Saturday, March 27, 2010

Congress: The Electoral Connection

By David R. Mayhew

Mayhew builds his argument on the assumption that Congressmen motivated solely by the quest for reelection. He argues that there are three types of activities that Congressmen can engage in to aid in their electoral efforts: advertising, credit-claiming, and position-taking. When Congressional policy-making is motivated by these factors, it creates predictable policy effects, including delay, particularism, servicing of the organized, symbolism, lack of interest in transfer programs, and a focus on blunt, simple laws. Though the electoral quests or Congress threaten to cause it to lose its power, institutional maintenance is achieved through the three control committees in the House (Rules, Appropriations, Ways and Means). These committees, which provide prestige to their members, arrange the agenda, guard the treasury, and put a damper on particularism.

In this book, Mayhew assumes that Congressmen are single-minded seekers of reelection. He believes that this assumption is valid because it (1) fits political reality well, (2) puts the spotlight on men rather than on parties or pressure groups, (3) politics are best studied as a struggle among men to gain and maintain power, and (4) the reelection quest establishes an accountability relationship with an electorate, and any serious thinking about democratic theory has to give a central place to the question of accountability. Mayhew is interested looking at the effects of this motivation in the functions of legislating, overseeing the executive, expressing public opinion, and servicing constituents. Though he focuses primarily on the U.S. Congress, he says that a representative assembly (legislature) is defined by Loewenberg to include two things: (1) “their members are formally equal to each other in status, distinguishing parliaments from hierarchically ordered organizations,” and (2) the authority of their members depends on their claim to representing the rest of the community, in some sense of that protean concept, representation.”

Part 1: The Electoral Incentive
The aim of part one is to show what activities are electorally useful to Congressmen. His argument hinges on the assumption that U.S. Congressmen are interested in getting reelected, so he begins by answering a few questions that this may raise.

(1) Is it true that the U.S. Congress is a place where members wish to stay once they get there? Yes, turnover figures show that over the past century increasing proportions of members in any given Congress are holdovers from previous congresses. Congress is largely an assembly of professional politicians aiming to have political careers.

(2) Even if congressmen seek reelection, does it make sense to attribute that goal to them to the exclusion of all other goals? Yes, though there may be other goals, reelection underlies everything else if we expect relationship between politicians and public is one of accountability.

(3) Even if congressmen are single-mindedly interested in reelection, are they in a position as individuals to do anything about it? Yes, in the United States, politicians rather than parties are the prime movers in electoral politics. He contrasts this situation with that for British M.P.s. In the UK:
(1) British parties and nominating systems are geared to produce candidates who will vote the party line if they reach parliament,
(2) British M.P.’s lack resources to set up shop as politicians separate from party, and
(3) With executive entrenched in parliament, only posts worth holding are doled out by party leaders – party loyalty is rewarded.
In Congress,
(1) The way in which congressional candidates win party nominations is not one that fosters party cohesion in Congress – direct primaries, not party caucus or convention,
(2) The typical American congressmen has to mobilize his own resources initially to win a nomination and then to win election, and
(3)Congress does not have to sustain a cabinet, so party-loyalty has less reward.

It may seem that the minority subset of Congressmen who serve in marginal districts or states (those evenly balanced between the parties) would engage in more distinctive electoral activities. It is true that some people may vote on national partisan swings (not on the performance of the individual), but Congressmen are not in a place to affect these votes. Instead, it’s rational for congressmen to ignore national trends. They tend to take on “district-oriented” and “delegate” roles in Congress. They introduce more floor amendments and are generally more active. These Congressmen believe that they can affect their own percentages in primary and general elections, and they try to do so.

Though we focused on marginal Congressmen, non-marginal congressmen also try to affect their percentages in elections. This is in part because Congressional seats are not as safe as they seem – the typical congressman has had at least occasionally won a narrow victory. Further, in the U.S. House elections only about a third of the variance is due to national swings; about half is unexplained (and hence possible to control by Congressmen). Even a “safe” Congressmen’s position depends on him continuing to act the way he has been.

Mayhew provides a brief conceptual treatment of the relation between congressmen and their electorates. A Congressmen must be devoted to his “expected incumbent differential,” defined as any difference perceived by a relevant political actor between what an incumbent congressmen is likely to do if returned to office and what any possible challenger (in primary or general election) would be likely to do. A “relevant political actor” is anyone who has a resource that might be used in the election in question – e.g. voters, donors, possible endorsers, volunteers, etc. Congressmen must be sure the resource balance favors himself rather than someone else, and should be aware of what groups might have sway in both primary and general elections.

Congressmen are not attempting to maximize their vote percentage in elections. Though they would prefer to win “comfortably” than by a narrow plurality, it’s not worth expending the energy and funds to try to win all of the popular vote. The goal is to remain in office, not to win the entire popular vote. Because Congressmen act in an environment of high uncertainty (they can’t know for sure how innovative behavior will affect their vote gains), the assumption of minimax behavior is a better fit.

Congressmen constantly engage in activities related to election, including three basic kinds of activities: advertising, credit claiming, and position taking.

Advertising is defined as any effort to disseminate one’s name among constituents in such a fashion as to create a favorable image but in messages having little or no issue content. It is similar to a brand name (and name recognition), and can even benefit other politicians from the same family. Congressmen advertise through activities such as making frequent visits to the constituency, nonpolitical speeches to home audiences, and sending letters of congratulations and condolence. There is evidence that many Congressmen do this - 121 out to 158 House members questions said they regularly sent newsletters to their constituents ( in mid-1960s).

Credit-claiming is defined here as acting so as to generate belief in a relevant political actor (or actors) that one is personally responsible for causing the government, or some unit thereof, to do something that the actor (or actors) considers desirable. The idea is that an actor who believes a member can make pleasing things happen will want to keep him in office. The main way for a Congressmen to do this is to traffic in “particularized benefits” which have two properties: (1) each benefit is given out to a specific individual, group, or geographic constituency, the recipient unit being of a scale that allows a single congressmen to be recognized as the claimant for the benefits, and (2) each benefit is given out in apparently ad hoc fashion (unlike Social security checks) with a congressmen having a hand in the allocation. Particularized benefits can come from work on “casework” such as providing essay materials for HS students, emergency leaves for soldiers, or finding mission checks for pensioners. It also includes new legislation such as construction projects. The benefits don’t need to be geographic, they may go to political actors outside home constituencies. It’s also important to note that Congressmen can’t claim credit for bigger things, since the claim is not credible, and the information costs are high in understanding one person’s role in a large movement; though this may change if the congressman has a clear role, such as being the head of a relevant committee.

Position taking is defined here as the public enunciation of a judgmental statement on anything likely to be of interest to political actors. Often, position taking can take the form of a roll call vote. This can be considered about ends (war should end immediately) or means (‘the way to end the war is to take it to the UN). In this type of action, the Congressmen is a speaker rather than a doer. Position taking is effective, because people often don’t understand (or can’t monitor) the significance of actions taken in support of bills, so it is easier to judge based on statements only. Some groups monitor roll-call votes and give Congressmen scores on particular issues, showing a pattern of position-taking. Position taking can also be done through floor addresses, speeches at home, TV, newsletters, press releases, interviews, articles, etc. It is also possible for a Congressman to give different messages to different groups – e.g. giving an anti-war speech to college students, but a patriotic speech about past wars and the need to prevent future wars to veterans. The best position-taking strategy is usually to be conservative continue to repeat past positions. However, Congressmen may sometimes gamble on new ideas (policy entrepreneurship), which is how Sen. Warren Magnuson became consumer advocate, and how Sen. Joseph McCarthy focused on communism. By watching each others’ positions, Congressmen can understand what positions are likely to lead to success or failure at the polls.

For most congressmen most of the time all three activities are essential, but there are some different trends that can be identified. Senators, possibly due to their access to the media, put more emphasis on position-taking than House members. House members tend to be more reliant on particularized benefits. Congressmen from areas with political machines tend to do less position-taking and advertising, and more distributing of benefits. Members with ambitions for higher office (house to senate, senate to president) focus on advertising and position taking.

Part 2: Processes and Policies
The aim of part two is to show what happens when members who need to engage in these activities assemble for collective action. He argues that Congress is good at meeting the electoral needs of its members; it would be hard to design something more suited to electoral needs. Also, he notes that satisfaction of electoral needs requires remarkably little zero-sum conflict among members (one member’s gain is not another’s loss).

Mayhew first examines the structural units of Congress (offices, committees, parties) and the ways in which these are arranged to meet electoral needs.

Capitol Hill Offices: There are 535 Capitol hill offices, with relatively large staff salaries. These offices serve as both campaign management firms (by doing election work) and political machines (by doing casework). These office resources are given to all members regardless of party, seniority, or other qualification, providing a distinct advantage to incumbent Congressmen.

Committees: There are 21 standing committees in the house and 17 in Senate, and there are 132 subcommittees in the House and 143 in the Senate. The committees provide opportunities for position taking and credit-claiming. Membership on a committee provides opportunities for position-taking speeches. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for example, is often seen as giving a license to members to make speeches on foreign policy. “Cause committees” can be used to help identify a member with a particular cause, such as education or labor.

Members of committees allow credit-claiming by helping them to provide particularized benefits. This occurs in the House Public Works, House Interior, and Ways and Means committees. In these cases majority and minority members work together, allowing every member his right to a share of benefits. Mayhew argues that “in giving out particularized benefits when costs are diffuse (falling on taxpayer or consumer) and where to reward one congressman is not obviously to deprive others, members follow a policy of universalism.”

Committees also allow division of labor, which aids congressmen. Interest groups are more interested in members of committees, and are likely to provide more support to these individuals. It also gives Congressmen more of an opportunity to make things happen through visible action. In this way specialization helps to provide credit-claiming more easily.

Parties: In the United States, parties not very important to Congressmen’s electoral efforts, and parties are not very strong. Congressmen tend to “vote their constituencies” rather than voting along party lines. Mayhew argues that though wide heresy could be a problem, in general a member can build a career within either congressional party regardless of his issue positions, which is why there is no need for independents or third parties. Parties can be important when partisan electoral swings change the position-taking actions of members. Parties can also be important in getting committee chairmanships. Mayhew argues that the interesting division not between Democrats and Republicans, but between politicians in and out of office.

It is important to also explore the “functions” Congress fulfills or is thought to fulfill.

Expressing public opinion: Congress is effective at voicing opinions held by significant number of votes in constituencies, and with a wide range of constituencies, it’s likely that any given sentiment will find an official voice somewhere. Congressmen criticize executive conduct without the constraint of party loyalty.

Handling constituent requests: Congressmen often deal with grievances against officialdom, allowing them credit-claiming ability. There is likely some class bias in servicing requests – more well off people are more likely to contact their Congressmen. However, there are millions of letters annually in each class category.

Legislating and Overseeing Administration: As individual responsibility for what congress passes or what the government does becomes less readily attributable, the incentive for Congressmen to try to legislate and oversee decreases. The extent that congressmen attempt to mobilize the vote, work on content, or oversee implementation depends on the credit-claiming and position-taking opportunities provided.

Some believe that Congress will produce minimum winning coalitions when passing bills, allowing them to share the benefits among the least number possible. However, evidence shows this is not the reality – only about 30% of winning coalitions win with 50-59% of the vote. Another peak is at 90-100%. Mayhew explains that this makes sense. If there are particularized benefits, Congressmen must win (or no dam is built), but given the universal standards for these bills, it is relatively easy to win. If there are no particularized benefits, there is no reason to expect a minimum winning coalition – there are no benefits to split among members.

Congressional policy-making that is motivated by position-taking and credit-claiming produce specific and predictable policy effects. (1) Delay occurs as Congress lags behind public opinion in enacting major legislation. (2) Particularism occurs as members have a strong tendency to wrap policies in packages that are salable as particularized benefits. (3) Servicing of the organized occurs since groups with electoral resources (veterans, NRA, etc.) monitor action, leading to clientelism at the committee level. (4) Symbolism occurs because members aim to express an attitude by don’t prescribe policy effects. This also occurs when Congress prescribes effects, but doesn’t legislate or oversee sufficiently to achieve them. This occurs since electoral payments are for positions rather than effects. This can also lead to “charitable enactments” where Congressmen pass legislation to help the poor (for example) to gain the support of the wealthy. The actual effectiveness of these enactments is not important, since those served (the poor) are not the ones why Congress expect electoral payment from. (5) Transfer programs (cash payments to individuals) are not interesting to congressmen, since they can’t take credit for who receives each check (since its prescribed by law). Though, they may enact these types of programs for strong interest groups if there is unorganized opposition. (6) Blunt, simple laws are favored since Congressmen are judged on positions and not effects. They prefer to set limits and make clear regulations rather than relying on more complex theories such as Keynesian economics. This is important so that citizens can appraise the actions of Congressmembers; they can see the means-ends relationship.

Mayhew includes an examination of the structural arrangements in Congress that serve the end of institutional maintenance. If everyone is pursuing electoral goals only, it seems that Congress would collapse. Particularism and clientelism lead to misallocations of funds. There is insufficient concern for overall economic benefits, since no one Congressmen can be held responsible for them. Finally, Congressmen could systematically increasing spending rather than taxes, since spending is popular while taxing is not.

Institutional maintenance can be thought of as a collective goods problem (as proposed by Mancur Olson), in which they require selective incentives to participate. This theory fits, because if members hope to spend their careers in Congress, they have a stake in maintaining its prestige and control over resources. However, if each member pursues only electoral goals, the prestige and power of the institution will be lost. Therefore, selective incentives can help to induce efforts to keep the institution in good repair.

Mayhew argues that the selective incentives provided are prestige and power among peers within Congress, which is allocated for engaging in institutionally protective activities. Party leaders, for example, are devoted to ideological causes and focus on keep business moving. Primarily, however, institutional maintenance comes from the three control committees in the house (Rules, Appropriations, Ways and Means).

Each committee helps individual congressmen in their electoral quests and helps Congress as an institution go beyond electoral quest. The Rules Committee serves members by expediting or holding up bills, but also serves as a check on particularism by arranging the House agenda. The Appropriations Committee serves members by providing funding for pet projects, but also acts as guardian of the federal Treasury – its members see symbolism as waste and try to cut budget estimates. The House Ways and Means committee serves members by processing special tax provisions, but also puts a damper on particularism in tax and tariff matters. It uses the closed rule for tax and tariff bills to shield from interest group demands. These institutional maintenance methods are blunt and negative, but they are necessary for Congress to maintain its power.
Mayhew includes a brief discussion of the place of assemblies in governance in the United States and elsewhere. He argues that it is not possible for an individualistic assembly to govern all by itself. France provided an example showing that a parliament can turn to particularism and clientelism. However, he also notes studies that show that there is no direct relation between voter disapproval of congressional performance and voter inclination to deprive incumbents of their seats (we love our Congressmen, but we do not love our Congress).

Finally, Mayhew ends with a consideration of “reform” effects provoked by dissatisfaction with congressional performance. American reform aims to deal with symbolism and delay by imparting instrumental rationality to government undertakings. It deals with particularism by attempting to apply universalistic distributive standards. There are four “reform recourses” to which Americans have turned or thought about turning to. (1) Strengthen the presidential office in the interest of democratic accountability. This is thought to work because presidents can be held directly accountable for broad policy effects and are less likely to traffic in particularized benefit. However, there are dangers in putting too much power with one man. (2) Strengthen political parties either in Congress specifically or in the system generally. This is also based on the logic of accountability. (3)Exposure of political activities. This aims to bring down information costs to help voters keep track of what incumbents are doing. Publicity can be provided by people like Ralph Nader. This activity is not as important if voters can more clearly judge governments by their effects; Britain does not have a sustained equivalent tradition of exposure. (4) Regulate the deployment of resources in Congressional election campaigns (campaign finance reform). In reality most efforts of this type of reform have been haphazardly drafted and unenforced.

Mayhew notes that candidates running for Congress have been relying increasingly on position taking, and it’s not clear whether these position-takers can make an institution work. He believes Indexes of roll call votes are important in monitoring congress, but we should add indexes for the “particularism-universalism” dimension and the “intentions-effects” dimension.

The Ethics of Care

Chapter 10: Care and Justice in the Global Context
By Virginia Held

In this chapter of Ethics of Care, Virginia Held explains how the ethics of care can be applied in the global context. She first differentiates the ethics from care from the dominant moral theories (Kantianism, utilitarianism, and virtue ethics). The ethics of care focuses on relationships, not on individual actions of dispositions. It is concerned with emotions rather than simply rationality and logic. Held believes current theory has led to an overemphasis on the part of states on military security and autonomy and economic preeminence. The ethics of care emphasizes cultivating rations of trust, listening to the concerns of others, fostering international cooperation, and valuing interdependence. She notes that the ethics of care would help to eliminate discrimination in the economic value of women’s occupations over men, and the separation of public and private. Held argues that fostering caring relationships across countries can help people in different countries and cultures “live in peace, respect each other’s rights, to care together for the environment, and to improve the lives of their children.”

Chapter 10: Care and Justice in the Global Context
The field of international relations guides thinking about the world and relations between states. It has a normative component (e.g. how do we avoid wars) and an empirical component (e.g. realism). Global justice has become a familiar topic concerned with ethics and international affairs. However, International relations has been one of the last social sciences to be affected by the awareness of gender issues. Held believes that we have been socialized to believe that war and power politics, which have been the focus of realism, are things to which men have a special affinity. However, gender shapes our identification of global actors, characterization of state and non-state actions, framing of global problems, and consideration of possible alternatives. The ethics of care provides an alternative approach to international affairs.

The Ethics of Care and International Affairs
The ethics of care offers a distinctive challenge to the dominant moral theories such as Kantianism, utilitarianism, virtue ethics. In Rawls (which uses Kantianism) justice is the primary value in political and social arrangements. It focuses on fair distribution of products of economic activity and positions of power. Utilitarianism aims to maximize the utility of all persons. IT’s less able to protect individual rights against majority interests, but it is able to justify legal protection of rights.

The ethics of care differs in its assumptions, goals, and methods. It is a new and distinct theory (not just part of virtue ethics, as some suggest). While Kant and utilitarians see agents as independent and autonomous, and virtue theory focuses on individuals and their dispositions, ethics of care pays attention to the relations among persons, and sees people as enmeshed in relations between persons.

Ethics of care is able to deal with the realities of unequal power and unchosen relations (parent, child), rather than assuming society is entered into voluntarily by free and equal individuals, as other theories do.

Dominant moral theories contrast individual aims and moral claims of everyone; the aim is to follow one’s own interests while being constrained by universal rules. The ethics of care see moral life as populated by caring relations in which the interests of self and other are mingled, and trust is crucial. This helps to explain the importance of group or cultural ties.

Ethics of justice focus on issues of fairness, equality, and individual rights. The ethics of Care focuses on attentiveness to context, trust, and responding to needs. It cultivates caring relations in both personal, political, and global contexts.

Kantian moral theory and utilitarianism rely entirely on reason. The ethics of care includes the contribution of emotions in understanding what morality recommends. It argues that empathy, sensitivity, and responsiveness may be better guides than highly abstract rules applying to all persons.

The ethics of care values caring relations and their associated concerns of trust and mutual responsiveness. Care must concern itself with the effectiveness of its efforts to meet needs, but also with the motives with which care is provided.

Though there are many differences between the traditional forms of ethics and the ethics of care, they are in some ways compatible. Justice should be incorporated into morally acceptable practices of care. Caring relations should be acknowledged as the wider and deeper context within which we seek justice and in certain domains give it priority. For example, in the area of law, the language and principles of justice ought to have priority. However, the law shouldn’t be the model for all of moral life.

If the values of care were incorporated into existing practices, there would be a number of changes. Environmental concerns would be accorded the importance they deserve. The ethics of care would ensure the market doesn’t become ever more pervasive, and would ensure that globalization doesn’t occur at the expense of caring relations throughout the world. The ethics of care promote respecting rights within a society, since this requires that persons care enough about each other to be willing to think of each other as fellow members of whatever group is asserting rights.

Implications for Global Change
The ethics of care is applicable to globalizing democracy. It’s responsiveness to the particular needs of interests of individuals or groups at the social level has a political parallel in the concern for providing the economic and social means for the development of individuals. The ethics of care clearly implies that a society must recognize its responsibilities to children and other dependents. Members of wealthy societies must recognize their responsibilities to alleviate the hunger in poor ones.

Relying on unpaid labor of women in the household for the provision of care is inconsistent with the values of care as well as of justice. The ethics of care calls for state support of various forms of caring. It recommends equal participation of men in caring activities, and equal participation of women in political and economic structures. The ethics of care calls for the transformation of different segments of society. Caring values and cooperation should replace hierarchies and domination based on gender, class, race, and ethnicity. Education, health care, and child care institutions should be well supported and developed. Instead of domination by military and economic and political power, caring activities should be the center of attention, effort, and support.

The ethics of care should transform international political relations between states. It notices rather than ignores the cultural construct of masculinity in the behavior of states, including overemphasis on the part of states on military security and economic preeminence, neglect of environmental and ecological concerns, moral acceptability of policies to those affected, and cultivating cooperative behavior with others. The influence of this exaggerated image of masculinity for the state is seen in the behavior of the United States under George Bush in the unilateral war against Iraq, the bullying of allies, and the rejection of UN restraints.

Feminists have shown that Hobbes’ view of the political world is gender-biased. How can helpless infants become adults if human nature is universally competitive and hostile? Given this question, it makes sense to argue humans are naturally cooperative, or children would not survive.

However, realists and neorealists have brought Hobbes’ view to the international arena. They advocate preparation for war and avoidance of dependence on others as the road to security. Morganthau and Waltz argue that maximizing military power and maintaining autonomy lead to success. The ethics of care, on the other hand, argues for cultivating rations of trust, listening to the concerns of others, fostering international cooperation, and valuing interdependence.

In the global context, the state is often thought of as a region of security and order, while the rest of the world is dangerous, anarchic, and violent (Hobbe’s war against all). This seems to be an analogy to the safety of a household in a heartless world. The military is like the male “protector” of the home. However, feminists have shown that violence against women and children occurs in families and in states. The militarized state seems more of a threat than a protector.

It is easy to see how far the relations between states are from the assumptions of traditional moral theories. The relations are not based on freely chosen contracts between equal individuals. Boundaries are often formed through force and fraud, and there are large and increasing gaps between the rich and poor in the world.

Care and Political Economy
In the past, the recommendations and requirements of economic development have not been gender neutral. Historians argue that pre-colonial societies were often more elastic and egalitarian in their gender divisions of labor. Colonialism made gender differentiation in these societies more pronounced and rigid. In a variety of ways, women have been marginalized by globalization. In Eastern Europe, for example, globalization led women to lose their state-sponsored maternity health care, maternity leave, and child care. They became unattractive employees to private industries.

The situation could be improved if the value of the unpaid caring work that women do was recognized by economists. This would help to undermine the assumed greater importance of “production” over “reproduction” and “public” over “private.”

Development agencies have only recently begun to consider the effects of their policies on women. However, they still resist upsetting gendered divisions of labor that privilege the work that men do. It is true that changes in “cultural practices” concerning gender do need to arise from women within those societies, rather than be imposed by outside agencies, but the obstacles to doing so should be recognized.

Imperialistic Approaches
Great care needs to be taken to avoid imperialism in thinking and in programs when women in the North are considering women in post-colonial societies. It is important to recognize the differences between women in different classes, ethnic groups, and regions in the developing world. Western women must be careful not to view South in objectifying, patronizing way. However, there is still a responsibility for women from the North to help. Western feminists should oppose neoliberal globalization that leads to increased inequality among and within countries.

The Future of Care
Mainstream international relations theories have “resulted in the creation of a global ‘culture of neglect’ through a systematic devaluing of notions of interdependence, relatedness, and positive involvement in the lives of distant others.” The ethics of care could help to remedy this.

Until recently, violence against women was not part of international human rights agenda. The public/ private distinction was reproduced at the international level, with many forms of violence against women considered “unfortunate cultural practices outside of the state’s or international system’s responsibilities.” The tradition view of the priority of political rights over economic and social rights has been unfortunate for women.

Under the ethics of care, the relationship between economic, political, and cultural domains would transform. Responsibility for global environment would be central concern, as would fostering economic development that meets human needs. Under the ethics of care, resolution of conflict through threat and use of force would decrease. Growth and acceptance of international law and other restraints would occur and be expressive of care, though even in a society led by the ethics of care, it would be possible for violence to be used as a last resort.

In a society where multiple ties of care have expanded to include the whole human community, poverty and exclusion would be on the wane. Ties between poor women within a state help to decrease violence and exploitation, and ties between persons from different states can decrease international hostility. The North and South need to engage in friendship and caring economic development, not a relationship of limited benevolence and humiliation.

The ethics of care fits with the current trend of increased influence of nongovernmental organizations, global networks (Slaughter), and the “Global civil society” (Keane). These theories describe the wide range of organizations on many levels creating international connections. These networks and theories would benefit from a focus on the ethics of care, and could be enhanced by using the ethics of care to evaluate global developments and promote the best of them.

“Globalization of caring relations would help enable people of different states and cultures to live in peace, respect each other’s rights, to care together for the environment, and to improve the lives of their children.”

Friday, March 26, 2010

Political Liberalism, Justice, and Gender

By Susin Moller Okin

Susin Okin argues that Rawls Theory of Justice should be applied to issues of gender and family. She explains, using quotes from both “A Theory of Justice” as well as “Political Liberalism” to show that Rawls himself was ambiguous about including the family as part of the basic structure – sometimes including it and sometimes seeming to exclude it. Okin argues that because the family is so important to early child development, the family must be included in the basic structure to ensure the stability of a society based on Rawls’ theory. An unjust family would not be able to provide the foundation of political values that Rawls believes citizens must develop. Okin also argues that justice for women requires more than just formal equality under the law, but also steps to ensure that past, caste-like social practices are not systematically continued, and that they instead have true “equality of opportunity.”

Susin Okin provides a feminist view (i.e. thinking particularly about women and the family) on Rawls Theory. Okin argues that Rawl’s theory has a great potential to address issues of gender and family, and suggests how is ideas can be extended to include them. Rawls first wrote “A Theory of Justice” (abbreviated as “Theory”) and later revised it in his book “Political Liberalism.” Okin points out some mixed signals given in the two books about how women are supposed to fit into his theory. She notes that in “Theory” Rawls listed family as part of the basic structure, and assumed that in some form the family is just. In “Political Liberalism” he says that he had previously omitted “the justice of and in the family.” He abandons the assumption that the people in the original position are “heads of families” and adds “sex” to the list of morally irrelevant contingencies in the original position. However, in Political Liberalism, Rawls focuses on issues of religious and philosophical toleration, not on gender. He even suggests that race, ethnicity, and gender “may seem of an altogether different character calling for different principles of justice, which Theory does not discuss.” Then again, he says his principles of justice “should be widely applicable to our own problems also.”

The Family as Part of the Basic Structure
In “Theory” Rawls includes “the monogamous family” as part of the basic structure, and devotes part of section 3 to dealing with the family’s role in early moral education. In “Political Liberalism” he further develops the idea of a “political conception of justice,” which is not a comprehensive doctrine. He stresses that it applies only to “the basic structure of society.” He does mention that “the nature of the family” belongs to the basic structure.

Rawls explains that the basic structure includes institutions that “have deep and long-term social effects and in fundamental ways shape citizens’ character and aims, the kinds of persons they are and aspire to be.” Okin argues that this definition would clearly include the family, and that therefore, the family should be regulated by the principles of justice.

However, there is some evidence that Rawls did not intend to include the family as part of the basic structure. “Political Liberalism” focuses only on the public and political nature of institutions. Rawls states, “The political is distinct… from the personal and the familial, which are affectional… in ways the political” is not. Okin argues that though families are sometimes characterized by affection, at other times they are characterized by power and vulnerability. In fact, Rawls notes that “individual members of families [need protection] from other family members (wives from their husbands, children from their parents).”

Okin suggests that the main reason Rawls is reluctant to consistently apply his standards to the justice of family is because he places emphasis on his theory as a poltical theory only, not a comprehensive moral theory. He believes this is important in order for the theory to be realistic – we have to assume that there will be reasonable pluralism (many incompatible comprehensive doctrines) in a democracy.

Congruence in a Well-Ordered Society
Rawls argues that it’s desirable for the values people hold in their political and non-political lives should be similar. He says that the full autonomy of citizens “presupposes that the fundamental ideas of justice as fairness are present in the public culture, or at least implicit in the history of its main institutions and traditions of their interpretation.” However, he also argues that the non-political aspects of lives – personal morality or religion – can hold views that there is a “hierarchy justified by religious or aristocratic values.”

Okin argues that this suggests that persons in a just society are “split” into public and nonpublic, politicial and non-political selves. She argues that this is not possible. A girl and a boy raised in a very traditional religious household teaching traditional gender roles and authority would not be consistent with both children becoming “free and equal citizens.”

Okin argues that some religious and other comprehensive doctrines that Rawls would like to include, should not be considered reasonable for inclusion in a just society. Rawls defines reasonable: “Reasonable persons… desire for its own sake a social world in which they, as free and equal, can cooperate with others on terms all can accept. They insist that reciprocity should hold within that world so that each benefits along with others.”

Rawls gives two possible arguments for what to do about unreasonable doctrines. In one, he argues that they should be constrained so that they don’t undermine the unity and justice of society, but that they will always exist. In what Okin argues is the stronger position, Rawls says that the political conception has to actually restrict permissible comprehensive views – the basic institutions built on principles of justice will encourage some ways of life and discourage others, or even exclude them all together. He includes as examples doctrines that require degrading people because of their racial or ethnic backgrounds. A doctrine that demanded slavery would have no claims within a just society.

Rawls argues that all the main historical religions would be seen as reasonable comprehensive doctrines. Okin disagrees, since many religions circumscribe women’s roles and instill a hierarchy. She believes there is a conflict between freedom of religion and equality of women.

Ralws provides an example that says it would be ok for children to be educated in sects that “oppose the culture of the modern world.” He simply argues that the children must be taught their constitutional and civic rights, and understand the political conception of justice. Okin argues that the compulsory public schooling (which seems to be implied) would help to counteract some aspects of gender inequality taught in some comprehensive doctrines. However, it may not be fully effective while the primary environment of these children is teaching inequality. Therefore, she argues that political liberalism is not able to be as widely tolerant of different religious conceptions of the good as Rawls would like it to be, because the degree of sex discrimination preached goes beyond Rawls definition of reasonableness.

The Family as a Potential School of Justice
In “Theory”, Rawls regarded the family as playing an important first role in the formation of citizens’ sense of justice. He said that healthy moral development in early life depends on parent-child love, trust, affection, example, and guidance. Okin argues that it is hard to see how families not themselves regulated by principles of justice and fairness could play a positive role in the moral education of citizens of a just society.

In Political Liberalism, Rawls emphasizes that we grow up in society, and do not just join it at the age of reason. He notes the role of basic institutions in establishing a social world in which we can develop with care, nurture, and education into free and equal citizens. However, his explanation of how this happens is less satisfactory and plausible – he says nothing about early childhood, but just notes that people acquire these political virtues by living under just “basic institutions.” Okin believes that Rawls was right the first time (in “Theory”) where he stressed the family as the first “school of justice.” This is missing from “Political Liberalism.”

Typical Contemporary Families as Poor Schools of Justice
In another paper, Okin argues that heterosexual couples-based families in our society are unjust in their distributions between women and men of work, power, opportunity, leisure, access to resources, and other important goods. She provides some examples from studies showing how the division of labor between adults in a household affects children. In general she finds that children magnify the unequal division of work.

In traditional households (father wage-earner, mother housewife), researchers found that boys and girls do approximately the same amount of household work, but it is divided along traditional gendered lines. In “drudge wife” households (mom and dad work, mom also does all housework) girls do 25% more than in traditional households, and boys do 1/3 as much – i.e. girls do four times as much work as boys. In hierarchical traditional families, women do not regard the situation as fair, but they accept as inevitable the power of the male family head over many of their activities and decisions.

Two Problems of Stability
Rawls says in Political Liberalism that “the problem of stability is fundamental to political philosophy.” Since no comprehensive conception of justice can be shared, he restricts his conception to the political based on overlapping consensus. Rawls says that stability includes “whether people who grow up under just institutions (as the political conception defines them) acquire a normally sufficient sense of justice so that they can comply with those institutions.” He argues that this is achieved by the moral psychology in which citizens living in a well-ordered society acquire a sense of justice. However, Okin argues that if families are not required to be just, then this account of moral psychology has uncertain foundations.
If families teach inequality rather than egalitarianism, their role in inculcating political virtues may be limited. Families are particularly important because of their influence in early childhood development. Okin arguest that this shows that Rawls solution to one problem of stability (restricting his theory to the political and allowing many comprehensive doctrines) renders another problem of stability intractable (the family is not required to be just, so it is not clear how political virtues are to develop.)

What Does Justice for Women Require?
Rawls says in intro to Political Liberalism that inequality and oppression of women can be thought about, within the framework of his theory, by appeal to the same principle of equality that Lincoln evoked in order to condemn slavery. Okin points out that Lincoln can be read as supporting purely formal equality between black and white Americans (in the law) or as requiring various measures aimed at considerably more substantive equality. In addition to formal equality, a more substantive anti-caste principle would ensure that social disadvantages would not be turned into systematic disadvantages in education, wealth, political influence, etc.

Okin argues that social justice for women has not been, and will not be, achieved by formal equality alone – merely changing the law does allow women (or slaves) to have “free equality of opportunity.” Though the legal subordination of women (hours and location of paid work, lack of public child care, etc.) has largely been overturned, social structures based on these things have remained. Just as slaves needed to be provided land so that they weren’t forced into wage labor under racist conditions, so women need things like parental leave and subsidized child care so that they can work for pay without being exploited because they are parents. Rawls’ theory has a great potential to address the injustices of labor - thinking about gender and families from an original position can provide important insights.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ireland Day 7 - Flying Home

Our flight was pretty early, so we were up and out of the villa by 5am. At the airport we had one last Irish breakfast (and Brian tried an Irish coffee) before getting on the plane.

Again, I spent most of my transatlantic flight watching movies...

The Princess and the Frog
This was a pretty cute Disney movie. It's about a girl (who works as a waitress, but dreams of opening her own restaurant) who goes on an adventure with a prince (who has been turned into a frog by a voodoo guy). It's all set in New Orleans in the 1920's. It's interesting, because I think it's one of the few Disney movies set in relatively modern times. It's crazy to think that when the Disney brothers first started drawing cartoons (in 1923), all the stuff in this movie would have been very modern (or even in the future), but now the 1920's seem like fairly distant past. Overall, good songs, decent story - definitely not the best Disney film ever (Aladdin) but not bad.

Julie and Julia
This movie tells two parallel stories. One is about Julia Child learning to cook in France in the 1950s, and the other is about a woman named Julie in 2009 (or so) who decides to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child's book and then blog about it. The movie is cute - and the historic info about Julia Child is pretty interesting. I remember watching one of her cooking videos in my high school foods class.

The September Issue
This is a documentary about Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue (in America). She's one of the most well-known figures in the fashion industry (the movie 'The Devil Wears Prada' is supposedly based on her). The documentary was interesting - partly because Anna is interesting, but even more so some of the characters around her - like the style editor who started working at Vogue the same time Anna did. It's also interesting just to see and better understand the process of putting together an issue of a fashion magazine. Some of the photography shoots are very cool.

Ireland Day 6 - County Wicklow and Glendalough

On our last full day in Ireland we decided to visit nearby County Wicklow.

Wicklow has beautiful mountains, so the drive was really nice.

We saw some adorable lambs while driving through.

The main attraction in Wicklow was Glendalough, which includes the remains of a monastic settlement from the 5th century tucked into a valley in the mountains.

It's near two big lakes, so we spent a few hours hiking along the two lakes.

We even saw a waterfall and some wild mountain goats.

On the way home we drove along coast. At one point we found beach access and went to see the Irish Sea.

We decided to have dinner at the bar in our hotel, since we hadn't spent much time there. The food was great! It was a nice relaxing end to the trip.

Day 5 - County Tipperary & County Cork

Friday was our castle day in Ireland. Our first stop was at the Rock of Cashel. The Rock of Cashel is an archeological site that's been in use since the 4th century.

From their we drove to Caher Castle - one of Ireland's largest castles, it was built in the 12th century. This seems to be a slightly less well-known tourist attraction, because much more of the castle seemed to be open - you could climb stairs, walk on ledges, and just explore everything.

At this point we were ready for lunch, so we stopped off in Cork for lunch in a pub. There was some kind of horse race going on, and there were lots of people in the pub watching it.

Just outside Cork is the Blarney Castle (and the Blarney Stone)! It was raining a bit, so it wasn't crowded at all, which was nice, since I've heard there can be long lines to kiss the stone. Kissing the stone does seem a little silly, but the castle was really cool - it was about four stories tall, which was pretty amazing to see, and all of the surrounding gardens were really beautiful.

The Blarney stone is at the very top of the castle (and the castle is really tall!) and you have to bend over backwards and stretch to reach it.

Back at home Emily cooked up an amazing meal of sausages and potato stew, and we all watched "The Informant!"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ireland Day 4 - Ring of Kerry

Day four in Ireland was our most car-intensive day (about 14 hours in the car!). We drove to County Kerry to do the famous scenic drive called the "Ring of Kerry."

It was a beautiful day - we had some really nice blue skies in the morning and lots of amazing views during the drive.

At one point we went off the beaten track a bit and visited a small castle. Ballycarbery Castle was near the town of Caherciveen.

We also went around the Ring of Skellig - an area off the Ring of Kerry where buses can't go (since the roads are too narrow. We got some beautiful views looking over a cliff on the ocean.

However, it was really, really windy.

Towards the end we saw Ladies' View, named for Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting, who enjoyed the spot.

We also stopped at a beautiful lake in Killarney National Park.

When we finally made it back home, Jeff whipped up pasta for dinner and we all watched 'District 9' before falling asleep.