From a leading political thinker, this book is both an invaluable playbook for meeting our current moment and a stirring reflection on the future of democracy itself.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated some of the strengths of our society, including the rapid development of vaccines. But the pandemic has also exposed its glaring weaknesses, such as the failure of our government to develop and quickly implement strategies for tracing and containing outbreaks as well as widespread public distrust of government prompted by often confusing and conflicting choices—to mask, or not to mask. Even worse is that over half a million deaths and the extensive economic devastation could have been avoided if the government had been prepared to undertake comprehensive, contextually-sensitive policies to stop the spread of the disease.
In Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus, leading political thinker Danielle Allen untangles the US government’s COVID-19 victories and failures to offer a plan for creating a more resilient democratic polity—one that can better respond to both the present pandemic and future crises. Looking to history, Allen also identifies the challenges faced by democracies in other times that required strong government action. In an analysis spanning from ancient Greece to the Reconstruction Amendments and the present day, Allen argues for the relative effectiveness of collaborative federalism over authoritarian compulsion and for the unifying power of a common cause. But for democracy to endure, we—as participatory citizens—must commit to that cause: a just and equal social contract and support for good governance.
Around the globe, democracy appears broken. With political and socioeconomic inequality on the rise, we are faced with the urgent question of how to better distribute power, opportunity, and wealth in diverse modern societies. This volume confronts the dilemma head-on, exploring new ways to combat current social hierarchies of domination.
Using examples from the United States, India, Germany, and Cameroon, the contributors offer paradigm-changing approaches to the concepts of justice, identity, and social groups while also taking a fresh look at the idea that the demographic make-up of institutions should mirror the make-up of a populace as a whole. After laying out the conceptual framework, the volume turns to a number of provocative topics, among them the pernicious tenacity of implicit bias, the logical contradictions inherent to the idea of universal human dignity, and the paradoxes and problems surrounding affirmative action. A stimulating blend of empirical and interpretive analyses, Difference without Domination urges us to reconsider the idea of representation and to challenge what it means to measure equality and inequality.
Education and Equality
Danielle Allen University of Chicago Press, 2016 Library of Congress LC213.2.A55 2016 | Dewey Decimal 379.26
American education as we know it today—guaranteed by the state to serve every child in the country—is still less than a hundred years old. It’s no wonder we haven’t agreed yet as to exactly what role education should play in our society. In these Tanner Lectures, Danielle Allen brings us much closer, examining the ideological impasse between vocational and humanistic approaches that has plagued educational discourse, offering a compelling proposal to finally resolve the dispute.
Allen argues that education plays a crucial role in the cultivation of political and social equality and economic fairness, but that we have lost sight of exactly what that role is and should be. Drawing on thinkers such as John Rawls and Hannah Arendt, she sketches out a humanistic baseline that re-links education to equality, showing how doing so can help us reframe policy questions. From there, she turns to civic education, showing that we must reorient education’s trajectory toward readying students for lives as democratic citizens. Deepened by commentaries from leading thinkers Tommie Shelby, Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, Michael Rebell, and Quiara Alegría Hudes that touch on issues ranging from globalization to law to linguistic empowerment, this book offers a critical clarification of just how important education is to democratic life, as well as a stirring defense of the humanities.
Education, Justice, and Democracy
Edited by Danielle Allen and Rob Reich University of Chicago Press, 2013 Library of Congress LC213.2.E39 2013 | Dewey Decimal 379.26
Education is a contested topic, and not just politically. For years scholars have approached it from two different points of view: one empirical, focused on explanations for student and school success and failure, and the other philosophical, focused on education’s value and purpose within the larger society. Rarely have these separate approaches been brought into the same conversation. Education, Justice, and Democracy does just that, offering an intensive discussion by highly respected scholars across empirical and philosophical disciplines.
The contributors explore how the institutions and practices of education can support democracy, by creating the conditions for equal citizenship and egalitarian empowerment, and how they can advance justice, by securing social mobility and cultivating the talents and interests of every individual. Then the authors evaluate constraints on achieving the goals of democracy and justice in the educational arena and identify strategies that we can employ to work through or around those constraints. More than a thorough compendium on a timely and contested topic, Education, Justice, and Democracy exhibits an entirely new, more deeply composed way of thinking about education as a whole and its importance to a good society.
How have online protests—like the recent outrage over the Komen Foundation’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood—changed the nature of political action? How do Facebook and other popular social media platforms shape the conversation around current political issues? The ways in which we gather information about current events and communicate it with others have been transformed by the rapid rise of digital media. The political is no longer confined to the institutional and electoral arenas, and that has profound implications for how we understand citizenship and political participation.
With From Voice to Influence, Danielle Allen and Jennifer S. Light have brought together a stellar group of political and social theorists, social scientists, and media analysts to explore this transformation. Threading through the contributions is the notion of egalitarian participatory democracy, and among the topics discussed are immigration rights activism, the participatory potential of hip hop culture, and the porous boundary between public and private space on social media. The opportunities presented for political efficacy through digital media to people who otherwise might not be easily heard also raise a host of questions about how to define “good participation:” Does the ease with which one can now participate in online petitions or conversations about current events seduce some away from serious civic activities into “slacktivism?”
Drawing on a diverse body of theory, from Hannah Arendt to Anthony Appiah, From Voice to Influence offers a range of distinctive visions for a political ethics to guide citizens in a digitally connected world.
The past year has seen a resurgence of interest in the political thinker Hannah Arendt, “the theorist of beginnings,” whose work probes the logics underlying unexpected transformations—from totalitarianism to revolution.
A work of striking originality, The Human Condition is in many respects more relevant now than when it first appeared in 1958. In her study of the state of modern humanity, Hannah Arendt considers humankind from the perspective of the actions of which it is capable. The problems Arendt identified then—diminishing human agency and political freedom, the paradox that as human powers increase through technological and humanistic inquiry, we are less equipped to control the consequences of our actions—continue to confront us today. This new edition, published to coincide with the sixtieth anniversary of its original publication, contains Margaret Canovan’s 1998 introduction and a new foreword by Danielle Allen.
A classic in political and social theory, The Human Condition is a work that has proved both timeless and perpetually timely.
From leading thinker Danielle Allen, a bold and urgent articulation of a new political philosophy: power-sharing liberalism.
At a time of great social and political turmoil, when many residents of the leading democracies question the ability of their governments to deal fairly and competently with serious public issues, and when power seems more and more to rest with the wealthy few, this book reconsiders the very foundations of democracy and justice. Scholar and writer Danielle Allen argues that the surest path to a just society in which all are given the support necessary to flourish is the protection of political equality; that justice is best achieved by means of democracy; and that the social ideals and organizational design principles that flow from recognizing political equality and democracy as fundamental to human well-being provide an alternative framework not only for justice but also for political economy. Allen identifies this paradigm-changing new framework as “power-sharing liberalism.”
Liberalism more broadly is the philosophical commitment to a government grounded in rights that both protect people in their private lives and empower them to help govern public life. Power-sharing liberalism offers an innovative reconstruction of liberalism based on the principle of full inclusion and non-domination—in which no group has a monopoly on power—in politics, economy, and society. By showing how we all might fully share power and responsibility across all three sectors, Allen advances a culture of civic engagement and empowerment, revealing the universal benefits of an effective government in which all participate on equal terms.
A Political Economy of Justice
Edited by Danielle Allen, Yochai Benkler, Leah Downey, Rebecca Henderson, and Josh Simons University of Chicago Press, 2022 Library of Congress HN90.S6P65 2022 | Dewey Decimal 305.50973
Defining a just economy in a tenuous social-political time.
If we can agree that our current social-political moment is tenuous and unsustainable—and indeed, that may be the only thing we can agree on right now—then how do markets, governments, and people interact in this next era of the world? A Political Economy of Justice considers the strained state of our political economy in terms of where it can go from here. The contributors to this timely and essential volume look squarely at how normative and positive questions about political economy interact with each other—and from that beginning, how to chart a way forward to a just economy.
A Political Economy of Justice collects fourteen essays from prominent scholars across the social sciences, each writing in one of three lanes: the measures of a just political economy; the role of firms; and the roles of institutions and governments. The result is a wholly original and urgent new benchmark for the next stage of our democracy.
"Don't talk to strangers" is the advice long given to children by parents of all classes and races. Today it has blossomed into a fundamental precept of civic education, reflecting interracial distrust, personal and political alienation, and a profound suspicion of others. In this powerful and eloquent essay, Danielle Allen, a 2002 MacArthur Fellow, takes this maxim back to Little Rock, rooting out the seeds of distrust to replace them with "a citizenship of political friendship."
Returning to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 and to the famous photograph of Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, being cursed by fellow "citizen" Hazel Bryan, Allen argues that we have yet to complete the transition to political friendship that this moment offered. By combining brief readings of philosophers and political theorists with personal reflections on race politics in Chicago, Allen proposes strikingly practical techniques of citizenship. These tools of political friendship, Allen contends, can help us become more trustworthy to others and overcome the fossilized distrust among us.
Sacrifice is the key concept that bridges citizenship and trust, according to Allen. She uncovers the ordinary, daily sacrifices citizens make to keep democracy working—and offers methods for recognizing and reciprocating those sacrifices. Trenchant, incisive, and ultimately hopeful, Talking to Strangers is nothing less than a manifesto for a revitalized democratic citizenry.