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 assistant professor of government and social studies 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
"Are citizens in a democracy complicit in the injustices perpetrated by a state that acts in their name? Yes they are, argues Eric Beerbohm. In Our Name is a major statement in democratic theory that develops a novel approach to the relationship between citizen and representative. This book will reorient our understanding of the nature of representation in a democracy and appeal to philosophers, political theorists, and social scientists alike."--Rob Reich, Stanford University
"In Our Name explores the moral and epistemic predicament of the democratic citizen, analyzing the ethics of participation, belief, and delegation that condition the responsibilities of citizens and their political representatives. Drawing on a distinctive theory of action, this account of complicity powerfully challenges the understanding of our duties as citizens."--Melissa Lane, author of Eco-Republic
"This book sets forth a highly innovative way of thinking about the meaning of democracy. Resisting the familiar claim that individuals have little or no causal impact on democratic laws or policies, Beerbohm makes the case for a compelling new vision of self-government. Emphasizing the centrality of individual responsibility in collective decision making, Beerbohm opens a path that other scholars working in democratic theory will have to walk through in the future."--Corey Brettschneider, Brown University
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