Non‐Domination as a Political Ideal

Philip Pettit

in Republicanism

Published in print September 1999 | ISBN: 9780198296423
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600081 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Political Theory

 Non‐Domination as a Political Ideal

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The superior value of non‐domination needs to be established in a comparison with freedom as non‐interference. It comes out in the fact that its maximization would require the promotion of three benefits that the maximization of non‐interference could ignore; these are the absence of uncertainty, the absence of a need to defer strategically to the powerful, and the absence of a social subordination to others. The connection between freedom as non‐domination and these benefits is such that that freedom is a primary good, in John Rawls's sense; it is something that people have reason to want for themselves, no matter what else they want. But freedom as non‐domination is not the sort of good that can be left to people to pursue for themselves in a decentralized way; all the signs are that it is best pursued for each under the centralized, political action of all: it is best pursued via the state. The political pursuit of freedom as non‐domination should be attractive, not just for small homogeneous polities but also in the modern, pluralistic state. The natural way to cast freedom as non‐domination is in the role of a value that the state should try to promote, not in the role of a constraint that it has to honour; this, moreover, is the way in which it is generally cast in the republican tradition: the tradition is consequentialist in character. There are two dimensions that need to be taken into account in the promotion of freedom as non‐domination—the intensity of non‐domination and the extent of undominated choice—but some plausible assumptions mean that we should look to intensity first and extent only in the second place. When non‐domination is promoted by certain political and other institutions—when people are guarded against possibilities of arbitrary interference in their lives—that effect is not causally distinct from the institutions; like the immunity produced by antibodies in the blood, the non‐domination is constituted by such institutional arrangements: it has an inherently institutional existence.

Keywords: autonomy; consequentialism; deference; institutions; pluralism; state; subordination; uncertainty; value

Chapter.  13509 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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