Amy Gutmann
Stanford Humanities Center



It is easy to forget that American colleges and universities derive their greatness not by echoing the conventional views of society, carrying the partisan banner of governments, or giving aid and comfort to purveyors of prejudices.  Rather, they do so by protecting the freedom of professors and students to read widely and explore topics in all their complexity, to think critically and debate issues where there are grounds for reasonable disagreement, and to imagine and express new ideas and new worlds without fear of reprisal or retribution.... By demonstrating our steadfast commitment to protecting the freedom of faculty members and students to engage in vigorous discourse across the political spectrum without government interference, we can prevent the threat of a chill from becoming a devastating frost. 

(“Academic Freedom or Government Intrusion,”
Chronicle of Higher Education
, v.52, no.3, September 9, 2005, page B13)


Democratic Education, book cover

At the level of higher education, the primacy of political education points away from a singular conception of the university — as an ivory tower, a multiversity, or a community of learning — toward a moral pluralistic conception, which accommodates the associational freedoms of a wide variety of universities, all of which uphold academic freedom.  Universities serve democracy both as sanctuaries of nonrepression and as associational communities.  They also serve as gatekeepers of valuable social offices, and as such they should give priority to the democratic principle of nondiscrimination over efficiency in their admissions procedures. 

(Democratic Education, p.288)

Political education prepares citizens to participate in consciously reproducing their society, and conscious social reproduction is the ideal not only of democratic education but also of democratic politics.

(Democratic Education, p.287)


Color Conscious, book cover

The controversy over preferential hiring also cannot be dismissed, as it is by the most vehement critics, by saying that preferential hiring violates the right of the most meritorious to the jobs that they merit.  Even in an ideal society without a history of racial, gender, or class discrimination, preferential hiring would not violate anyone’s right to a particular job.  This is because the principle of nondiscrimination, which is commonly accepted by critics and advocates of preferential hiring alike, grants no one a right to a particular job. It grants all of us a right to equal consideration for those jobs for which we are basically qualified.  In an ideal society, it would be unjust to pass over individuals for jobs on the basis of something other than their inadequate qualifications (or unavoidable bad luck). 

(Color Conscious, p.124)


I can only summarize here what many excellent empirical studies of this society confirm.  Ongoing racial discrimination beginning early in the life of most black Americans compounded by grossly unequal and often inadequate income, wealth, educational opportunity, health care, housing, parental and peer support — all of which are plausibly attributable (in some significant part) to a history of racial injustice — combine to deny many black Americans a fair chance to compete for a wide range of highly valued job opportunities in our society.  This observation by itself does not justify — or even recommend — preferential treatment for blacks, but it should lead us to criticize any color blind perspective that collapses the fundamental principle of fairness into a commitment to color blindness.  In so doing, a color blind perspective fails to leave room for according moral relevance to the fact that we do not yet live in a land of fair equality of opportunity for all American citizens — let alone in a world of fair equality of opportunity for all persons, regardless of their nationality.

(Color Conscious, p.125)


Why Deliberative Democracy?  book cover

To begin to show why deliberative democracy is different from other theories, and how it can more readily accommodate moral conflict, we need to distinguish between first- and second-order theories of democracy.  First-order theories seek to resolve moral disagreement by rejecting alternative theories or principles with which they conflict.  They measure their success by whether they resolve the conflict consistently on their own terms.... Second-order theories deal with moral disagreement by accommodating first-order theories that conflict with one another.  They measure their success by the extent to which they can justify both their proposed resolutions and the moral disagreements that remain, to all who must live with them.  They are called second-order because they are about other theories, in the sense that they refer to first-order principles without affirming or denying their ultimate validity.  They can be held consistently without rejecting any of a wide range of moral principles expressed by first-order theorists. 

(Why Deliberative Democracy?,  p.126)


Deliberative democracy is also a second-order theory, and therefore (like some procedural theories) makes room for continuing moral conflict that first-order theories seek to eliminate.  But it avoids the difficulties of procedural theories by explicitly acknowledging the substantive conflicts underlying procedural theories, and by explicitly affirming substantive principles in its own theory.  A full theory of deliberative democracy includes both substantive and procedural principles, denies that either is morally neutral, and judges both from a second-order perspective. 

(Why Deliberative Democracy?, p.127)


Selections by Chuck Eckman

©2006 Stanford University Libraries


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