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A critical examination of ethical justifications for political power

McKee, Dan 2008. A critical examination of ethical justifications for political power. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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In this thesis I argue that formal political power is a human-created artificiality, erected over previously unfettered lives for a specific purpose. As such, the act of establishing and maintaining political power can be assessed like any other person-affecting act, ethically, and must always be justified if it is to be considered legitimate. I show that underlying all such attempted justifications for political power is an implicit, but necessary, ethical contract: that political power X is justified only because it makes life 'better' for 'people' than it would be without it. Utilizing a form of ethical constructivism, I unpack a plausible account of what this universal political teleology can be said to objectively demand, constructing first a reasonable account of which 'people' we can justifiably say ought to be considered within the ethical contract (everyone affected), and then, working from that definition, and what we can reasonably claim to know of the shared goals and interests of such people, constructing a plausible account of what could be said to constitute a 'better' life for them (the protection and fulfilment of seven basic and universal 'species-interests'). I use this account as a critical tool, showing that, despite the multiplicity of varied political structures which have historically traded on divergent interpretations of this same underlying contract, once we have unpacked a compellingly objective account of its terms by which to judge each interpretation, there appears to be only one form of political power seemingly capable of fulfilling its requirements and thus achieving the legitimate goals of an objectively justified politics: a form of federated, small-scale anarchism, which I describe as 'authentic democracy'.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
ISBN: 9781303213359
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2016 23:12

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