Struc­tures of author­ity are not self-jus­ti­fy­ing

Governance Now - - BRIEFINGS -

I don’t think we’re smart enough to de­sign in any de­tail what a per­fectly just and free so­ci­ety would be like. i think we can give some guide­lines and, more sig­nif­i­cantly, we can ask how we can progress in that di­rec­tion. John dewey, the lead­ing so­cial philoso­pher, ar­gued that un­til all in­sti­tu­tions— pro­duc­tion, com­merce, me­dia—are un­der par­tic­i­pa­tory demo­cratic con­trol, we will not have a func­tion­ing demo­cratic so­ci­ety. as he put it, “pol­icy will be the shadow cast by busi­ness over so­ci­ety.” Well, it’s es­sen­tially true. Where there are struc­tures of author­ity, dom­i­na­tion, and hi­er­ar­chy—some­body gives the or­ders and some­body takes them—they are not self-jus­ti­fy­ing. They have to jus­tify them­selves. They have a bur­den of proof to meet. if you take a close look, usu­ally you find they can’t jus­tify them­selves. If they can’t, we ought to be dis­man­tling them—try­ing to ex­pand the do­main of free­dom and jus­tice by dis­man­tling that form of il­le­git­i­mate author­ity. That’s another task for an or­ga­nized, com­mit­ted, ded­i­cated pop­u­la­tion: not just to reg­u­late them, but to ask why they’re there. This comes straight out of the lib­er­tar­ian el­e­ment of the en­light­en­ment and clas­si­cal lib­eral thought. it’s also the core prin­ci­ple of an­ar­chism, but that’s democ­racy as well.

–From re­queim For the amer­i­can dream by Noam Chom­sky (Seven Sto­ries Press, 2017)

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