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Democtaic Mutual Regard

The conception of justice I shall outline and defend in this book, justice as fair
reciprocity, takes as its starting point the thesis that good society is a community
of mutual concern and respect. More exactly, the good society is one in which
individuals exhibit democratis mutual regard. As citizens, coming together to
determine their shared laws and other common institutions that will regulate
their life together in a fundamental way, individuals do not seek merely to
impose their preferred institutions on others. For the purpose of designing these
institutions, the regard one another as equals, and as possessing certain shared
basic interests that these institutions must respect and protect. As citizens, they
form their preferences across institutions, and seek to justify their institutional
preferences to other citizens by offering reasons that appeal to their status as
equals and, relatedly, to their shared basic interests. Institutions are subject to a
test of reasoned justification by reference to a norm of citizen equality and a
public conception of shared basic interests.

The idea of democratic mutual regard is more specific, we should note, than that
of mutual regard simpliciter. It is perfectly possible, after all, for individuals to
have mutual concern and respect even though they also perceive themselves to
be unequal in their fundamental civic standing. The master and the servant
can reciprocate a non-democratic form of mutual regard in which cach respects a
dignity that is specific to her respective position and role. What one might call
modernist political morality---the political morality which perhaps first found
imperfect expression in the Leveller movement of the English Civil War, and,
later, again imperfectly, in the philosophies of the American and French
Revolutions---repudiates this hierarchical understanding of mutual regard.
Democratic mutual regard, the ethos that I think is foundational to modernist
political morality, expresses the now familiar idea that citizens share a more
fundamental dignity than that connected with their immediate social positions,
an intrinsic dignity rooted in their common humanity. It represents one
elaboration and application of the concept of human dignity that has played such
a major role in the thinking (or at least the rhetoric) of modern movements for
political and social emancipation.


This modernist rejection of traditional, hierarchical conceptions of mutual regard
at least as regards specifying the common institutions that will regulate
citizens lives together in fundamental way--- presupposes, of course, that
individuals do not have a need for hierarchical differentiation. Some political
philosophers, such as Thomas Hobbes, seem to have believed that a desire for
eminence is intrinsic to human nature. According to his view, human beings have
by nature a desire for esteem, for the recognition of their worth by others, which
can be satisfied only by their being acknowledged as superior to others. If this

view of human nature correct, then the ideal of democratic mutual regard may
well appear utopian: it demands some thing of people taht is contrary to their
deepest instincts. The gambit underpinning advocacy of this ideal, then, is that,
while people do have a basic need to have their worth affirmed by others in the
design of their common institutions, this need can be satisfied if others recognize
and affirm ones status as an equal; that self respect does not depend,
necessarily, on the subordination and humiliation of others (or, more exactly,
does not depend on such subordination and humiliation being built into the
common institutions that regulate citizens lives together in a fundamental way).
I have spoken here of certain institutions being determined in accordance with
an ethos of democratic mutual regard. Institutions is an ambiguos term. But to
make just one point of clarification here, I do not intend the term to refer here
solely to the formal, legal arrangements taht govern citizens lives together. As
G.A. Cohen has recently emphasized, important social outcomes, e.g., teh final
distribution of income and wealth, can be affected not only by the formal legal
rules taht govern economic life, but also by the social norms that influence how
people choose to act within the formal legal set-up. In view of this, I shall assume
here that the ethos of democratic mutual regard not only should apply to the
design of formal, legal arrangements, but should also be expressed directly in
the authoritative social norms that more informally govern economic life. These
norms can also be understood as institutions that regulate citizens lives together
in a fundamental way, and which thus call for justification of the appropriate,
mutually regardful kind. At the same time, however, it is not claimed that all
social institutions should conform to the ethos of democratic mutual regard. It is
not my claim, for example, that the ethos must be respected, in all its aspects, in
the internal life of all voluntary associations within society, though adherence to
this ethos might well demand some limitations on the internal arragements of
such associations (e.g. limitations necessary to ensure that individuals retain an
effective right to

Leave associantions). Thus, while ideal of democratic mutual regard has
substantive moral content, which will impact in various ways on citizens personal
lives, it is not what John Rawls would call a comprehensive moral or ethical
doctrine, intended to serve as a complete account of personal morality or etheis.
It is not difficult to connect this idea of democratic mutual regard to the
revolutionary trinity cited at the beginning of Chapter 1: liberty, equality,
fraternity. What distinguishes democratic mutual regard form more hierarchical
forms of mutual regard is, as said, that it is founded on a sense of the
fundamental equality of the parties to the civil relationship: an equality of status
taht must, in turn, be manifest in various substantive ways in the common
institutions that govern their life together in a fundamental way. Fraternity is
implicit in the attempt to consider how institutional proposals are likely to affect
the basic interests of others, conceived as equals, and in attendant willingness to

eschew institutions that, while advantageous for oneself, risk injury to the basic
interests of others. Liberty, finally, enters into the picture when we stop to think
about the content of the interests that citizens will be attending to when they
evaluate institutional proposals in accordance with the ethos of democratic
mutual regard (a point I shall develop shortly, in Section 2.2)
These comments represent only a beginning, however, in alborating what
democratic mutual regard demands. My aim in Part 1 of this book is to offer a
more detailed account of the principles that I think best express the concern and
respect citizens should have for each other and, relatedly, of the shared interests
taht are the proper focus of this concern and respect. I shall discuss how these
can be integrated into a conception of justice that can then, in turn, inform
contempotary debate about the rights and obligations of economic citizenship. In
this way , I hope to bring real word decision-making, specifially about the rights
and obligations eof economic citizenship, closer to the ideal of democratic
mutual regard. The aim is not to displace democracy with philosophy, but to
use philoshopy to consolidate democracy, on a specific conception of what
democratic desicion-making involves not the brute assertion of majority will, but
collective decision-making informed by the ethos of demoratic mutual regard. So
understood, political philosophy can be seen as a kind of democratic
underlbouring, as an effort to bring democratic society to a better selfunderstanding. Democratic underlabouring is, nevertheless, critical work. Popular
views of justice can reflect ideological distortion connected with the protection of
special interests. The political theorits, as democratic underlabourer, must be
ready to challenge popular views where these seem inconsistent with the ethos
of democratic mutual regard, and to explain the deficiencies in the arguments
taht are put forward in defence of special interests.