Chapter

Reconceiving Autonomy

Jennifer Nedelsky

in Law's Relations

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195147964
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918133 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195147964.003.0004
Reconceiving Autonomy

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Chapter 3 argues against the idea of independence as a core dimension of autonomy, and explains why a relational conception of autonomy is especially well suited to the problems of the modern welfare and regulatory state. The modern state must be able to make dependence on state services and regulation consistent with autonomy. American administrative law (which mediates between administrative agencies, such as welfare bureaucracies, and those subject to their decisions) serves to show how fair procedure can provide insights into how to structure bureaucratic power so that it enhances rather than undermines the autonomy of those who interact with it. I then look at various limitations to these legal solutions and at some of the most promising developments in Canadian administrative law. The chapter also looks at the subjective dimensions of autonomy, highlighting the difficulties in effecting a transformation of a central cultural value. And it closes by addressing the factors that make it difficult to restructure dependency relations so that they foster autonomy: both power disparities and entrenched beliefs about subordinate status can pose serious obstacles. Nevertheless, the very inevitability of hierarchies of power makes it essential to structure power relations so that they can foster rather than undermine autonomy.

Keywords: autonomy; independence; aministrative law; modern state; participation; democracy; power hierarchy; Ssbjective autonomy

Chapter.  20657 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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