When a government in a democracy acts in our name, are we, as citizens, responsible for those acts? What if the government commits a moral crime? The protestor's slogan--"Not in our name!"--testifies to the need to separate ourselves from the wrongs of our leaders. Yet the idea that individual citizens might bear a special responsibility for political wrongdoing is deeply puzzling for ordinary morality and leading theories of democracy. In Our Name explains how citizens may be morally exposed to the failures of their representatives and state institutions, and how complicity is the professional hazard of democratic citizenship. Confronting the ethical challenges that citizens are faced with in a self-governing democracy, Eric Beerbohm proposes institutional remedies for dealing with them.
Beerbohm questions prevailing theories of democracy for failing to account for our dual position as both citizens and subjects. Showing that the obligation to participate in the democratic process is even greater when we risk serving as accomplices to wrongdoing, Beerbohm argues for a distinctive division of labor between citizens and their representatives that charges lawmakers with the responsibility of incorporating their constituents' moral principles into their reasoning about policy. Grappling with the practical issues of democratic decision making, In Our Name engages with political science, law, and psychology to envision mechanisms for citizens seeking to avoid democratic complicity.
Eric Beerbohm is professor of government and director of graduate fellowships for the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.
"Beerbohm addresses crucially important questions with philosophical insight and some imagination: When are people in a democratic system complicit in and responsible for unjust government actions and structures? What is required of citizens under unjust circumstances?"--Choice
"Beerbohm's research and range are impressive; he is precise in definition and argumentation: he tests his proposed principles against a staggering variety of hypothetical situations (and the occasional real one): and he is fearless in suggesting that our current political practices may defy justification. . . . Although other books have sought to treat the theme of citizen complicity in public wrongdoing, none approaches this one in its care, seriousness, and sophistication."--Andrew Sabl, Perspectives on Politics
"[T]he book provides us with a breathtakingly expansive, and ultimately compelling, account of citizens' duties within representative government. In Our Name is a distinctive and important contribution to democratic theory."--Melissa Schwartzberg, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"Beerbohm's contribution can be considered obligatory reading for political philosophers who occupy themselves with questions related to the moral implication of citizens in policy writing and execution by their elected officials and with democratic agency in general."--Jos Leys, Ethical Perspectives
"Combining wide learning with a tenacious and undogmatic focus on the problems of democratic citizenship, Beerbohm has written a book that identifies fresh solutions to some important problems and should become a key reference point for democratic theorists."--Matthew Festenstein, Political Studies Review
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1- How to Value Democracy 25
Chapter 2- Paper Stones: The Ethics of Participation 51
Chapter 3- Philosophers-Citizens 82
Chapter 4- Superdeliberators 105
Chapter 5- What Is It Like to Be a Citizen? 125
Chapter 6- Democracy's Ethics of Belief 142
Chapter 7- The Division of Democratic Labor 166
Chapter 8- Representing Principles 193
Chapter 9- Democratic Complicity 226
Chapter 10- Not in My Name: Macrodemocratic Design 252