The foundations of the politics of difference

Peter Nathaniel Bwanali, Marquette University


This dissertation approaches Iris Marion Young's politics of difference as an essential condition for deliberative democracy. It identifies and examines Young's arguments in four areas foundational to the politics of difference namely, inclusion, political equality, reasonableness and publicity . It contends that some of the arguments sustaining these foundations are shaky. Therefore, the dissertation attempts to improve the weak aspects of Young's arguments in order to solidify the basis for the politics of difference and, in so doing, facilitate the development of deliberative democracy. To that end, the dissertation argues against Young's understanding of impartiality and proposes combining Thomas Nagel's approach to impartiality with Benhabib's argument for the need for a standard of judgement. As it stands, Young's argument against impartiality makes it difficult, if not impossible, to create an inclusive political community. In the discussion of political equality Young dismisses essentialist difference and replaces it with relational differentiation. Thus she keeps cultural relationships fluid so as to facilitate an argument for culturally-based rights to equal citizenship. Building on Young's approach, this dissertation combines Charles Beitz's approach to political equality with Jack Knight's and James Johnson's argument for politically relevant capacities to furnish an adequate response to the charge that the politics of difference makes an unwarranted leap between the equality of people as individuals and that of people as members of cultural groups. Further, the dissertation argues that the concept of reasonableness, as used by Young, is too vague for the purposes of the politics of difference. Reasonableness is a disposition. Instead, the politics of difference should concretize this idea by discussing reasonable people. Reasonable people understand that legitimate moral and political decisions do not necessarily reflect all reasons advanced in a deliberation. Finally, by adopting James Bohman's distinction between deliberation and dialogue demonstrates, the dissertation demonstrates why and how it is possible for the politics of difference to maintain unity and pluralism simultaneously. Young does not address this seeming contradiction.

Recommended Citation

Bwanali, Peter Nathaniel, "The foundations of the politics of difference" (2004). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3133748.