, “How can you say you’re talking about the basic structure of society while ignoring the family?” And Rawls eventually conceded the validity of that criticism and came to say toward the end of his life that had he to do it over he would have included the family as part of the basic structure of society.

So if politics is about power relations, then presumably you should think about power relations wherever they occur in social life and not simply power relations as they occur in the political system narrowly defined. And so the spirit of my argument for democratic justice is to base it on a broad conception of politics rather than a narrow one.

Of course that doesn’t mean that every political relationship is a politicized relationship. We might say the family is an intensely political institution, and indeed debates about education, and debates about abortion, and debates about many other subjects have politicized the family in recent times, but in the 1950s it was not a politicized institution. It was seen as something beyond politics, of no relevance to politics. So what institutions are politicized in that sense, consciously conceived of as political, is a separate question from what institutions are in fact political, if we define political as involved in the reproduction of power relationships in the society?

So we have a broad conception of politics. And then secondly we have a semi-contextual argument, and this is to try and take account of what people like MacIntyre have argued. That what people are willing to accept is largely conditioned by the social circumstances into which they are born, the traditions that they find structuring their lives, and that we have to take into account the context in which people find themselves.

But there’s more to life than just the context. That is to say there are inherited traditions and practices, but as we reproduce them into the future we have choices to make, and we need principles to guide those choices. And so the argument of democratic justice is that we do develop general principles of a sort, but they’re semi-contextual. That is, they play themselves out differently in different historical circumstances and in different parts of the world.

So you may, for example, have an affirmation of the idea of non-domination in family life, but that’s going to have to be worked out very differently in America in 2010 than it might have been in America in 1950, not to mention in countries that have inherited polygamist systems of traditional marriage. We’re going to have to think in context-sensitive ways about how to realize those general principles in the different circumstances.

A third point, and I apologize here I did swear off impenetrable jargon at the beginning of this course and you might think talking about superordinate and subordinate goods is a use of not very user-friendly terminology, but let me explain what I mean by this. If we take a broad conception of politics one of the things that follows from it is that power relations are everywhere. Power infuses everything we do. There are power relations in the family. There are power relations in the workplace. There are power relations in sports teams. There are power relations in classrooms. Power infuses everything.

This is, of course, an idea for which the French political commentator, now deceased, by the name of Foucault, is famous for pointing out that power is everywhere, but of course it’s as old as the hills. Plato was of the same view that power relations are everywhere, and indeed the reason Plato affirmed a broad conception of politics was because he recognized that power is exercised everywhere in the society, and so if the theory of politics is really a theory of power relations it’s going to have to track power wherever it goes.

So if power relations are ubiquitous and politics is ubiquitous then it seems like, well, everything is politics. And it’s that last phrase that I want to dissent from, that last phrase in Foucault or in Plato that I want to dissent from because, in fact, what we really see is not that everything is power, but that power infuses everything and there’s an important difference.

Yes, there are power relations in the classroom. Your teaching fellow has a certain kind of power over you. I have a certain kind of power over you, but that’s not the only thing that goes on in the classroom. Presumably also what goes on in the classroom is enlightenment, not in the big E sense of the Enlightenment, but enlightenment in the sense of communicating knowledge to you.

In the firm, yes there are power relations in the firm. Managers have power over workers. Shareholders have power over managers, at least in certain circumstances. Of course there are power relations in firms, but the exercise of power is not the only thing that goes on in firms. There’s the production of goods and services that goes on in firms.

Yes, there are power relations in sports teams. Again, coaches have power over players. Donors, you might say, have power over coaches, even university presidents sometimes. So of course there are power relations associated with sports teams, but again, sports teams are not just about power relations they’re also about playing sports well.

So you can get the point from these examples. We could go everywhere through society and see, yes, social relations often involve power, but that’s not all they involve. So to my way of thinking the superordinate good is the playing excellent sport, or producing goods and services, or communicating enlightenment to students. Those are the superordinate goods, or what MacIntyre called the internal goods when he was talking about his practices. Those are the superordinate goods that guide our activities in different walks of life.

The subordinate goods have to do with the power relations. And what I want to say is that the goal of a democratic conception of justice should be to democratize the subordinate relations as much as possible while interfering with the superordinate goods as little as possible. You, at the end of the day, want the sports team to be able to play the best football it can play, or you want the students to learn as much as they can possibly learn, or you want the firm to produce as efficiently as possible the goods and services that it produces. So those are the superordinate goods.

However, there is this fact about power being mixed up in the pursuit of superordinate goods, and democratic justice is about democratizing the power dimensions of human interaction while interfering with the non-power dimensions as little as possible, and the creative challenge is to find ways to do that.

And I think that when we’re thinking about conditioning the subordinate dimensions democratically, there are really two dimensions of democratic justice that are both present in that famous quote from Nelson Mandela that I read to you a few moments ago. One is the idea of collective self-government. It’s the idea that, as the principle of affected interests intimates, anyone who is affected by a decision should have a presumptive say in the making of that decision. It doesn’t necessarily mean everybody has an equal say. We’ll get to those issues later, but everybody is presumed to have a say in the making of decision that affect them. No taxation without representation. It’s the idea of collective self-government. If we’re going to be affected by decisions, we should have a say in making them.

But then separate from that and independent of it is the idea of the legitimacy of opposition, the legitimacy of resisting decisions that you don’t like, and I think there are two reasons for this. Forget about the presumption against hierarchy for a minute. I’ll get to that shortly. Just focus on the idea of institutionalizing opposition. There are two reasons for that. One I’ve already alluded to today, which is that we’re always fumbling in the dark. We’re always resisting things that haven’t worked well in the past. We’re trying to change things. We might be rebuilding the ship at sea, as Devlin says, but we are trying to rebuild the ship. We are trying to make things better as we reproduce them into the future, and unless we have the freedom to oppose the existing order, then the possibility of change becomes illusive.

But a second and more fundamental reason that we should institutionalize rights of opposition is that you now know from taking this course that there are no perfect decision rules. We saw that if we just focus on the arms-length types of transactions that characterize national-level politics, politics in buildings in Washington, we did end up with a presumption in favor of majority rule when we worked our way through the difficulties with Buchanan and Tullock, and Brian Barry, and Rae, and all of that. That other things being equal you protect yourself best with majority rule, but it’s not a perfect decision rule. You know from Condorcet and Kenneth Arrow that there is no perfect way to aggregate preferences into a social welfare function.

So if there’s no perfect decision rule, one of the things that follows from that is that whatever the decision rule, whatever the result, there are going to be people who object to it and who object to it legitimately. People are going to feel that their interests have not been taken adequately into account. And so opposition is important for that reason to give people the possibility of trying to get things changed; very important for the stability of democracy as well, because if you don’t create avenues for loyal opposition over time you’re more likely to get disloyal opposition. If people feel there’s no possibility of change they might as well reach for their guns. So there are two dimensions of democratic justice for that reason. There’s collective self-government and then this idea of institutionalizing opposition.

In practice I suggest that one of the most important ways in which we institutionalize opposition is with a presumption against hierarchy. If you think of the examples I just gave you — sports teams, classes, firms, you could think of many others, armies, families — they’re all hierarchical to a very considerable extent. All those social forms are hierarchical, and often the hierarchy is essential to the realization of the superordinate good in question. So it’s not the case that hierarchies are necessarily bad, but it’s when hierarchies atrophy into systems of domination that they become bad. Power corrupts and the problem is to prevent those who are higher up in hierarchies from taking advantage of their hierarchical authority in order to dominate others.

And so when we confront hierarchical social arrangements there are a number of questions that we can ask, what I’m calling here. We can interrogate hierarchies. We can ask, “Is a hierarchy inevitable?” Well, the hierarchy of a parent over a child is inevitable, but the hierarchy in, say, in the 1950s of a husband over a wife was not inevitable. If the hierarchy is inevitable we’re going to have to think about it in one way. If it’s not inevitable we’re going to think about it in a different way.

Is the degree of hierarchy appropriate? Children must be subordinated to their parents, but maybe they don’t have to be subordinated for 18 years. We have the arguments of the Children’s Rights Movement that wanted to treat children as miniature adults almost from infanthood. So we have to think about, “Is the hierarchy appropriate? Whose interest does the hierarchy serve? Is it really in the interest of the production of the superordinate good?”

Think of a boss who has hierarchical authority over a secretary and says to the secretary at some point, “Unless you’re willing to go to bed with me, you’re not going to get a promotion.” Then the hierarchical authority has atrophied into a system of domination because the efficiencies that would be gained from the boss having authority over his secretary have been perverted into something that operates in the interest of the boss, perhaps, but it doesn’t serve the hierarchy as it was created.

How fluid is a hierarchy? Is it self-liquidating? If you think of the situation where a child becomes a parent, a child becomes an adult, that’s a self-liquidating hierarchy. Whereas, if we go back to the nineteenth century and the father turned his daughter over to her husband, that would be a non-self-liquidating hierarchy.

Is there vertical mobility within the hierarchy? Think of the debates in the Catholic Church about whether a woman can become a priest. There’s not a lot of vertical mobility within that hierarchy. Is the hierarchy symmetrical? We think of the defense of polygamy, but most societies that have polygamy allow a husband to have many wives, but not a wife to have many husbands. Asymmetrical hierarchies are more suspect than symmetrical ones.

What are the opportunities for exit? Can people leave hierarchical social situations? You think about polygamy in South Africa, it’s essentially elective. People can choose polygamist arrangements, but they don’t have to, whereas in some societies in fundamentalist cultures polygamist marriage is enshrined in the legal system. Other things being equal, hierarchical systems are more suspect when the costs of exit are high for the people at the bottom.

How insular is the hierarchy? For instance we look at the Amish. It’s a withdrawing sect. They don’t want to restructure the rest of the social order, so that is presumptively less suspect than a fundamentalist group that does want to restructure the social order.

So there are all of these questions one can ask about hierarchical social relationships. You have to ask them in a context sensitive fashion, and then you can get some answers that tell you what we should be trying to pursue in the name of democratic justice. And I will pick up with some of those answers on Wednesday.

[end of transcript]

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