‘Justice’ and ‘democracy’ have alternated as dominant themes in political philosophy over the last fifty years or so. Since its revival in the middle of the twentieth century, political philosophy has focused on first one and then the other of these two themes. Rarely, however, has it succeeded in holding them in joint focus.
This volume attempts to remedy that defect. Inevitably, some chapters focus more heavily on one topic than the other. But all were written explicitly with a view to the conjunction, intersection or interaction of these two central values in contemporary political theory.
Democratic theorizing dominated mainstream thinking about politics in the 1950s and 1960s. Philosophers were otherwise engaged: with utilitarianism dominant, and the linguistic turn in the ascendance, people in philosophy departments were mostly concerned with analytically parsing concepts such as happiness or freedom or equality. These efforts, useful though they would ultimately prove to be, had little immediate influence outside of the more rarefied corners of academe.
More influential, or anyway more directly relevant to real-world concerns, were the ‘power debates’ conducted mostly in political science and sociology departments. Those disputes concerned the nature and distribution of power in modern society and the salient features of modern democracy as a response. On the left, sociological critics of a more Marxist cast, from Charles Beard (1913) and the Lynds (1929) to Floyd Hunter (1953) and C. Wright Mills (1956), confidently reported the capture of American institutions by a power elite in the service of narrow economic interests.