Sen’s Ideas of Justice and Democracy

Crocker, David A. (2010). "Sen’s Ideas of Justice and Democracy" Paper presented at the 7th annual conference of the HDCA, 21-23 September 2010, Amman, Jordan.

This paper aims to analyze and evaluate Sen’s ideas of justice and democracy—and their relations—as formulated in his new book The Idea of Justice. In this volume Sen offers a very different sort of theory of justice than those typically on offer and argues for his theory’s superiority over what he calls “transcendental institutionalism, ” the effort to identify and defend the ideal of a perfectly just society. My interest is less in Sen’s critique of this “transcendentalism, ” the topic of other papers in this symposium, and more in Sen’s “constructive” alternative, which he calls the “comparative perspective” (xi). More specifically, my focus is on the roles of the ideals of individual and collective agency and democracy in Sen’s effort to recast the theory and practice of justice. I also shall address the question of whether in this new volume Sen makes progress in clarifying, developing, and defending his earlier views that democracy is crucial to the theory and practice of justice and ethically-based development.
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