Analyse & Kritik

Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory

Evaluating Societies Morally?

2017 (39) Issue 2


There is hardly a greater distance between our everyday attitudes and scientific caution than in the case of evaluative statements concerning states and their representatives. Even though it is rare that whole cultures are called ‘evil’, judging state representatives in moral terms, often negatively, is wide-spread, and not only among the politically involved. In contrast, classical moral ‘theories’ and their advocates in the human sciences are reluctant to apply moral judgements to item...

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Table of Contents

Title: How Should One Evaluate the Soviet Revolution?
Author: Vittorio Hösle
Page: 199-221

The essay begins by discussing different ways of evaluating and making sense of the Soviet Revolution from Crane Brinton to Hannah Arendt. In a second part, it analyses the social, political and intellectual background of tsarist Russia that made the revolution possible. After a survey of the main changes that occurred in the Soviet Union, it appraises its ends, the means used for achieving them, and the unintended side-effects. The Marxist philosophy of history is interpreted as an ideological tool of modernization attractive to societies to which the liberal form of modernization was precluded.

Title: The Philosophy of History: A Value-pluralist Response
Author: George Crowder
Page: 223-239

Abstract: Vittorio Hösle’s evaluation of the Soviet Revolution on the ground of the philosophy of history can be usefully examined from the value-pluralist perspective of Isaiah Berlin. Although Berlin would agree with most of Hösle’s judgements on the Revolution, he would do so for very different reasons. Most importantly, Berlin would not accept the teleology that lies at the heart of the philosophy of history. For Berlin, the notion of a human telos to be realized at the end of history is a species of moral monism, and so falsified, indeed rendered incoherent, by the deeply pluralist reality of human values. However, Berlin’s pluralism also seems to present a problem for the justification of liberalism, and I consider a range of responses to this difficulty.

Title: Evaluating Societies Morally: The Case of Development and ‘Developing’ Societies
Author: Uchenna Okeja
Page: 241-263

Can a society, as a collective, be evaluated morally? In this paper, I attempt to answer this question against the background of the discourse on development. Specifically, I undertake three explorations. I begin with 1) discussion of the ways we attribute responsibility to collectives in relation to some problems associated with globalisation. This is followed by 2) consideration of some of the debates in philosophy regarding the nature and possibility of collective responsibility. Lastly, I examine 3) an attractive but underexplored possibility in the growing literature on Ubuntu. On the basis of Ubuntu moral insights, I will attempt to defend the thesis that the collective responsibility of developing societies in relation development is grounded by the imperative to care about the humanity of other people.

Title: Strategies for the Justification of Law
Author: Walter Pfannkuche
Page: 265-293

We need to acknowledge that the members of most modern societes adhere to different and partially contradictory moral convictions which to overcome we yet don’t have the intellectual means. Since such convictions typically include opions about which moral rules should be established as laws there will be disagreement about the correct rules of law as well. The article investigates the possibilities to find a system of laws that all can accept on the basis of such moral pluralism. It develops six steps and models for the required justification. As the final step has the form of a strategic negotiation the concluding section explores which forms of representation and which deviations from unanimity are acceptable within this procedural model of justification.

Title: Legitimacy without Liberalism: A Defense of Max Weber’s Standard of Political Legitimacy
Author: Amanda R. Greene
Page: 295-323

In this paper I defend Max Weber\\\'s concept of political legitimacy as a standard for the moral evaluation of states. On this view, a state is legitimate when its subjects regard it as having a valid claim to exercise power and authority. Weber’s analysis of legitimacy is often assumed to be merely descriptive, but I argue that Weberian legitimacy has moral significance because it indicates that political stability has been secured on the basis of civic alignment. Stability on this basis enables all the goods of peaceful cooperation with minimal state violence and intimidation, thereby guarding against alienation and tyranny. Furthermore, I argue, since Weberian legitimacy is empirically measurable in terms that avoid controversial value judgments, its adoption would bridge a longstanding divide between philosophers and social scientists.

Title: The Secularization Theory—Not Disconfirmed, Yet Rarely Tested
Author: Heiner Meulemann
Page: 325-355

Tendencies of secularization—religiosity decreases in Western societies since 1950—have been found abundantly in comparative survey research. They are taken as starting point to examine what the theory of secularization predicts and which predictions have been confirmed. It is shown that the three canonical theories of the change of religiosity—secularization, individualization, and market theory—are identical in their structure und can be integrated as the secularization theory. The secularization theory has been tested in cross-sectional and longitudinal designs, and by macro and multi-level analyses—that is, cross-classfied in four forms. Neglecting cross-sectional macro analyses, there are only 11 publications within the three remaining forms. They confirm a negative effect of social differentiation throughout und a negative effect of cultural pluralization often. Yet they often fail to control for important micro impacts upon religiosity, such as denomination or parenthood. In sum, they show that the secularization theory is by no means disconfirmed, yet rarely tested.

Title: Paths to Modernity and the Secularization Issue
Author: Thomas Schwinn
Page: 357-372

In the lively debate of the last two decades about the validity of the ‘secularization thesis’, the comparison between Europe and the USA plays a central role. The high level of religiosity beyond the Atlantic has put under pressure the assumption of the loss of importance of religion in modernity, which had been prevalent for a long time. In this debate, the connection between the differentiation theory and sociology of religion, which has already been discussed by the classics of the discipline, has attracted too little attention. This article takes up this desideratum and proposes, following Max Weber, a theory of differentiation which is able to cover the variety of religious processes. This proposed analysis will be made concrete with reference to the different paths to modernity of Europe and the USA and the related importance of religion.

Title: What Can we Learn from ‘Postmodern’ Critiques of Education for Autonomy?
Author: Julian Culp
Page: 373-392

Lyotard defines being postmodern as an ‘incredulity toward meta narratives’. Such incredulity includes, in particular, skepticism vis-à-vis Enlightenment ideals like autonomy. Motivated by such skepticism, several educational scholars put into question education for autonomy as it is practiced in the formal settings of national school systems. More specifically, they criticize that practices of autonomy education can have certain normalizing and ideological effects that undermine the aim of creating autonomous subjects. This article examines these critiques of education for autonomy and argues that they are best understood as calls for reforming educational practices, and not as outright rejections of education for autonomy. Thus, since the allegedly ‘postmodern’ critiques of autonomy education cannot be plausibly understood as radical ruptures with Enlightenment ideals, the article concludes that these critiques represent (merely) constructive self-critical reflections on what Habermas dubbed the ‘unfinished project of modernity’.

Title: ‘Property-Owning Democracy’? ‘Liberal Socialism’? Or Just Plain Capitalism?
Author: Jan Narveson
Page: 393-405

Justin Holt argues that the Rawlsian requirements for justice are, con trary to Rawls’ own pronouncements, better met by socialism than ‘property owning democracy’, both of them preferring both to just plain capitalism, even with a welfare state tacked on. I suggest that Rawls’s ‘requirements’ are far less clear than most think, and that the only clarified version prefers the capitalist welfare state.

Title: Democratic Rights and the Choice of Economic Systems
Author: Jeppe von Platz
Page: 405-412

Holt argues that Rawls’s first principle of justice requires democratic control of the economy and that property owning democracy fails to satisfy this requirement; only liberal socialism is fully democratic. However, the notion of
democratic control is ambiguous, and Holt has to choose between the weaker notion of democratic control that Rawls is committed to and the stronger notion that property owning democracy fails to satisfy. It may be that there is a tension be-
tween capitalism and democracy, so that only liberal socialism can be fully democratic, but if so, we should reject, rather than argue from, the theory of democracy we find in justice as fairness.

Title: The Demands of Democratic Ownership
Author: Alan Thomas
Page: 413-416

This paper considers an argument that justice as fairness requires liberal socialism as opposed to a property-owning democracy. It analyses the arguments for departing from Rawls’s principled agnosticism over the choice between liberal market socialism and property owning democracy. It questions the extension of Rawls’s fair value guarantee for the political liberties to all liberty and suggests an alternative interpretation of the kind of predistributive egalitarianism represented by a property-owning democracy.