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Two Spheres of Domination: Republican Theory, Social Norms and the Insufficiency of Negative Freedom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45
Number of pages62
JournalContemporary Political Theory
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


King's Authors


Philip Pettit claims that republican freedom is a negative ideal that only automatically entitles individuals to contest unwarranted, or arbitrary, interference. I challenge this claim, arguing that, according the logic of the republican position, individuals must be empowered to participate in determining what is to count as arbitrary if they are to be able to ‘force others to track’ their common, avowable interests as Pettit requires. Republican freedom is regulated deliberatively through commonly-accepted public considerations. However, even where principles are accepted by all, there is always a risk that the members of some social groups will be marginalised by their use because of the cultural history through which the meaning of these principles was forged. This risk is mitigated by empowering citizens to add their own perspectives to, and so partially reshape, the background norms and values against which deliberation takes place. This empowerment is not additional to freedom, but part of it.

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