Pragmatism, critical theory and democratic inclusion

Gideon Calder

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article explores ideas from Richard Rorty and Nancy Fraser on the justification of democracy. It considers both as exemplary of what, following Michael Walzer, we can call philosophizing “in the city” – eschewing any aim to adopt a generalised, metaphysical perspective on questions of social justice, and seeking instead to locate these, in theirconception and elaboration, in the thick of lived social practice. For such approaches, as for other treatments of democracy, issues around inclusion will be key: whose voices should count in the democratic conversation, and how? I address Rorty’s claim that democracy is “prior” to philosophy, rather than requiring philosophical backup, and Fraser’s notion of “participatory parity”. Endorsing Kevin Olson’s diagnosis in the latter of a “paradox of enablement”, I consider the inclusion of the disabled as a way of addressing how this paradox might work in practice. I conclude in section 4 by suggesting that escaping the paradox seems to require venturing to a vantage point further from the city than either Rorty or Fraser would prefer. I suggest that a capabilities-based approach would be one way of doing this – but that this, indeed, involves deeper “traditional”-style philosophical commitments than pragmatists will be happy to support.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)52 - 67
    Number of pages15
    JournalEtica and politica
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


    • democracy
    • social integration
    • rorthy,richard
    • fraser,nancy


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