. 6
( 13)



person may come to feel sincere concern for her abuser. Indeed, some
former hostages continue to act with loyalty and affection to their former
captors even when the danger is long past and the captors have been
imprisoned for terrorism and kidnapping.25
Thus, being chronically dominated or controlled by others can alter
the contours of someone™s very personality. A captive or abused person™s
character may take on traits and dispositions aimed at pleasing her cap-
tor and protecting her against the captor™s violence. Someone who is
relatively socially powerless and therefore vulnerable to domination by a
great many others may develop such traits as a matter of settled character,
and may become thoroughly adaptively malformed as a result. She may
become an unassertive, self-deprecating, servile, or obsequious person in
general as a means of self-protection against the power of whoever can
control her. And one common cause of such character traits seems to be
the embodied experience of being chronically less powerful or aggres-
sive compared with others when acting in interpersonal relationships.
Most importantly, the resulting submissive character is more than a mat-
ter of simple preference deformation, since this alteration can constitute
a rational strategy for self-protection in the face of interpersonal threats.
The psychological mechanism of submissiveness and even love in the
face of threatening and unavoidable power seems to be a general human
tendency, not con¬ned to women. One reason for thinking this is the
apparent presence of a kind of traumatic bonding even in some com-
monplace attitudes. One example of such attitudes is a familiar type of
religious position that seems to be formally analogous to cases of patho-
logical traumatic bonding. In most of the religions of the West, a supreme
being is postulated and conceptualized as vastly more powerful than mere
human mortals, often as omnipotent. There is good reason, from the the-
ological perspectives of these religions, to fear the power of this being.
That power, after all, may punish us through all eternity. It is rational for
people to react to their god as they would to human captors they can-
not escape who might also hold the power of life and death over them.
After all, from a relationship with an omnipotent and omniscient god,
there is never the option of exit. The “problem of evil,” so much debated
in Western philosophy and theology, deals with how to understand the
inconsistent, unpredictable, and seemingly arbitrary harm and suffering
that befalls innocent as well as guilty people in this world. “Evil,” in this
sense, is rather like the inconsistent and unpredictable harm, the “inter-
mittent reinforcement,” mentioned earlier, that captors in¬‚ict in order
to secure their captives™ submission.
Autonomy and Male Dominance 159

Some religious attitudes thus seem remarkably like instantiations of
the captive syndrome; they are conscious expressions of love and loyalty
toward a fearsome, vastly powerful being one cannot overpower or es-
cape. For Thomas Hobbes, one of the four “natural seeds” of religion is
“devotion toward what men fear.”26 We try to placate the gods “ or power-
ful persons “ we can neither resist nor escape by obeying their commands
or commandments, following their (divine) plans, loving them, and ac-
cepting the blame ourselves for the evils that occur (as do many abused
women and some religious people).27
The occurrence in religious worship of something analogous to trau-
matic bonding suggests that deference and devotion toward what hu-
man beings fear is a common psychological tendency, not limited to
women. Many men fear other men, and some men occasionally fear
women. If male dominance, however, is partly based on men™s statisti-
cally greater strength and aggressiveness compared with women, then
women would tend to be the weaker parties in social relationships more
often than would men, and particularly in one-on-one relationships be-
tween women and men. Women would therefore need to be submissive
for self-protection in heterosocial relationships more often than men.
And submissiveness, on the face of it, is in tension with autonomy.

III Adaptive Preferences
One of the more profound aspects of diminished autonomy that can
result from domination by others occurs when dominated persons give
up on wants and values that dominance relationships prevent them from
realizing. In the case of male dominance, women may, for example, stop
resisting sexual harassment or become complacent about wife-battering.
In case this effect also involves the person trying to convince herself that
she never really wanted to end those problems in the ¬rst place, the result
would be a case of the familiar “sour grapes” phenomenon, or adaptive
preference formation, famously analyzed by Jon Elster.28 These sorts of
adjustments seem to involve a clear loss of autonomy.
Henry Richardson, however, disagrees with that conclusion. He argues
that adjusting our desires to ¬t what is attainable can promote autonomy.
If we want what is genuinely valuable but we fail to achieve it, we risk
losing self-esteem. Convincing ourselves that we did not really want the
lost value is a way of regaining lost self-esteem, and regaining that lost
self-esteem is necessary, Richardson argues, for being able to try to act
autonomously again.29
Marilyn Friedman

Richardson illustrates this view using the literary character of Bully
Stryver from Dickens™s A Tale of Two Cities, a character who loves but
ultimately loses the “beautiful and kind Lucie Manette.” After Manette
refuses to marry Stryver, he immediately gives up pursuing her, and denies
to himself and others that he ever cared for her. Richardson argues that
“some losses are so important” that we do not really lose autonomy by
denying we ever cared about those lost aims. Instead, we actually promote
our own autonomy by preserving the self-respect we need to “live to love
another day.”30 Richardson™s example evokes a famous line in an old
song: “When I™m not near the girl I love, I love the girl I™m near.”31
This strategy could be used by women who experience gender subor-
dination. If women are less able to achieve what they seek when in the
company of more dominant males, they may try, in order to maintain
their self-respect, to convince themselves that what they were seeking is
not genuinely valuable after all or that they never really wanted it. They
may construe even their subordinated positions as values to be attained.
As Simone de Beauvoir remarks generally of women in love, “She chooses
to desire her enslavement so ardently that it will seem to her the expres-
sion of her liberty.”32
Richardson recognizes that values differ, and indeed thinks that con-
vincing oneself one did not really care about the lost end only promotes
autonomy in case one was seeking something genuinely valuable. We dis-
parage the phenomenon of “sour grapes” “ that is, the process of adaptive
preference formation, that leads us to view unattainable grapes as sour be-
cause, according to Richardson, possessing grapes is trivial as an aim, and
no one should lose self-esteem over the failure to achieve it. We do lose
self-esteem appropriately from the failure to attain something genuinely
worthwhile, such as love, and in those cases, argues Richardson, the sour
grapes preference adjustment does needed reparative work.
Richardson aptly characterizes the way in which many people do tend
to behave after important failures but, unfortunately, he does not show
that such preference adjustments have a reliable tendency to promote
autonomy. Someone™s gain in self-esteem in these cases may well be out-
weighed by other effects that tend to undermine autonomy. If I fail in
my pursuit of justice, do I really promote my autonomy by denying I ever
cared about justice? Am I likely to feel self-respect more from thinking I
never cared about justice at all than from thinking I pursued it and lost?
Perhaps there are some things we should feel good about having sought
in vain, better, at any rate, than we should feel if we had never sought
them at all “ love, for example. In any case, it is not obvious that we do
Autonomy and Male Dominance 161

preserve our self-respect or promote our autonomy by coming to regard
what we pursue in vain as valueless. Instead, we may merely debase our
valuational efforts by making them too contingent on something™s being
Perhaps Richardson means to limit his point to particulars: this love,
this just cause. It is precisely in order not to give up on love or justice as
such that I should try to distance myself from this lost love or this lost ( just)
cause. Even at this level, however, problems remain. Richardson seems
to presuppose that self-esteem is better preserved by denying one ever
cared about valuable particulars than by acknowledging that one failed
in trying to attain them. This attitude is an instance of self-deception.
Whether the goal is general or particular, self-deception about one™s fail-
ures is fraught with dif¬culties. It may, for example, be unsuccessful.
If the unattained end is self-consciously de¬nitive of who someone is,
and deeply intertwined with her other important ends, she may not be
able to pretend readily that it is unimportant to her; repudiating the
unattained end may undermine rather than promote her autonomy. In
contrast to what Richardson maintains, the phenomenon of sour grapes
may in fact bolster self-esteem precisely when the ends do not matter
much to the respective agents. Thus, we have found no reason yet to
think that women™s adaptation to male dominance promotes women™s

IV Collateral Damage
Increasing the autonomy of women who are hampered by male dom-
inance requires curbing or nullifying male dominance. If male domi-
nance is based on greater biological sources of strength and aggression,
then so long as human biological nature remains the same, curbing male
dominance will require unending social constraints on male strength
and aggressiveness. Even if male dominance is entirely a social construct,
its evident persistence and pervasiveness at this time suggest that we will
have to contend with it for the foreseeable future. We will have to socialize
boys to be less aggressive than they are now, enforce legal prohibitions on
male sexual coercion of women, and so on. Yet all social practices are sub-
ject to occasional breakdown. Whenever and wherever the practices that
restrain male strength and aggressiveness break down, male dominance
might well reassert itself as a major threat to women™s autonomy. The
global enhancement of women™s autonomy thus seems to require prac-
tices and institutions that continuously and inde¬nitely curb male power
Marilyn Friedman

advantages. Women thus depend profoundly on a properly functioning
rule of law and other social institutions that reduce aggression and vio-
lence. This dependence, however, creates its own additional, collateral
loss of women™s autonomy. I shall explain.
In realizing autonomy, all people depend on social relationships and
cultural resources. Women, however, seem to be more dependent in this
regard than men. If women™s autonomy is promoted by systems of social
control by which men restrain themselves and each other from dominat-
ing women, then female autonomy would be more vulnerable than male
autonomy to being undercut by social breakdown. Thus, in addition to
requiring whatever support any person needs from social relationships
in order to ensure commodious living, women would need extra social
protection against male strength and aggression, since men are typically
stronger and more aggressive than women. This need for extra protection
against male power may reduce women™s motivation to criticize the social
institutions under which they live. Recall the familiar notion that women
are more active churchgoers than men, despite the fact that religions are
not usually leaders in gender equality. Women may be less critical of in-
stitutions of social control than they should be, given their heavy reliance
on the security that social institutions can provide. If I, as a white woman
in particular, believe that the police do protect me against violence, I
might be disinclined to criticize the police for, say, racial bias in their
methods, fearing implicitly that such criticism might weaken the capacity
of law enforcement to protect me. My capacity for critical thinking would
be constrained by my need for protection. This sort of outcome would
involve an important and regrettable collateral loss of women™s autonomy
that results from male dominance.

V Rethinking Autonomy in Light of Male Dominance
Male dominance relies both on male power advantages over women and
women™s human tendencies to defer and devote themselves to those whose
power they fear and cannot escape. Although women are making great
strides in diminishing the power of male dominance in many societies,
it will not be eliminated any time soon. Women™s autonomy, in general,
will therefore continue to be harder to realize than men™s autonomy in
the context of heterosocial interactions. Should this make a difference
to a philosophical account of autonomy? Should we modify the philo-
sophical account of autonomy? If so, how? I shall consider four possible
Autonomy and Male Dominance 163

1. One sort of modi¬cation would be to rethink the nature or necessary
conditions of autonomy in light of the pervasiveness of male dominance.
Is personal autonomy as valuable as we have been led to think? Are power-
ful and seemingly more autonomous men really more autonomous than
women after all? Perhaps people lack or lose personal autonomy to the
extent that they do not respect the personal autonomy of others. That sort
of view is not unfamiliar to us; it is, of course, Kant™s view of moral auton-
omy. The Kantian moral law requires one to treat all persons as ends-in-
themselves. Failing to respect the autonomy of others is failing to do one™s
moral duty, which, in turn, is the failure to be morally autonomous.
Can we say the same thing about personal autonomy? Is a failure to
respect the personal autonomy of others at the same time a failure to be
personally autonomous oneself? Contemporary, content-neutral accounts
of personal autonomy, which I tend to favor,33 reject that approach. On
these accounts, autonomy involves governing oneself simply in accord
with what is, in some important sense, “one™s own.” This bare idea, in and
of itself, does not include the requirement of respecting the autonomy
of others.
Henry Richardson seeks an intermediate position between content-
neutral accounts of autonomy, which place no restriction on what
one chooses, and morally substantive accounts of autonomy, such as
the Kantian account, which do place restrictions on what one chooses.
Richardson claims that it is indeed part of our normative requirements for
considering someone to be autonomous that she respect the autonomy
of others. That is, Richardson thinks we already tacitly regard someone as
non-autonomous, no matter how self-determining she seems to be, if she
does not respect the same self-determination in others.34 Richardson™s
claim, however, is based largely on the intuitive force of a certain kind
of example. In his example, a Lothario seduces women with no concern
for what is right for them, and does so out of his own unre¬‚ective desires
and inclinations. Richardson claims that Lothario™s autonomy is reduced
by his disregard of the autonomy of his female victims.
Unfortunately, Lothario™s desires and inclinations confound Richard-
son™s example. In¬‚uenced by the Kantian tradition, we may think that
Lothario lacks autonomy, not because he disrespects the autonomy of his
victims but rather because he acts from unre¬‚ective desires. Richardson™s
example would therefore not be conclusive, even if we were all to share
his intuitions about it. Suppose, however, that Lothario is not driven
by unre¬‚ective desire. Suppose instead that he seduces only upper-class
women, and does so from a carefully calculated ambition to sleep his way
Marilyn Friedman

up the corporate ladder, his predominant (and sincere) re¬‚ective value
being career success. Would he still lack personal autonomy?
Richardson might insist that whenever someone disrespects the auton-
omy of others, she is acting from desire or inclination. Richardson claims
that taking some account of others in the formation of one™s own desires
is “part of what we mean by not letting oneself be ruled by mere desire
or inclination.”35 I question this claim. Avoiding rule by mere desire or
inclination simply requires incorporating something other than mere de-
sire or inclination into self-rule. This is all that is contained in the bare
idea of not being “ruled by mere desire or inclination.” The additional
motivating factor need not be a consideration of the well-being or auton-
omy of others; it could simply consist, for example, in consideration of
one™s own long-range interests. On my view, someone can be personally
autonomous without recognizing personal autonomy as a value or having
any special respect for the autonomy of others “ or even of oneself. Thus,
the attempt to reconceptualize personal autonomy in order to show that
dominant people do not have as much of it as they seem to have does not
yet look very promising.
2. Alternatively, we could try to reconceptualize autonomy so as to
show that submissive or subservient people have more autonomy than
they might otherwise seem to have. Toward this end, it would be help-
ful to recall Joseph Raz™s view that someone lacks autonomy if she lives
under desperate or impoverished conditions that afford her no morally
signi¬cant alternatives among which to choose.36 A dominated person,
according to Raz, has fewer morally signi¬cant alternatives than others
because the need for self-protection makes it dif¬cult or impossible to
choose anything other than what will protect her. Raz seems to assume
that someone who is forced to make choices that ensure merely her sur-
vival or self-protection is thereby denied autonomy. If the struggle to
survive is a coercive force that ineluctably drives us to sacri¬ce what we oth-
erwise want, care about, or value, then autonomy would be scarcely pos-
sible under conditions in which survival or basic material well-being are
Perhaps we should challenge Raz™s view. It is a view with disturbing
implications. On this view, autonomy would be signi¬cantly possible only
when a person does not have to make great sacri¬ces to assure her sur-
vival or her minimal material well-being. The realization of autonomy
would become something of a class-privilege, and people with meager
resources would be largely out of luck. They would be simply deprived of
conditions that would promote or elicit the development in them of the
Autonomy and Male Dominance 165

character-enhancing capacities for autonomy. This result prompts the
concern that those who value autonomy might be doing so not because
autonomy is intrinsically valuable but merely because it is a trait common
among those who are comfortably enough situated so as to develop it and
who happen to think well of themselves.
Consider women again. When women submit to male power with the
aim of protecting themselves against harm, they are acting for reasons
that are understandable and morally acceptable under the circumstances.
Women™s ultimate goal is not subordination; it is self-protection in the
face of threats from other persons. Even if a woman™s wants and values
become adapted to and distorted by this aim, her adaptive attitudes are
nevertheless the causal product of an understandable striving to survive
under threat of force. Is there not perhaps a measure of autonomy after
all in being a survivor?
We are also familiar with the idea that lives of obedience or submis-
siveness might nevertheless exhibit autonomy in some degree.37 They do
so when the person living the life has an overarching and self-de¬ning
commitment toward which the submissive life is a means. Lives of reli-
gious devotion are typical examples of this sort. As Sigurdur Kristinsson
argues, if a submissive person retains, in addition, the tendency to change
her behavior whenever she recognizes either that her submissiveness has
become ineffective in attaining her goals or that her goals are worthless,38
then she may well be realizing autonomy through submissiveness. This
should be no less true when submissiveness is aimed at self-protection
than when it is aimed at some “higher calling” such as a spiritual end.
There is something plausible about this strategy of construing mere
survival and submissiveness as sometimes autonomous. However, the strat-
egy is not fully satisfying on the issue of male dominance. In particular,
it seems to diminish the wrongness of male dominance. If women can
be as autonomous under male dominance as they can be apart from it,
then we might have to conclude that male dominance is less of a hin-
drance to women™s autonomy than it ¬rst appeared to be, and therefore
less of a moral problem. Surely this is not the whole story. Part of what
is wrong with male domination of women is precisely that it restricts
women™s options, impelling women to distort their priorities in order to
protect themselves. Autonomy is a matter of degree. As a survivor under
these conditions, a woman may have more autonomy than we ¬rst real-
ized, but she still has less of it than she otherwise might have, and almost
certainly less than her male counterpart whose options are not limited
by a corresponding female domination.
Marilyn Friedman

I have considered two alternative ways of modifying our conception of
the nature and necessary conditions of autonomy in light of male dom-
inance, and have found each approach to be less than fully satisfying. I
now turn to a different sort of strategy, that of reassessing the value of
personal autonomy. Note that this is a separate issue from the nature
and necessary conditions of autonomy. The mere conception of auton-
omy, of its nature and necessary conditions, does not dictate a particular
assessment of autonomy™s value. For that, we need a full-blown theory
of personal autonomy. My remaining suggestions contribute to such an
3. One way in which to theorize the value of personal autonomy is sim-
ply to devalue it. Perhaps autonomy is overrated and not worth as much as
we have been inclined to think. Perhaps some other behavioral tenden-
cies, more typical of submissive or subordinated people, are worth more
than we had previously realized. Heteronomy is often associated with
dependency on other persons, and some feminists now emphasize the
importance of dependency in human relationships.39 Obvious forms of
dependency are unavoidable for all of us at some stages of life, and hidden
forms of dependency are probably unavoidable for all of us at all stages
of life. Women™s traditional gender roles, for example, are vitally impor-
tant for children, the very elderly, and the in¬rm, who are attached to
their (typically female) caregivers by reciprocal forms of dependence.40
Dependence may seem to be the antithesis of autonomy, and the need
for dependency in relationships that nurture us may seem to devalue
autonomy by implication.
This line of thought, however, does not devalue autonomy after all.
Granted, we are all interdependent. Dependency is necessary for human
survival, and it promotes interrelationships of intimacy and love that
ground some of our most profound values. This point does not show,
however, that personal autonomy is not also valuable. Material and emo-
tional dependencies are not incompatible with personal autonomy “ that
is, with persons behaving and living in accord with wants and values they
have re¬‚ectively considered and come to hold without undue coercion
and manipulation. No one can live a whole human life without depen-
dencies of some sort at various, if not at all, times. One may be ¬nancially,
physically, or psychologically dependent on the care and support of oth-
ers, yet still choose autonomously how to live within those constraints.
Thus, idealizing dependence does not necessitate devaluing autonomy.
For that we would need a separate and direct case against autonomy or
else showing that the two are mutually exclusive, a view I have argued
against more fully elsewhere.41
Autonomy and Male Dominance 167

4. A different way of reassessing the value of autonomy42 is to reject a
homogeneous account of its worth in favor of a heterogeneous account.
That is, while personal autonomy is the same sort of trait or achievement
for all persons, there is no one evaluation of autonomy that “¬ts all” who
realize it. On this approach, the value of autonomy differs depending on
whose autonomy is in question. In particular, autonomy is more valuable
for dominated people than for dominators. After all, dominated people
have more to overcome in realizing autonomy than do dominators, so
their realization of it is more of an achievement. More importantly, the
autonomy of the dominated promotes realization of the moral equality of
persons, whereas the autonomy of dominators, insofar as they are domi-
nating others, works against the realization of that ideal. This value differ-
entiation is the major adjustment I recommend to our understanding of
personal autonomy in light of the vexing persistence of male dominance,
with its roots in male excesses of strength and aggressiveness.
Personal autonomy has intrinsic value, and in this respect its value is
equal among all who realize it. Autonomy also, however, has instrumen-
tal value insofar as it serves other values. In particular, it serves the social
realization of the moral equality of all persons. The notion of the moral
equality of persons developed gradually in the West along with the ideal-
ization of moral autonomy. According to Jerome Schneewind, the ideal of
autonomy arose as a reaction to earlier moralities of obedience, morali-
ties according to which not all persons are equally capable of discerning
what morality requires or motivating themselves to live accordingly. Ac-
cording to moralities of obedience, those persons who lack moral abilities
(namely, most of us) can live moral lives only by obeying those who do
have the requisite moral capacities. On this view, women, who lack moral
capacities, need to be governed by men, who sometimes can be morally
competent. What developed in the modern period of Western philosophy
was the idea that all (ordinary) persons do have the requisite capacities
to be moral agents. This competency is their moral autonomy.43 Despite
this growing insight, however, Western culture during the modern period
clung tenaciously to various forms of social hierarchy and moral subor-
dination. Male dominance was only one of many such lingering forms
of moral and social control. Thus the ideal of the moral equality of all
persons has scarcely been realized in social practice.
Moral autonomy bears on personal autonomy, among other things, in
the following way. The moral equality of all persons includes the idea that
all persons count equally as moral agents. As moral agents, all persons are
equally entitled to contribute to moral dialogue, to make up their own
minds about what is morally right and what is morally good, and to try
Marilyn Friedman

to act accordingly. Morally equal agents are also entitled to live the non-
moral aspects of their lives each as they see ¬t. Personal autonomy is that
feature of a life that, with suitable quali¬cations, involves its being lived in
accord with the wants and values of the person whose life it is. Any aspect
of a person™s behavior, however, may have moral signi¬cance. Only those
persons possessing moral competence can reasonably be trusted by others
to recognize and act in accord with the moral signi¬cances of the personal
choices they make in their lives. Only those with (presumptive) moral
competence are entitled to have others respect their personal autonomy.
Social hierarchy and patterns of dominance upset the order of the
moral equality of persons by putting some persons in positions of moral
and personal dominance over others. Subordinated persons are con-
strained and coerced by a combination of factors. First, they are overpow-
ered by dominant others. Second, they are controlled by the enforcement
power of social institutions, which frequently serves the ends of power-
ful persons. And, if my earlier argument is correct, then third, subordi-
nate persons are constrained by their human psychological tendencies
both to submit to dominating others for the sake of self-preservation
and, in the process, to mold their own wants and values around the
preferences of the powerful persons they can neither overcome nor
Dominant persons are more able to act according to their own wants
and values, since others will defer to them, submit to them, and even
love them for it. When persons in positions of social dominance act au-
tonomously, they often do so at the expense of the autonomy of subor-
dinated persons. Suppressed and subordinated persons are denied some
measure of social recognition and respect for their moral competence “
that is, their competence to make personal choices in recognition of
the moral signi¬cances that arise. The moral equality of those persons is
thereby denied its due. Gender-related inequalities of strength and ag-
gressiveness are among the conditions that enable some (stronger and
more aggressive men) to take charge of social relationships in ways that
obstruct the personal autonomy of others (including weaker and less
aggressive women). As a result of gender-based (and other forms of)
subordination, the equal moral competence of weaker and less aggres-
sive persons fails to get the social expression, recognition, and respect it
When subordinate persons manage to behave according to their own
re¬‚ective wants and values, they overcome in some small way the moral
imbalance involved in their subordination. They do so especially when
Autonomy and Male Dominance 169

acting for the sake of wants or values that were not adapted to mimic
the wants or needs of those in control. Thus the personal autonomy of
subordinated persons promotes social recognition of and respect for their
equal moral competence, and thereby promotes the social realization of
the moral equality of all persons. In that respect, its worth appreciates
beyond the simple intrinsic value of autonomy as such.

In this discussion, I have assumed that male dominance will persist for the
foreseeable future, and is partly rooted in men™s statistically greater de-
grees of strength and aggressiveness compared to women. Female auton-
omy is reduced by this strength advantage in combination with women™s
human tendency to defer to inescapable, overpowering others. I then con-
sidered four ways to rethink autonomy in light of this difference between
women and men. I concluded that under conditions of male dominance,
female autonomy is more valuable than male autonomy because it better
promotes social realization of the moral equality of all persons. Because it
is more valuable, we all have good reason to advance women™s autonomy
whenever possible while at the same time restraining male aggression.

The earliest version of this chapter was presented at the Eastern Division
meetings of the American Philosophical Association, Atlanta, Georgia, 28
December 2001. A later version prior to this draft was presented to the Society
for Women in Philosophy meeting in conjunction with the Paci¬c APA, San
Francisco, California, 28 March 2003.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, in Modern Moral and Political Philosophy. Robert
C. Cummins and Thomas D. Christiano, eds. London: May¬eld, 1999 [1513];
5“40 (chapter 17).
A familiar example of such truncated options is Joseph Raz™s case of the
“hounded woman,” in The Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1986), p. 374.
Felicia Pratto, “Sexual Politics: The Gender Gap in the Bedroom, the Cup-
board, and the Cabinet” in David Buss and Neil M. Malamuth, eds. Sex, Power,
Con¬‚ict (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 179“230, at 179.
David M. Buss, “Sexual Con¬‚ict: Evolutionary Insights into Feminism and the
˜Battle of the Sexes™,” in Sex, Power, Con¬‚ict, pp. 296“318.
One may take a Hegelian tack and argue that the autonomy of the male
“master” is compromised along with that of the female “slave.” Even if this
were true, however, it would not entail the notion that the autonomy of the
slave is not diminished by the relationship. It is the loss of women™s autonomy
that concerns me. I leave it to others to develop the account of how men™s
autonomy is diminished by male dominance.
Marilyn Friedman

6. In this chapter, I use the terms “male dominance” and “male domination”
interchangeably. They are not synonymous, however, and would need to be
differentiated in other contexts.
7. Modern reproductive technologies eliminate this requirement, but the ex-
pense of such technologies makes them largely unavailable to most peo-
ple of the earth. Since this chapter assumes a global context, I ignore the
affects of technologies that reach only a small percentage of the earth™s
8. See Joel Anderson, “A Social Conception of Personal Autonomy: Voli-
tional Identity, Strong Evaluation, and Intersubjective Accountability.” Ph.D.
dissertation: Northwestern University, 1996; Marina Oshana, “Personal Au-
tonomy and Society,” Journal of Social Philosophy 29 (Spring 1998): 81“102;
Catriona Mackenzie and Natalie Stoljar, eds. Relational Autonomy: Feminist
Perspectives on Autonomy, Agency, and the Social Self (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2000).
9. My point here is not to endorse war “ far from it. My point is rather that
women have sometimes been elected to of¬ces that permitted them to exer-
cise powers normally reserved for men.
10. Examples are scarcely needed, but here are two of them. In recent years, the
“shantytown” neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro, which contain over 1 million
of Rio de Janeiro™s 5.8 million residents, have become “gang ¬efs.” Gangs
have gained control of these neighborhoods to such a degree that the police
and legitimate levels of government are afraid to intervene, and are subject
themselves to intimidation and violence. Gang rule, in the words of one
Brazilian of¬cial, has created “parallel governments that threaten Brazil™s
democracy and the rule of law.” One of the ways in which gang leaders exer-
cise their power is by sexual assault directed at young women and girls. See
Larry Rohter, “At Your Great Peril, Defy the Lords of the Slums,” New York
Times, 28 June 2002, p. A4.
Another example: In Baghdad at the time of this writing, security and law
enforcement are still broken down several months after the United States™
invasion of Iraq was declared a victory by President George W. Bush. Rape,
often accompanied by kidnapping, appears to be on the rise in Baghdad.
The problem of rape in Baghdad is compounded by the code of “honor” to
which many families subscribe. A woman or girl who is the victim of rape is
regarded as a dishonor to her family. Thus, instead of getting support from
her family, a rape victim is likely to be beaten by her father or male rela-
tives. Sometimes these beatings are life-threatening. Because of this added
danger, very few women or girls who are raped report these crimes to any-
one. They are thereby deprived of any possible extra-familial protection that
might be available. See Neela Banerjee, “Rape (and Silence About It) Haunts
Baghdad,” The New York Times, 16 July 2003, pp. A1, 9.
11. In English, at any rate.
12. Autonomy is not valued as such in many parts of the world. I have argued
elsewhere, however, that even when not valued as such, autonomy may nev-
ertheless ¬gure implicitly as an ideal that governs the way people think
about social practices and their justi¬cation; see Marilyn Friedman, Autonomy,
Autonomy and Male Dominance 171

Gender, and Politics (New York: Oxford, 2004), especially chapter 9. Even
if autonomy lacks that importance for a particular culture, people from
elsewhere who do ¬nd value in autonomy may still try to understand that
culture™s practices in terms of autonomy, and then see what sorts of cross-
cultural dialogue can be initiated on the basis of that understanding. That
a particular culture lacks an explicit commitment to autonomy need not
bring outsiders to that culture to an immediate full stop in their use of the
Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery (New York: Basic Books, 1992, 1997),
75 (page numbers in the next paragraph of the text refer to Herman™s book).
D. Dutton and S. L. Painter, “Traumatic Bonding: The Development of Emo-
tional Attachments in Battered Women and Other Relationships of Intermit-
tent Abuse.” Victimology 6 (1981): 139“55.
Dutton and Painter, 190“192
Dutton and Painter, 191.
J. Harvey, Civilized Oppression (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Little¬eld, 1999).
See Christine Macleod, “The Politics of Gender, Language and Hierarchy
in Mamet™s ˜Oleanna™.” Journal of American Studies 29 (1995): 199“213, 211.
Macleod is quoting from David Mamet, A Whore™s Profession: Notes and Essays
(London and Boston: Faber, 1994), p. 140.
Two exceptions in mainstream philosophy are Raz, The Morality of Freedom,
and Oshana, “Personal Autonomy and Society.” Feminist philosophical dis-
cussions of autonomy give ample attention to the social context of autonomy;
see, for example, Mackenzie and Stoljar, Relational Autonomy, and Friedman
Autonomy, Gender, and Politics.
Christman, “Liberalism, Autonomy, and Self-Transformation.” Social Theory
and Practice 27/2 (April 2001): 185“206.
These are not the only ways in which embodiment is relevant to autonomy;
see Diana Tietjens Meyers, “Decentralizing Autonomy: Five Faces of Self-
hood,” Chapter 2 in the present volume.
See, for example, Anderson, “A Social Conception of Personal Autonomy”;
Oshana, “Personal Autonomy and Society”; Mackenzie and Stoljar, Relational
Autonomy; Oshana “Autonomy and Self-Identity,” Chapter 4 in the present
This is not to say that social relationships are always, or only, coercive or
adversarial. Social relationships for those of us who are fortunate enough
to avoid war, social unrest, and dysfunctional families are largely benign
and cooperative. Yet coercive and adversarial relationships, when they do
occur, may be so painful that even a small risk of them may exert a profound
in¬‚uence on attitudes and character.
We should also note that men are more vulnerable than women to violent
assaults and battering by strangers. In either sort of case, however, the culprits
are more likely to be men than women, so this point does not undermine
the picture of male dominance sketched here.
Herman, 82.
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan. Richard Tuck, ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1996 [1651]), 79; italics mine.
Marilyn Friedman

27. I do not claim that all religious attitudes have this motivation, merely
28. Jon Elster, “Sour Grapes “ Utilitarianism and the Genesis of Wants,” in
Christman, ed., The Inner Citadel: Essays on Individual Autonomy (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1989), 170“188.
29. Henry Richardson, “Autonomy™s Many Normative Presuppositions.” Ameri-
can Philosophical Quarterly 38/3 ( July 2001): 287“303; see especially 292“3,
30. Richardson, 292“3. Richardson talks interchangeably of self-respect (for ex-
ample, 292) and self-esteem (for example, 298). It is not relevant to the
present discussion to insist on the distinction between these notions.
31. These lyrics are from the song, “When I™m Not Near the Girl I Love,” by Yip
Harburg, 1947 (music by Burton Lane). A later version of the idea, more
familiar to many readers, is: “If you can™t be with the one you love, love the
one you™re with,” by Stephen Stills from the song, “Love the One You™re
With” (1970). See The Columbia World of Quotations (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1996).
32. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex. Trans. and ed., H. M. Parshley (New
York: Vintage Books, 1989 [Alfred A. Knopf, 1952]), 643.
33. Friedman, Autonomy, Gender and Politics.
34. Richardson, “Autonomy™s Many Normative Presuppositions,” 298.
35. Richardson, 298.
36. Raz, The Morality of Freedom, 373“74.
37. Dworkin, The Theory and Practice of Autonomy (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-
versity Press, 1988), chapter 2; Jeff Spinner-Halev, Surviving Diversity: Religion
and Democratic Citizenship (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press,
2000), 30.
38. Sigurdur Kristinsson, “The Limits of Neutrality: Toward a Weakly Substantive
Account of Autonomy.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, vol. 30, no. 2 ( June
2000): 257“86, 282.
39. Eva Feder Kittay, Love™s Labor: Essays on Women, Equality, and Dependency (New
York: Routledge, 1999).
40. Caregivers may come to depend emotionally on the subjects of their care,
for example, by loving them or by deriving a sense of self-identity from the
caretaking role.
41. Friedman, Autonomy, Gender, and Politics.
42. Thanks to Joel Anderson for comments on this chapter, originally presented
as a paper at the Eastern Division meetings of the American Philosophical
Association, Atlanta, Georgia, 28 Dec 2001, that helped me rethink the view
presented in this section.
43. J. B. Schneewind, The Invention of Autonomy: A History of Modern Moral Philos-
ophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
44. Some women acquire dominance over some men in virtue of social privi-
leges such as those of race or class or in virtue of forms of aggressiveness that
do not depend on physical strength, such as verbal alacrity. However male
dominance over women is reinforced by social institutions, practices, and
Autonomy and Male Dominance 173

ideals, something not true of female dominance. Male dominance is also
redundantly marked by various linguistic conventions, all of which have no
corresponding female-dominant equivalents. And female dominance over
men typically incites scorn and ridicule. Male dominance is a paradigm
of interpersonal dominance, whereas female dominance over men is
part iii


Public Policy and Liberal Principles

Autonomy, Domination, and the Republican
Challenge to Liberalism

Richard Dagger

There was a time, not so long ago, when almost no one would have con-
sidered republicanism a challenge to liberalism. Conservatism, fascism,
communism, and other forms of socialism were prominent on lists of lib-
eralism™s rivals, but not republicanism. Historians occasionally analyzed
the classical republics of Greece and Rome, or the role of republican
ideas in seventeenth-century England or the American founding period,
but republicanism itself was not a live option in contemporary politics.1
In recent years, however, the situation has changed dramatically. Among
political theorists, at least, the question now is not whether republicanism
presents a challenge to liberalism but what kind of challenge it is.
On this question there are, broadly speaking, two points of view. Ac-
cording to one, republicanism and liberalism are fundamentally different
schools of thought, and the republican challenge is to be welcomed or re-
sisted, depending on one™s position, as an attempt to supplant or replace
liberalism. Whole-hearted liberals thus condemn republicanism as a dan-
ger to individual liberties and free societies, while neo-republicans such as
Michael Sandel and Philip Pettit maintain that republicanism is not only
different from but superior to liberalism.2 According to the other point
of view, the features that liberalism and republicanism share are more
telling than the differences that divide them. From this perspective, the
republican challenge aims not at replacing or defeating liberalism but at
correcting its course. It is in this spirit that Cass Sunstein has welcomed
the revival of interest in republicanism ˜as a response to understand-
ings that treat governmental outcomes as a kind of interest-group deal,
and that downplay the deliberative functions of politics and the social
formation of preferences™.3 The value of republicanism, on this view, is
Richard Dagger

in its contribution to the development of a ˜liberal republicanism™ that
promises to rescue American (and other) politics from the interest-group
pluralism into which it has degenerated.
Like Sunstein and other advocates of ˜republican™ or ˜civic™ liberalism,
I believe that it is historically unsound and politically unwise to insist
on a sharp distinction between liberalism and republicanism.4 Others
disagree, however, and there is much to be learned from their position
even if, ultimately, we should not adopt it. Those who take this more
radical neo-republican view advance two main lines of argument: ¬rst,
that the liberal emphasis on neutrality and procedural fairness is fun-
damentally at odds with the republican commitment to promoting civic
virtue; and, second, that republicans and liberals conceive of liberty or
freedom in incompatible ways. This second line of argument is my par-
ticular concern here, for it raises the question of whether republicans
may attach the same value to autonomy that liberals do. My claim is
that they may, and they must as republicanism and liberalism in the end
are both theories of self-government. Before setting out and support-
ing that claim, though, it is necessary to examine brie¬‚y the ¬rst line of

I Republicanism vs. Liberalism: Civic Virtue
What is republicanism, and how might someone see it as a rival of liberal-
ism? Whole books have been written in the last few years to answer those
questions, but a brief response might focus on the public in ˜republic™.5
Republicanism takes its name from the Latin res publica “ the public thing
or business “ and contemporary republicans are quick to claim that this
stress on the public betokens a signi¬cant difference between themselves
and liberals. Liberals, they say, are preoccupied with liberating the indi-
vidual from restraints on his or her liberty “ a preoccupation that leads
liberals into endless contortions as they strive to distinguish the private
realm from the public and protect it against encroachment. Republi-
cans, in contrast, recognize that individual liberty is secure only in a
self-governing community, which means that individual rights must be
balanced with public responsibilities if the community is to survive and
prosper. Someone who takes these public responsibilities seriously is said
to display civic virtue, or ˜the disposition to further public over private
good in action and deliberation™.6
This concern for civic virtue persists today in various forms, such as the
exhortations to vote that regularly appear, at least in the United States, at
Domination and the Republican Challenge to Liberalism 179

election time. Another form is the suspicion that public of¬cials are prone
to corruption and con¬‚icts of interest “ con¬‚icts that lead them to place
their private interests ahead of the common good. But republicans do not
take these signs of its persistence to mean that civic virtue is ¬‚ourishing.
If it were, there would be little point in exhorting people to vote; virtuous
citizens would need at most a nudge to remind them to do their civic
duty. The challenge today for those of a republican disposition is, as it
usually has been, the challenge of ¬nding ways to cultivate and sustain
civic virtue. This challenge for republicans becomes a challenge to liberals
because republicans believe that liberals, with their emphasis on the value
of privacy, are either doing too little to foster civic virtue or are actively,
if unintentionally, destroying it. In particular, liberals fail to stress the
importance of overcoming corruption and dependence.
Corruption is the great enemy of civic virtue, on the republican view.
In its active form, corruption occurs when people try to advance their
personal interests at the expense of the common good, as when avarice
leads to the looting of the public treasury or ambition to an attempt to
seize power. In its passive form, corruption occurs when people shirk their
civic duties in order to pursue personal pleasures, such as those found in
indolence, luxury, and wealth. For civic virtue to thrive, such corrupting
vices as ambition, avarice, and sloth must be, if not eliminated, at least
In addition to worrying about corruption, republicans worry about de-
pendence. For republicans, the good citizen is a responsible member of
a self-governing polity “ someone who, in Aristotle™s terms, rules and is
ruled in turn.7 People who are almost completely dependent on others
will likely be ruled, but they are surely in no position to rule. The rule
of law is necessary, therefore, as a means of avoiding personal depen-
dence. According to the old formula, ˜a government (or empire) of laws,
not of men™, frees citizens by subjecting them to laws, not to the demands
and whims of unchecked rulers. Republicans have also typically defended
private property as a way of guaranteeing that citizens would not be de-
pendent on others for their livelihood. To some, this has implied that
citizenship must be con¬ned to that minority of men who owned suf¬-
cient property to be independent; to others, such as James Harrington
and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, it has suggested that property should be dis-
tributed so as to prevent anyone from being wealthy enough to dominate
other citizens, thus rendering them dependent. As Rousseau put it, ev-
eryone should have something, but no one should have too much.8 That
is, everyone should have enough property to be able to speak and act
Richard Dagger

independently “ as a citizen. But no one should have so much property
as to be corrupted by luxury or enabled to dominate others.
Liberals, of course, may well respond that they have never advocated
corruption or dependence as proper forms of conduct or ways of life. But
the republican point is that liberalism quite unintentionally promotes cor-
ruption, at least in its passive form, and dependence. Or perhaps I should
say the republican points, as here we can begin to see how republicans
have advanced two distinct lines of criticism against liberalism.
According to the ¬rst line of attack, liberals have promoted corruption
by encouraging people to pursue their private interests at the expense
of their public responsibilities. This criticism has been pressed force-
fully, with special attention to the United States, by Michael Sandel. In
Democracy™s Discontent and other works, Sandel argues that liberals are now
engaged in a self-defeating project because their concern for neutrality
and procedure rules out ˜a formative politics . . . that cultivates in citizens
the qualities of character self-government requires™.9 In their desire to
remain neutral among competing conceptions of the good, liberals have
devised a thin, insubstantial form of politics that aims only to ˜provide a
framework of rights that respects persons as free and independent selves,
capable of choosing their own values and ends™.10 Instead of producing
virtuous citizens who are devoted to the common good, contemporary
liberalism produces people who think of themselves as autonomous in-
dividuals “ that is, individuals who jealously guard their freedom to live
as they choose against the encroaching demands of state and society.
Lacking any common ground other than their agreement to disagree,
these individuals must count on a neutral government to maintain the
procedural safeguards that will allow them to pursue their various, and
even discordant, conceptions of the good life. Such a ˜procedural re-
public™, Sandel charges, cannot sustain the loyalty and sense of solidarity
necessary to its own survival. As he argues:

The procedural republic that has unfolded over the past half-century can now be
seen as an epic experiment in the claims of liberal as against republican political
thought. Our present predicament lends weight to the republican claim that
liberty cannot be detached from self-government and the virtues that sustain it,
that the formative project cannot be dispensed with after all. The procedural
republic, it turns out, cannot secure the liberty it promises because it cannot
inspire the moral and civic engagement self-government requires.11

Is Sandel right?
He is certainly right, in my view, to insist on the need for a ˜formative
project™ that will foster civic virtue; but he is wrong, as I have argued
Domination and the Republican Challenge to Liberalism 181

elsewhere, to oppose liberalism to republicanism as sharply as he does.12
A strong dose of republican concern for inspiring civic virtue would be
a valuable corrective to the tendency of many contemporary liberals to
maintain that the state must be nothing more than an umpire or arbiter
charged with protecting individual rights and insuring fair play. But that is
not to say that we should throw out liberalism, root and branch, to replace
it with republicanism. For a conception of civic virtue to prove compelling
today, it must embrace tolerance, a sense of fair play, and respect for the
rights of others “ all of them virtues associated with liberalism, and none of
them incompatible with republicanism. The challenge, then, is to devise
a republican form of liberalism, or a liberal form of republicanism, that
promises to support the ˜formative politics™ that will inspire a public-
spirited citizenry.
There is, however, a second line of attack that aims at replacing liber-
alism with republicanism, and those who advance it are interested less in
forming people for citizenship than in freeing them from dependence
or domination. According to this criticism, as set out by Philip Pettit,
Quentin Skinner, and Maurizio Viroli, liberalism and republicanism rest
on fundamentally different conceptions of freedom, with the republican
superior to the liberal.13 As in Sandel™s case, I believe that these authors
exaggerate the difference between liberalism and republicanism. Indeed,
Viroli himself holds that liberalism is not an alternative to republicanism
but a form of it, albeit an ˜impoverished or incoherent™ form.14 Never-
theless, the distinction these authors develop contains important insights
about freedom and its place in the republican tradition “ insights, I shall
argue, that ultimately reveal autonomy to be a concern that republicans
and liberals share, not one that divides them.

II Republicanism vs. Liberalism: Freedom
The neo-republican attempt to distinguish between republican and lib-
eral conceptions of freedom has its antecedents in two earlier, much dis-
cussed distinctions. The ¬rst was the subject of Benjamin Constant™s ˜The
Liberty of the Ancients Compared with That of the Moderns™. According
to Constant, the liberty of the ancients consisted in the collective exercise
of law-making power, but that of the moderns consists above all in the
individual™s right to go about his or her business. In Constant™s words:

The aim of the ancients was the sharing of social power among the citizens of the
same fatherland; this is what they called liberty. The aim of the moderns is the
enjoyment of security in private pleasures; and they call liberty the guarantees
afforded by institutions to these pleasures.15
Richard Dagger

Constant does not connect his distinction to liberalism and republican-
ism, but it is easy to see how one might link ancient liberty to republican
thinking and modern liberty to liberal thinking. When Constant goes on
to condemn attempts to revive ancient liberty by insisting that ˜none of
the numerous and too highly praised institutions which in the ancient re-
publics hindered individual liberty is any longer admissible in the modern
times™, moreover, it is easy to conclude that he is rejecting the republican
view of liberty on essentially liberal grounds.16
Easy, perhaps, but wrong. Constant does believe that it is both foolish
and dangerous to try to replace modern liberty with ancient liberty, and he
has no sympathy for those who hope to revive such ancient ˜institutions™
as ostracism and censorship. But he also holds that the moderns are in
danger of turning their backs entirely on ancient liberty. Ancient lib-
erty ˜might attach too little value to individual rights and enjoyments™,
but in words that anticipate de Tocqueville™s apprehensions about
˜individualism™, Constant warns that the ˜danger of modern liberty is
that, absorbed in the enjoyment of our private independence, and in
the pursuit of our particular interests, we should surrender our right to
share in political power too easily™.17 It is necessary, therefore, ˜to learn
to combine the two [forms of liberty] together™.18 Far from renouncing
ancient liberty, in fact, Constant concludes his speech with a paragraph
that weaves together themes now regarded as republican with themes
often considered liberal:

The work of the legislator is not complete when he has simply brought peace
to the people. Even when the people are satis¬ed, there is much left to do.
Institutions must achieve the moral education of the citizens. By respecting their
individual rights, securing their independence, refraining from troubling their
work, they must nevertheless consecrate their in¬‚uence over public affairs, call
them to contribute by their votes to the exercise of power, grant them a right
of control and supervision by expressing their opinions; and, by forming them
through practice for these elevated functions, give them both the desire and the right
to discharge these.19

Whatever else it may do, in sum, Constant™s distinction between ancient
and modern liberty does not reveal the mutual hostility of republican
and liberal liberty. On the contrary, it supports the claim that republican
liberalism is both possible and plausible as a theory of politics.
The second distinction “ that between positive and negative liberty “
does not prove so helpful to the republican-liberal cause, but neither does
it hurt it. This is because the distinction presents two problems for those
who hold that republicanism is hostile to the liberal position on freedom.
Domination and the Republican Challenge to Liberalism 183

The ¬rst is that the distinction itself is troublesome, even in its most
celebrated and in¬‚uential formulation by Isaiah Berlin, who generally
defends the negative conception “ that liberty is the absence of restraint “
against the positive conception of freedom as self-mastery.20 The second
problem is that the positive/negative distinction does not correspond
to or ˜track™ the distinction between republican and liberal conceptions
of liberty. This second problem, furthermore, besets both sides of the
distinction. For those interested in republicanism and liberalism, the
tendency is to take negative liberty as the liberal conception and positive
liberty as the republican. But that makes it dif¬cult to account for T. H.
Green, who was both a champion of positive freedom and a self-described
liberal.21 It is possible, to be sure, that Green was wrong “ wrong to think
that he was a liberal, or wrong to think that a liberal can conceive of liberty
as ˜a positive power or capacity of doing or enjoying something that is
worth doing or enjoying . . . in common with others™.22 But even if Green
were wrong in one or both of these ways, there is still the problem on
the other side of the distinction. That is, negative liberty does not seem
to be the exclusive property of liberals. According to Quentin Skinner,
Machiavelli and other republicans ˜never appeal to a “positive” view of
social freedom™; instead, ˜they work with a purely negative view of liberty
as the absence of impediments to the realization of our chosen ends™.23
Whether we look to the negative or the positive side of the distinction,
then, the answer seems to be the same: republican and liberal conceptions
of freedom simply do not match the negative/positive distinction.
This leaves us with the third and, for our present purposes, most
straightforward distinction: republican versus liberal conceptions of lib-
erty. In this case, the distinction drawing comes primarily from schol-
ars sympathetic to republicanism, notably Philip Pettit and Quentin
Skinner. Both Pettit and Skinner take the fear that personal dependence
deprives people of their independence to be the heart of the republican
idea of freedom, and both conceive of this as a form of negative liberty.
For Skinner, republican, or ˜neo-roman™, liberty is ˜absence of depen-
dence™; for Pettit, ˜the supreme political value™ of the republican tradition
is ˜freedom as non-domination™. Against this republican conception of
liberty they oppose not only positive liberty, understood as self-mastery,
but also the ˜classical liberal™ form of negative liberty as ˜absence of
Freedom as non-interference is the liberal view, Pettit says, because
Thomas Hobbes, Jeremy Bentham, William Paley, and other liberals have
held that any and all interference with our actions deprives us of (some)
Richard Dagger

freedom.25 Pettit argues that this conception is unsatisfactory for two
reasons. First, someone may suffer domination without suffering inter-
ference. If I were in someone™s power, for instance, I might well see the
need to shape my conduct to what I take to be his or her desires “ and I
might do so even if that person never interferes or even thinks of interfer-
ing with my actions. This kind of non-interfering domination happens all
too often, according to Pettit, who provides numerous references to fawn-
ing, toadying, cap-dof¬ng, forelock-tugging, and other forms of servile
deference to demonstrate the evil of domination. The second objection
is that freedom as non-interference ignores the distinction between ar-
bitrary and non-arbitrary interference. It is not interference as such that
is objectionable, but its arbitrariness. A slave who must bow to the will of
the master, and a citizen who must bow to the force of the law, may both
suffer interference; but it is a mistake to say that they both lose freedom
as a result. The master holds arbitrary power over the slave because the
master need not consider the slave™s interests; but the law, at least in the
ideal, must attend to the interests of the citizen even when it interferes
with his or her actions. Because it protects the citizen against arbitrary
power, the law is ˜the non-mastering interferer™ that ensures the citizen™s
Freedom as non-domination thus rests on ˜the frankness of intersub-
jective equality™.27 The law may happen to interfere with my conduct
more than with yours, yet we stand eye to eye and are equally free as citi-
zens. This independence from arbitrary power is so valuable, Pettit says,
that it is a ˜primary good™ in the Rawlsian sense. Whatever else people may
want, they will want to be free from domination because they then will
have the ability to make plans, to speak freely, and simply to be persons;
for ˜everyone “ or at least everyone who has to make their [sic] way in a
pluralistic society “ will want to be treated properly as a person, as a voice
that cannot be generally ignored™.28
For Pettit, then, freedom as non-domination is the good to be secured
and promoted by the neo-republican political institutions and practices
he sketches in the second half of Republicanism; and, as goods go, it is bet-
ter than the ˜liberal™ good of freedom as non-interference. If the choice
must be posed in these terms, in short, I agree with him. Domination is
always a threat to freedom; interference is not. But that is not to say that
interference is no threat to liberty, nor is it to say that the republican and
liberal conceptions of liberty are mutually exclusive and hostile. The key
point is that both domination and interference threaten and limit free-
dom because both are at odds with autonomy. I say this for three reasons.
Domination and the Republican Challenge to Liberalism 185

First, as the traditional republican opposition of dependence to inde-
pendence indicates, the desire to be free from domination is rooted in
the desire to be in some sense self-governing. Why else would we com-
plain about being dominated by or dependent upon another person?
Pettit says that people want to be free from domination so that they may
enjoy ˜the frankness of intersubjective equality™ and be treated as voices
˜that cannot be generally ignored™. To be on an equal footing with those
who would dominate us, however, or ignore our voices, is to be in a posi-
tion to govern our lives, just as they do theirs. That does not mean that a
person can or should even want to be the complete master of his or her
domain. The attempt to achieve that kind of self-mastery is likely to lead
to the self-sti¬‚ing ˜retreat to the inner citadel™ that Berlin rightly deplores
in ˜Two Concepts of Liberty™.29 Instead, being in a position to govern our
lives means, among other things, that we must be able to rely upon the
impersonal force of the rule of law to secure our independence from
the arbitrary power of others. And that implies, in turn, that we must
rely on our fellow citizens, whose general cooperation and compliance
makes the rule of law possible. It is as inter dependent citizens, then, that
we can stand on an equal footing with others in making and following
the laws that protect us from arbitrary power, and in that sense we can be
self-governing. We want to be free from domination, in other words, so
that we can exercise autonomy.
Second, Pettit™s emphasis on non-domination leads to some odd con-
clusions about when a person gains or loses (some degree of ) freedom.
In the postscript to the paperback edition of Republicanism, Pettit de-
clares that ˜the republic does not take away the freedom of citizens when
it legally coerces them, taxes them, or even puts them in prison™.30 If the
republic has rightfully imprisoned a culprit, then it is easy to see how
his or her imprisonment does not in itself constitute domination. But
this simply means that one may lose some freedom while remaining free
from domination. Put in other terms “ terms congenial to republicans and
liberals alike “ Pettit™s point seems to be that people do not lose their au-
tonomy when they are coerced, taxed, or imprisoned in accordance with
laws that somehow issue from them as self-governing citizens. Identifying
freedom with non-domination, however, leads him to hold that people
in these positions do not suffer a loss of freedom “ an embarrassment
easily avoided by those who take autonomy to be the reason for worrying
about both interference and domination.
The third reason to prefer autonomy to ˜freedom as non-domination™
relates to the distinction Pettit draws between ways in which freedom is
Richard Dagger

compromised and ways in which it is conditioned. This distinction allows him
to say ˜that someone is unfree so far as their [sic] freedom is compromised
by domination™ and ˜non-free, though not strictly unfree . . . insofar as their
[sic] freedom is subject to conditioning factors™.31 I may be free from the
domination of arbitrary power, yet various conditioning factors “ physical
handicaps, illness, ignorance, and so on “ may nevertheless limit my free-
dom. This consideration leads Pettit to a priority rule. Republicans must
act to promote non-domination ¬rst by abolishing or reducing arbitrary
power; that done, they must then extend the range of undominated choices
available to people: ˜we ought to try and reduce in¬‚uences that condi-
tion freedom as well as in¬‚uences that compromise it™.32 Again, I believe
Pettit to be right on this point, but it is dif¬cult to see how he is right if
freedom is to be construed simply as non-domination. If that is what free-
dom is, then why should the republican do anything more than secure
people from domination? There are no obviously republican grounds,
that is, for wanting to remove or overcome those conditioning factors
that render people ˜non-free™. We do not face this problem, however,
if we turn from non-domination to autonomy. We can then say that the
conditioning factors limit or inhibit the ability to lead a self-governed life,
which is reason enough to try to remove them. Extending the range of un-
dominated choices is thus desirable for the same reason that eliminating
domination is desirable: namely, both are ways of promoting autonomy.
On conceptual grounds, then, Pettit™s way of distinguishing republican
liberty from liberal liberty is suspect. The same must be said of its histor-
ical warrant. The distinction does underscore a signal feature of repub-
licanism, but it also leads to a caricature of liberalism in which Hobbes,
Bentham, Paley, and today™s libertarians “ all advocates of freedom as
non-interference “ are the principal liberals. In Republicanism, Pettit ap-
peals more than once to Locke™s observation (Second Treatise, §57) that
the laws that hedge us in from bogs and precipices ill deserve the name of
con¬nement, but he has to assign Locke to the commonwealth tradition
to preserve the distinction between republican and liberal freedom.33
Nor does he mention Green, John Dewey, or other liberals who have
not de¬ned freedom as non-interference, although he does admit in the
postscript that John Rawls™s conception of freedom ˜is consistent with lib-
erty requiring non-domination as well as non-interference™.34 He would
have done better to rely on what he says, in the Introduction to Republican-
ism, may be ˜the best available™ taxonomy: ˜populist, republican/liberal,
and libertarian™.35
Domination and the Republican Challenge to Liberalism 187

In subsequent writings, in fact, Pettit retains and elaborates the dis-
tinction between ˜freedom as non-domination™ and ˜freedom as non-
interference™, but he no longer explicitly associates the latter with lib-
eralism. In A Theory of Freedom, he hints at the desirability of ˜a liberal
or inclusive form of republican theory™, and he grounds his theory of
freedom in the idea of discursive control.36 The latter point is signi¬cant
because Pettit™s notion of a ˜discursive subject™ who enjoys ˜discursive
control™ closely resembles the idea of an autonomous person. ˜To en-
joy discursive control™, as he says, ˜is to be proof against being silenced,
or ignored, or refused a hearing, or denied the ¬nal say in one™s own
responses. It is, on the contrary, to be given recognition as a discursive
subject with a voice and an ear of one™s own™.37
These are salutary moves on Pettit™s part. As he now seems to recog-
nize, freedom as non-interference may be the view of freedom that many
liberals hold, but it is hardly the only one available to them as liberals.
There is another conception of freedom, encompassing the idea of non-
domination but resting on the concept of autonomy, that is available to
liberals and republicans alike.
Yet this conclusion, correct as I believe it to be, is too hasty. Pettit may
no longer oppose the republican conception to the liberal conception of
liberty, but his continued insistence on excluding non-interference from
republican liberty stands in the way of an autonomy-based conception
of republican freedom. ˜Freedom just is non-domination™, according to
Pettit.38 This claim puts him at odds with Quentin Skinner, who has his
own reasons for resisting attempts to link republican, or neo-roman, lib-
erty to autonomy. So, too, does Maurizio Viroli, who endorses Pettit™s
conception of ˜freedom as non-domination™ while holding that republi-
canism is incompatible with democratic autonomy. It will be necessary,
then, to attend to the ways in which these neo-republicans have quali¬ed
and elaborated their views on freedom before proceeding to autonomy

III Quali¬cations and Elaborations
IIIa Pettit vs. Skinner
Pettit and Skinner both acknowledge how much each one™s analysis of
freedom owes to insights gained from the other. It is hardly surprising,
then, to ¬nd them agreeing on two fundamental points: ¬rst, that there
is a distinctively republican or, as Skinner prefers, neo-roman conception
Richard Dagger

of liberty; and second, that this conception is superior to its two rivals,
freedom as self-mastery and freedom as non-interference. Nevertheless,
there are three points of disagreement that separate them.
The ¬rst may be no more than an insigni¬cant difference in terminol-
ogy. Where Pettit takes republican liberty to be freedom from domination,
Skinner de¬nes it as freedom from dependence. Neither of them makes an
issue of this difference, so far as I am aware, so I shall set it aside here.
The second point of disagreement arises with regard to Berlin™s way
of distinguishing negative from positive liberty. Skinner and Pettit agree
that Berlin™s two concepts are not enough, but they disagree on how to
classify the republican conception. On Skinner™s account, there is one
concept of positive liberty, understood as self-mastery, but there are two
competing concepts of negative liberty: the idea that ˜negative liberty
must be construed as absence of interference . . .™ and ˜the rival theory
that negative liberty consists of absence of dependence™.39 On Pettit™s
account, however, the republican conception of liberty

is akin to the negative one in maintaining that what liberty requires is the absence
of something, not necessarily the presence. It is akin to the positive conception,
however, in holding that that which must be absent has to do with mastery rather
than with interference. Freedom consists, not in the presence of self-mastery, and
not in the absence of interference by others, but rather in the absence of mastery
by others: in the absence, as I prefer to put it, of domination.40

Whether this is a signi¬cant difference is again not clear. Pettit does not
refer to Skinner in this context, so there is no reason to think that he is
trying to separate their positions here. And I suspect that Skinner would
simply point out that Pettit™s ˜absence of mastery™ is every bit as negative
as his own ˜absence of dependence™, with freedom in both cases de¬ned
as the absence of something.
There is no question, though, that the third point of disagreement
is signi¬cant. Indeed, Pettit has recently defended his ˜simple™ position
against objections that Skinner presents in Liberty Before Liberalism. Accord-
ing to Pettit, the difference between them is clear: ˜I hold that for republi-
cans freedom means nondomination, period, whereas [Skinner] says that
it means nondomination and noninterference™.41 The question, then, is
why do they disagree on this point, and who has the better position?
Skinner holds that Pettit™s simple identi¬cation of freedom with non-
domination is mistaken because it leads to the unacceptably paradoxical
situations I have already discussed “ situations in which someone™s appar-
ent loss of freedom cannot count as real because the interference was
Domination and the Republican Challenge to Liberalism 189

not the result of mastery or domination but of lawful procedures. Ac-
cording to Skinner, ˜The [neo-roman] writers I am discussing never deal
in such paradoxes. For them the difference between the rule of law and
government by personal prerogative is not that the former leaves you in
full possession of your liberty while the latter does not; it is rather that the
former only coerces you while the latter additionally leaves you in a state
of dependence™.42 Thus the person who is jailed or otherwise coerced
in accordance with the laws of a genuine republic suffers a real loss of
freedom “ freedom from interference or restraint “ even if it is not as
grievous or objectionable a deprivation as it would be if some arbitrary,
unaccountable power were doing the jailing or coercing.
For Pettit, as we have seen, the person in question suffers no loss of
freedom because there is a difference between having one™s freedom com-
promised, which makes one unfree, and having it conditioned, which makes
one non-free. Pettit rehearses this argument from Republicanism in his re-
sponse to Skinner, stating that ˜while the tax levy or even the term of im-
prisonment might not take away a person™s freedom in an ideal world “
they might not have the effect of a dominating agency “ still they would
leave the person nonfree: “while they do not compromise someone™s free-
dom as non-domination they do allow us to say that the person is not free
to spend or to travel as they [sic] wish”™.43
This argument, however, does not dispel the air of paradox that quite
properly worries Skinner. How can it when Pettit tells us, in one sentence
(emphasis added), that non-dominating interference ˜might not take
away a person™s freedom™, yet ˜it would leave the person nonfree™, and thus
˜allow us to say that the person is not free to spend or travel™ as he or she
wishes? If enforcement of a non-dominating law deprives me of (some
of) my freedom to spend or travel, and thus makes me non-free in these
respects, then the enforcement of the law must take away my freedom “
or at least some of it.
Pettit™s argument here strikes me as insightful but unsuccessful in two
ways. First, the distinction between forces that render us unfree by compro-
mising our freedom and those that render us non-free by merely condition-
ing it does re¬‚ect common reactions to different kinds of experiences. In
Pettit™s example, the victim of a crime and the victim of an accident may
both suffer an equal reduction in their range of choice, but we would
hardly say that the evil they suffer is equivalent:

The evil of reduced choice is certainly important, but it is distinct from the evil
involved in the assumption and exercise of domination by the criminal; it is this
Richard Dagger

evil that explains why, intuitively, it is worse to have one™s choices reduced by
crime than by an unintended, perhaps purely natural, accident.44

We may grant Pettit this point, however, without granting that his
unfree/non-free distinction captures the difference in question. We
could even say that it is not freedom but wrongdoing that is at issue in
these cases. It is worse, that is, to have one™s choices reduced by crime
than by accident not because the criminal™s victim is made ˜unfree™ but
because he suffers a greater wrong, ceteris paribus, than the victim of an
accident. The unfree/non-free distinction thus seems to be Pettit™s ad
hoc way of trying to tie this point to considerations of freedom.
To be sure, Pettit might respond by saying that the wrong suffered
by the crime victim is directly and inextricably connected to freedom as
non-domination. He might invoke ˜discursive control™ or ˜the frankness
of intersubjective equality™, pointing out that the criminal or dominating
power wrongs the victim by treating him or her as less than an equal, or as
someone other than ˜a discursive subject with a voice and an ear of one™s
own™.45 To take this line, however, is to say that people ought or perhaps
have a right to be treated as free persons capable of leading their own lives.
This is to build freedom from non-domination into the idea of being a
person, so that the wrong the dominated person suffers is the wrong of
not being respected as someone with a right to live, think, and speak for
himself. In short, it is an implicit appeal to autonomy that is doing the
work here, not the distinction between unfreedom and non-freedom.
Something similar happens with regard to the second way in which
Pettit™s argument is insightful but unsuccessful. In seeking to avoid the
paradoxical situations that trouble Skinner, Pettit trades on the sense in
which freedom is a threshold concept. That is, someone who has all the
freedom it is possible to have is a free person; someone who completely
lacks freedom, whether from domination or interference, is not; and
between these poles is some vague, imprecise, and perhaps shifting point
or range of points that forms a threshold of freedom. If I am above that
threshold, I am a free person, no matter that I am not completely free,
or free in all respects. I can be more or less free above the threshold, and
more or less free below it, but if I am above it, I am free enough to count
as a free person, all things considered. It is this threshold that enables us
to make sense of Pettit™s claim that the (non-arbitrary, non-dominating)
tax levy both does and does not take away the tax-payer™s freedom “ in
his terms, makes her non-free but not unfree. The tax payer is not as
free to spend as she would be in the absence of the tax, but her loss of
Domination and the Republican Challenge to Liberalism 191

freedom is not great enough to make her an unfree person. If she goes
to prison for tax evasion, it will be more dif¬cult to make the case that
she has not crossed the threshold that renders her an unfree person,
but I will concede this point to Pettit for our present purposes. What
should be noted, though, is that we could make the same point in the
preceding two sentences if we were to substitute ˜non-free™ for ˜unfree™.
Someone who loses some degree of freedom, but not enough to drop
below the threshold, remains a free person “ that is, someone who is
neither unfree nor non-free, all things considered. This tells us that it is
the threshold that counts, not Pettit™s distinction between compromising
and conditioning factors that make us unfree and non-free, respectively.
Pettit™s argument is insightful but ultimately unsuccessful, in sum, be-
cause he can dispel the paradox from the situations that worry Skinner
only by trading implicitly on considerations that take him beyond his
˜simple™ conception of republican freedom as ˜non-domination, period™.
Indeed, Skinner could trade as effectively on these considerations as Pettit
does. On the one hand, he could hold that someone who suffers interfer-
ence but not domination loses (some) freedom while remaining a free
person; on the other, he could hold that someone who suffers domina-
tion does not become ipso facto an unfree person. Like interference or
restraint, domination comes in various forms and degrees, some of which
will be suf¬cient to push one below the threshold of freedom and some
of which will not. Skinner could trade on these considerations, moreover,
without abandoning his claim that republican or neo-roman liberty in-
volves the absence of domination (or dependence) and the absence of
Nevertheless, Pettit has two more arguments against Skinner™s posi-
tion. Both of these follow from Pettit™s belief that Skinner™s neo-roman
liberty places non-domination and non-interference on an equal basis.
Hence Pettit argues, ¬rst, that domination alone ought to be considered
the antonym of freedom, and, second, that Skinner™s conception of lib-
erty is unstable. Pettit is right, I think, to stress that non-domination is
the distinctive aspect of republican freedom; and if ˜freedom™ must have
a republican antonym, then I would only enter the quibble that there is
something to be said for ˜dependence™ too. Otherwise, I readily accept
the following claim:

What is bad about domination, and makes it a natural antonym of freedom,
shows up in the three features of enforcing a restriction of choice, occasioning
a distinctive uncertainty [because the dominated person is never sure of where
Richard Dagger

he stands or what to expect,] and introducing an asymmetry of status [between
dominator and dominated]. What is bad about interference-minus-domination
is merely that it restricts choice.46

In accepting this claim, though, I note that one may still hold to the
view that ˜interference-minus-domination™ remains a part of republican
liberty. After all, there is a difference between saying that non-domination
is the distinctively republican feature of republican liberty and saying that
it is the whole of it.
Pettit™s ¬nal argument concerns the purported instability of Skinner™s
conception. Here, Pettit identi¬es three possibilities: freedom as non-
domination, freedom as non-domination and non-interference, and free-
dom as non-limitation (where limitation ˜may come of natural inability
or handicap or poverty or from the lack of resources available as the
unintended result of the action or inaction of others™47 ). The middle
view “ Skinner™s “ is in danger of sliding into the third, Pettit says, be-
cause it cannot identify an evil that is common to domination and in-
terference but not to non-intentional limitation.48 If interference is on
an equal footing with domination because both restrict people™s choices,
then non-intentional limitations may be on an equal footing with them
too. We must therefore reject the second position in favour of simple
freedom as non-domination, with its three features, if we are to avoid the
slide down the slippery slope to freedom as non-limitation.
There are two problems with this argument. The ¬rst is that Pettit does
not explain why it would be so dreadful to adopt or slide into the con-
ception of freedom that counts non-intentional limitations as every bit
as inimical to one™s freedom as domination or interference. Presumably
to do so would be to open the door to considerations that republicans
should not want to count as compromising one™s freedom; but to say
that is simply to reaf¬rm Pettit™s conviction that republican liberty is free-
dom from domination. Even if we grant this point, moreover, the second
problem remains “ namely, that Pettit™s conception of republican liberty
may be as likely to slide into non-limitation as Skinner™s. Pettit acknowl-
edges that domination shares one of its three features, the restriction of
choice, with both interference and limitation; but it seems that domina-
tion also shares the other two features “ ˜a distinctive uncertainty™ and ˜an
asymmetry of status™ “ with limitation. In fact, people limited by ˜natural
inability or handicap or poverty or . . . the lack of resources available as
the unintended result of the action or inaction of others™ are quite likely
to feel a distinctive uncertainty as to how to conduct themselves; they
Domination and the Republican Challenge to Liberalism 193

are also likely to perceive an asymmetry of status in their relations with
others. It is also true that some people see domination in what others
regard as mere limitation. For example, the poverty that seems to some
to be the unfortunate result of natural factors and innocent actions may
appear to Marxists to be a consequence of capitalist domination. As this
and many other possible examples illustrate, the slope leading to free-
dom as non-limitation seems as slippery for non-domination as it is for
My conclusion, then, is that Skinner™s conception of republican lib-
erty is superior to Pettit™s. Like Pettit™s, Skinner™s conception contains
the distinctive feature that makes it republican: the emphasis on freedom
as non-domination or independence. But Skinner™s also allows that in-
terference may sometimes ˜compromise™ freedom “ indeed, that it may
sometimes compromise freedom more severely than domination does.
Such would be the case, I think, for the person who is wrongly convicted
of a serious crime and imprisoned for many years, or perhaps even exe-
cuted, even though his arrest, trial, and conviction proceeded fairly and
in accordance with the republican ideal of the rule of law. Such a person
would not be dominated, in Pettit™s sense, but he would be less free by
far than someone who must occasionally bow and scrape to the boss in
order to keep his job.


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