Cover image for Illusion of Consent: Engaging with Carole Pateman Edited by Daniel I. O’Neill, Mary Lyndon Shanley, and Iris Marion Young

Illusion of Consent

Engaging with Carole Pateman

Edited by Daniel I. O’Neill, Mary Lyndon Shanley, and Iris Marion Young


$61.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-03351-8

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264 pages
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Illusion of Consent

Engaging with Carole Pateman

Edited by Daniel I. O’Neill, Mary Lyndon Shanley, and Iris Marion Young

“An impressive collection of essays from many of the leading social and political theorists writing today. The essays develop important new arguments and compose a fitting tribute to Carole Pateman, whose work has had such a major impact, and who offers here a fine afterword.”


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For nearly four decades, the writings of Carole Pateman have been regarded as major contributions to debates within political philosophy and feminist theory. She is the recipient of the 2012 Johan Skytte Prize in political science for “in a thought-provoking way challenging established ideas about participation, sex and equality.” By critiquing conventional notions of consent at the heart of much modern political thought—hence the title for this volume—Pateman has been a central voice in discussions of such important topics as political participation and democracy, contract theory and sexual equality, liberalism and the problem of political obligation, and most recently social citizenship, welfare, and basic income. These essays, all prepared especially for this volume, deal with issues that have been central to Pateman’s work. The authors critically engage with her work while making their own original contributions and advancing ongoing debates.
“An impressive collection of essays from many of the leading social and political theorists writing today. The essays develop important new arguments and compose a fitting tribute to Carole Pateman, whose work has had such a major impact, and who offers here a fine afterword.”
“It is difficult to imagine the terrain of recent work in democratic theory without the contributions of Carole Pateman. In this volume some of our most important contemporary theorists take up Pateman’s critique of the politics of consent. The conversation that unfolds illuminates and refines not only Pateman’s own work but more general concerns about the relationship between power and meaningful consent. An outstanding collection of essays.”
“These essays celebrate, challenge, and apply the significant contributions of Carole Pateman to the field of political theory.”
“These papers make a welcome contribution to the explication, expansion, and interpretation of Pateman’s views. The authors really do engage with Pateman’s philosophy; they don’t simply free-associate with key words in her writing. The essays genuinely honor her contributions to political theory and the defense of a practical political agenda.”

Daniel I. O'Neill is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida and the author of The Burke-Wollstonecraft Debate: Savagery, Civilization, and Democracy (Penn State, 2007).

Mary Lyndon Shanley is Professor of Political Science at Vassar College and co-editor (with Carole Pateman) of Feminist Interpretations and Political Theory (Penn State, 1991) and (with Uma Narayan) Reconstructing Political Theory (Penn State, 1997).

Iris Marion Young was, until her untimely death in 2006, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.




Daniel I. O’Neill, Mary Lyndon Shanley, and Iris Marion Young

Part I. Liberalism and Contract

1. Carole Pateman: Radical Liberal?

Jane Mansbridge

2. Paradoxes of Liberal Politics: Contracts, Rights, and Consent

Moira Gatens

3. The Domination Contract

Charles W. Mills

4. Human Rights and the Epistemology of Social Contract Theory

Brooke A. Ackerly

Part II. Autonomy and Consent

5. Free to Decide for Oneself

Anne Phillips

6. Women’s Work: Its Irreplaceability and Exploitabilty

Robert E. Goodin

7. A Democratic Defense of Universal Basic Income

Michael Goodhart

III. Democracy, Political Participation, and Welfare

8. Participation Revisited: Carole Pateman vs. Joseph Schumpeter

Alan Ryan

9. Participation, Deliberation, and We-thinking

Philip Pettit

10. Deliberative Democracy, Subordination, and the Welfare State

John Medearis


Carole Pateman

List of Contributors



Daniel I. O’Neill, Mary Lyndon Shanley, and Iris Marion Young

Few scholars have had as great an impact on contemporary political theory as has Carole Pateman. She has written centrally important works about democracy; liberalism and political obligation; feminism and contract theory; and the social, legal, and economic prerequisites for citizenship. Most writers would consider themselves fortunate if they could make a significant contribution to theory on just one of these topics. Carole Pateman has profoundly influenced thinking about all of them.

The title of this book, Illusion of Consent, evokes an argument that runs through much of Pateman’s work. Pateman has consistently interrogated the central role of consent in her writings, both with respect to classical “social contract” theory and “liberal democracy,” and contracts such as employment and marriage contracts. And she has just as consistently warned us against assuming that the “consent” allegedly justifying these myriad contractual arrangements actually guarantees the freedom and equality of those who make them. On the contrary, she argues, some acts of “consent” may actually impede the realization of both these ideals.

Our subtitle, Engaging with Carole Pateman, signals that while these diverse essays take up the challenge posed for contemporary political theory by Pateman’s fundamental argumentative claim about the illusory nature of consent, none constitutes a simple commentary on her work. Rather, each author’s essay is informed by different themes that animate Pateman’s arguments, and each makes its own distinctive contribution to the ongoing discussions she has helped to spur. Those conversations deal with the evaluation of liberalism and theories of an original contract; the meaning of such notions as autonomy, consent, sexual equality, and difference; and the defense of democracy and political participation, basic income, and welfare. In this brief introduction we outline the scope and fundamental commitments of Pateman’s work, identify the themes of these essays, and review some debates and questions they generate, questions that remain at the core of contemporary political theory. There is no “last word” on these topics. While Pateman herself responds to the essays in an afterword, the book will undoubtedly provoke further inquiry about the nature of the problems that are at the heart of Pateman’s sterling body of work.

The Scope of Pateman’s Work

Pateman’s engagement with issues of consent and contract appears in her earliest writings. Her first book, Participation and Democratic Theory (1970), develops a participatory theory of democracy inspired by the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Stuart Mill, and G. D. H. Cole. Having observed the odd disjuncture between the increasing demands for political participation in the late 1960s and a contemporary theory of democracy that regarded widespread participation as a source of danger and instability, Pateman challenges the conceptual foundations and empirical evidence supporting the contemporary theory. She contrasts the myth of a “classical” theory of democracy found in the writings of Schumpeter, Dahl, and others with a carefully reconstructed account of the link between participation and political efficacy, and she marshals evidence to support this account. The prevailing view of the time extrapolated from sociological evidence of apathy and feelings of low political efficacy to generate a theory of democracy that discouraged participation and focused on elite competition as a means of preserving stability. In contrast to this view, Pateman shows that participation in industrial democracy, her primary empirical example, amounts to a democratic education for workers that increases their sense of political effectiveness. She makes her case by using the very sociological evidence mishandled by the contemporary theorists of elite democracy. Pateman’s emphasis on the beneficial effects of participation, at the levels of both individual psychology and system stability, made a persuasive case for a renewed theoretical interest in participatory democracy and helped to produce a renaissance of democratic theory in the 1970s.

This renewal of democratic theory then led Pateman to evaluate the theoretical underpinnings of what is often simply and uncritically referred to as “liberal democracy.” In The Problem of Political Obligation: A Critique of Liberal Theory ([1979] 1985), Pateman questions the easy assumption that liberalism and democracy fit neatly together. Liberal theory, especially in its influential contractual variant, rests on the idea that political obligations derive from voluntary acts made by free and equal individuals. However, liberal institutions belie the radical implications of this idea—that self-assumed obligations are the only legitimate source of political commitments—precisely because they do not encourage the kind of participation that would signal real consent. Consequently, in liberal theory an autonomous basis for political obligation rooted in true consent evaporates, leaving behind the reality of mere obedience to elite political representatives, employers, and others. Pateman contends that this problem is wholly insoluble in the absence of thoroughgoing democratization of liberal political and economic institutions.

Given her commitments to and theorizing about participation, self-development, and antisubordination, it is easy to understand why Pateman turned her attention to issues of sexual subordination and the problematic arguments surrounding women’s inclusion (and exclusion) from the polity. In a collection of essays, The Disorder of Women (1989), she made groundbreaking contributions to feminist theory. For example, in “Women and Consent” (first published in 1980), Pateman argues that both theory and practice in modern liberal societies have constructed women as men’s natural subordinates and hence as incapable of the sort of consent that would give them the status of full citizens. Consider, as one example, the gulf between theory and practice in rape law. The legal difference between intercourse and the crime of rape turns on whether the woman did or did not consent. In practice, however, judges and juries routinely assume that women consent to intercourse in most situations. The requirement that a woman’s testimony be corroborated by evidence of physical violence renders the distinction between consent and refusal irrelevant. As Pateman shows, however, the problem of consent encapsulated in rape law also inheres in a wide range of issues beyond this specific example. Many citizens—men as well as women—are presumed to consent to actions of government but lack the freedom and equality that are the preconditions for true consent. Many liberal theorists link “consent,” “freedom,” and “equality” but ignore the impossibility of consent under relationships of domination, subordination, and inequality. Pateman’s examination of rape law therefore calls not only for the reconstruction of our sexual lives, but also for a new understanding of the conditions necessary for democratic equality and nonsubordination writ large.

Other essays in The Disorder of Women raised another theme that weaves its way through Pateman’s work, that is, the issue of women’s embodiment and what difference (if any) it should make for political theorizing. In a particularly influential piece, “The Patriarchal Welfare State,” Pateman mapped the theoretical contours posed by the issue of bodily difference through the articulation of a highly influential concept she termed “Wollstonecraft’s Dilemma.” On one horn of the dilemma, women can choose to become like men (for example, by entering the paid labor force) in order to be eligible for benefits like welfare. Equal citizenship in the polity thus seems to require sameness. However, similarity inevitably confronts the fact of differential sexual embodiment, particularly pregnancy and lactation. Similar treatment therefore may not secure for women the supports they need when they become mothers, and is therefore a strategy that can only be pressed so far. On the other horn of the dilemma, women can choose to stress their specific capacities, needs, talents, and concerns as women in a way that makes their citizenship different from men’s. The problem, however, is that this focus on difference has historically meant women’s relegation to second-class citizenship in a liberal world where equality is only understood as synonymous with similarity.

Pateman’s landmark feminist book, The Sexual Contract (1988), represents a broadening and deepening of the concerns with obligation, consent, participatory democracy, and gender evident in her earlier work. That work had begun to push against the confines of contract theory itself, because Pateman recognized the legacy of problems left by classic contract theorists concerning women’s specific incorporation into and obligations within civil society. Her understanding of feminism as a unique mode of critique not linked either to liberal or to socialist frameworks enabled Pateman to provide a particularly challenging reading of some of the classic texts, and to raise fundamental questions about the whole enterprise of what she believes is mistakenly referred to simply as “social contract” theorizing, one of the dominant modes of legitimating political power in the modern tradition of Western political thought.

In The Sexual Contract, Pateman argues that for Hobbes, Locke, and others the original contract generates civil society and is both the modern means of ensuring rule by men as a fraternal brotherhood of equals, and of subordinating women. As such, it requires paradoxical assumptions about women’s capacity for consent. On the one hand, women are considered lacking in the individual attributes required to consent and therefore denied any part in making the original contract. On the other hand, women are not only deemed capable of consent, they are each presumed to give it to an individual man, a husband, via the sexual contract.

As a dimension of the original contract, the sexual contract does not leave women behind in the state of nature. Instead, it enables them to be incorporated into the brave new world of freedom and equality in a distinctly subordinate fashion via the marriage contract. What many regard today as the foundational texts of liberal theory therefore deny women any place in the public political sphere created by consent, yet simultaneously depict women as saying “yes” all the time in private, and in so doing agreeing to their inferior status in both spheres. The result, as Pateman convincingly demonstrates, is women’s second-class status in both public and private institutions. This intellectual breakthrough paved the way for Pateman to engage in an extraordinary reevaluation of a number of contemporary contractual relationships that still rest, as they did for John Locke, on the peculiar myth of an alienable “property in the person.”

Pateman defines contracts based on “property in the person” as those that give one individual control over another’s use of his or her own body, and which therefore inevitably culminate in civil subordination, whether such contracts are “freely consented to” or not. Examples include patriarchal marriage, employment contracts, prostitution, surrogate motherhood, and perhaps a whole new range of contracts pursuant to markets in human organs and genetic materials.

Pateman’s critique of contracts resting on what she regards as the pernicious fiction of alienable property in the person puts her argument directly at odds with those she calls “contractarians,” more commonly known as libertarians, for whom contract is the paradigmatic mark of freedom. The distance between the two sides can be seen in the difference between Robert Nozick’s argument that a morally and politically just society would allow for voluntary slave contracts, and Pateman’s belief that “voluntary” slavery, like other forms of slavery, is wholly unacceptable. Moreover, Pateman’s understanding of the structural constraints on real autonomy and meaningful consent under conditions of massive social, economic, and gender inequality enables her to trouble the concepts of autonomy and consent in ways that libertarians like Nozick deny, ignore, or dismiss.

Against this backdrop, it is theoretically consistent that much of Pateman’s most recent work concerns contemporary issues of citizens’ rights, particularly the question of a guaranteed basic income. Her interest in a basic income continues her insistence that a just society must work to eliminate social institutions and practices that produce relationships of domination and oppression. Basic income, an unconditional social transfer that assures all citizens a subsistence income, is a way to counter the subordination that stems from the capitalist organization of production and the differential access to political power generated by economic inequality. In Pateman’s view basic income is a core entitlement of citizenship, because the democratic commitment to making some form of political participation available to all requires it. Conceptions of social justice falter if they do not consider how redistributive schemes affect political participation. Pateman’s justification for basic income therefore depends on the opportunities it creates for people to exercise their autonomy, give meaningful consent, and engage in participatory democratic activities.

Themes of these Essays

Liberalism and Contract

Several of the essays in this volume engage with Pateman’s trenchant and controversial claims about the nature of liberalism and theories of an original contract. Like modern liberals, Pateman endorses the values of individual autonomy, self-assumed obligation, political equality, and inalienable rights. However, some versions of liberal theory assume that hierarchies in “nonpolitical” spheres, such as the family and workplace, are compatible with political equality; advocate relinquishing the business of self-government to representatives; and defend the alienability of “property in the person.” When it allows or espouses such positions, liberalism is, in Pateman’s view, either incoherent, hypocritical, or a rationalization of modern forms of domination and subordination, a disease whose antidote is the democratization of public and private life.

But is Pateman’s hostility to liberalism inevitable? In her contribution to this volume, Jane Mansbridge takes up this question directly and asks if the wedge between liberalism and democracy is as thick as Pateman seems to suggest. Citing the ideas of Arnold Kaufman, Mansbridge raises the question of whether Pateman’s philosophical orientation might not be thought of instead as “radical liberalism.” After all, Pateman does in fact endorse some ideals associated with liberalism, such as autonomy, political equality, and individual rights. If this is the case, might it be reasonable to interpret her positions as claiming that the insights of liberalism should be deepened and extended in order to make them logically consistent—hence “radical” liberalism?

While Mansbridge raises this question, however, she ultimately argues that taking such an interpretive tack misses the distinctive core of Pateman’s political theorizing. To the extent that liberalism asserts that one of the most important political principles is that individuals should be left alone to act on their preferences, whatever they are, Pateman could never be a liberal even in the most ideal circumstances. The liberal focus on choice turns political reflection away from the more important question; that is, what are the structural background conditions of people’s choices, and do they enable the exploitation of some people by others? Democratic values that require individuals to see their own good as connected to the good of the entire community are incompatible with such subordination. In Pateman’s thought, the egalitarian and other-regarding values of democracy that reject the social relations of subordination and domination, even when the subordination is the result of apparently voluntary commitments, come from a different framework of justification than that employed by even the most radical liberalism that has consent at its core.

Recognizing that Carole Pateman is not alone among feminist theorists who question central concepts of liberalism, Moira Gatens compares her arguments to the claims of Wendy Brown and Joan W. Scott that ideas such as liberal individualism, freedom, equality, and rights generate paradoxes for feminism. In Gatens’s view, both Scott and Brown perform their analyses too exclusively on discourses—of rights, of individualism, of contract—and this explains why they conclude that such paradoxes are irresolvable. Gatens asserts that this focus on discourse effectively hobbles the conceptualization of women’s agency. In contrast, Pateman argues that the paradoxes facing feminism are rooted in the structural context of capitalist and male-dominated social relations. On this account, Pateman is not opposed to the idea of contract per se, but rather to the false premise of property in the person that underlies the marriage, surrogacy, and employment contracts. If we join with Pateman in rejecting the fiction of property in the person, and the social, political, and economic relationships that it sustains, Gatens contends, it should become possible to imagine new social relationships and a new social order. In such a world, men and women would create, and agree to uphold, the social conditions that would make autonomy possible for both sexes, dissolving a number of the paradoxes that confront contemporary feminism.

Charles Mills also takes up the question of Pateman’s relation to liberalism, and its most famous justificatory schema, the theory of an original contract. In The Sexual Contract, Pateman famously concluded that, “A free social order cannot be a contractual order” (1988, 232). What should we make of this claim, which if taken literally would seem to indicate Pateman’s rejection of contract theory in its entirety? Mills argues that Pateman has been misinterpreted as rejecting the contract tradition tout court when in reality she was simply rejecting patriarchy, libertarianism (or “contractarianism”), and the various forms of contract predicated on property in the person. By developing this distinction, Mills seeks to rescue some form of contract theory, if not liberalism as a whole, from Pateman’s critique.

Mills identifies two strands in the “social contract” tradition. One uses the language of universalism but in fact applies only to a privileged minority of the population. This “domination contract” justifies current relationships of social and economic inequality and subordination as the result of a primordial bargain. Both Pateman’s account of the sexual contract and Mills’s own reconstruction of modern liberalism as a racial contract expose the way in which the domination contract legitimates inequality and subordination by ignoring group differences. Despite this failure, which extends from the early days of social contract theory to discussions of contemporary social relations, Mills sees the fundamental moral egalitarianism of contract theory as central to a theory of social justice. He concludes not only that ideals of mutual recognition, equality of status, individual autonomy, and obligation grounded in consent remain appropriate aspirations for contemporary societies, but that rightly understood, the so-called social contact tradition can be a means of achieving them.

Brooke Ackerly’s essay takes up the more expansive reading of Pateman’s concluding claim in The Sexual Contract to argue, contra Mills, that even a critically grounded restoration of contract theory is theoretically unconvincing and proves itself incapable of providing a sufficiently robust defense of human rights, Ackerly’s primary concern. Moreover, Ackerly argues that this conclusion about the undesirability of social contract models as a means of grounding human rights is in fact a logical extension of Mills’s own arguments. In her view, the power inequalities that make consent to the contract illusory include asymmetries of authoritative knowledge, or an exclusionary “epistemological contract” between dominant and subordinate groups. These asymmetries ensure that subordinate groups’ understandings of what human rights should be are never even heard. Ackerly calls for an epistemological approach that acknowledges that seemingly universal ways of knowing can render some experiences invisible or treat them as apolitical. For this reason, Ackerly indicates the need for a different, more democratic conceptualization of the basis of human rights that can preserves people’s autonomy. Because human rights theory is useful and necessary precisely in circumstances when some people are subordinated and when people disagree about what is just, Ackerly suggests that any adequate human rights theory would need to transcend the mechanism of contract altogether.

Autonomy and Consent

A number of essays in the book consider two related questions: What constitutes real autonomy? And what signals meaningful consent? Pateman sees both of these ideals as essential for the realization of a fully participatory democratic polity. Two chapters in this collection analyze the implications of Pateman’s concern that voluntary consent may not be so easy to identify under circumstances of structural inequality, and furthermore that whether a person has consented to an element of her situation may not ultimately be the main issue.

Anne Phillips probes questions concerning the conditions of autonomy and consent by analyzing recent public policy debates in Britain concerning whether the state should regulate conditions for entering marriage. Some parents believe that they have the right to choose marriage partners for their children, or to insist that their children marry persons from specific ethnic or religious communities. Phillips argues that the distinction between “coerced” and “voluntary” marriages that many assume in these policy debates is too coarse. Many of the situations and practices in question do not fall neatly into either category. Honestly recognizing this, moreover, puts some actions of “Western” or “Christian” parents and communities as much into question as some of those of immigrant parents and communities in Britain.

Phillips argues that because Pateman’s analysis of contract distinguishes between the conditions under which someone enters into a contract and the possibly exploitative nature of the contractual relationship once it exists, it can be used to shift the terms of the debate about arranged or forced marriages in necessary and productive ways. Formal consent can create structural relations of domination and subordination. If government is justified in scrutinizing such contracts, it is not because young women’s consent is meaningless or invalid, but because of the kind of relationship that marriage entails. Pateman’s insight that fulfilling the terms of a (freely entered) contract can nevertheless create a relationship of subordination is, for Phillips, crucial for forging public policy and legal responses to arranged and forced marriages that do not rest on the assumption that the young woman did not or could not consent.

Like Phillips, Robert Goodin wants to dig beneath issues of choice versus coercion as the terms for assessing women’s subordination. He focuses on the fact that in many contemporary “liberal democratic” societies many women do more unpaid household work than do their male partners. Because such women are not “forced” to do this work, it might appear from the perspective of market liberalism, or “Chicago school” economics, that there is no reason to object to this unequal division of labor. Moreover, when a woman chooses not to hire someone to do all the carework of a household, the Chicago economist sees this as a legitimate expression of individual preferences understood as a “pure consumption act.” Goodin draws on Pateman’s and John Roemer’s theories of exploitation to argue that even when caregiving work is “chosen” and not coerced, a person who invests significantly in the productive and irreplaceable caring work for particular persons in a family finds herself structurally disadvantaged in carrying her skills and experiences to other settings. Goodin suggests that to understand what might be morally and politically problematic about the continuing gendered division of labor we need to move away from a strict dichotomy between consent and coercion, an analysis that suggests that we rethink this dichotomy in other contexts as well.

Addressing some of the concerns about autonomy and consent raised by Ackerly, Phillips, and Goodin, Michael Goodhart draws on Pateman’s critique of liberalism to distinguish between a liberal and a democratic account of human rights. Most accounts of human rights either assume a liberal justification of them, or elide liberalism and democracy in their understanding of human rights. Goodhart argues that a conception of human rights within a liberal framework puts the individual at the center of rights discourse, and conceives human rights as spheres of control or mobility within which each individual resides. Instead, Goodhart puts forward a democratic justification of human rights; human rights include the social bases people need in order not to be subordinate and to be able to exercise their participatory capacities. Goodhart thus understands democracy as a political commitment to universal emancipation that requires securing fundamental human rights, or those basic rights necessary for the enjoyment of all other rights. In his account, these social bases include a Universal Basic Income, which is required to realize democracy’s foundational commitment to universal emancipation.

The first two sections of the book also suggest further questions about liberalism, contract, autonomy, and consent beyond those specifically raised by the contributors to this volume. For example, should sexual difference yield a different slate of inalienable rights, including human rights, for women as opposed to men? Likewise, should Universal Basic Income be calibrated differently for men and women based on the empirical sociological fact that women do the overwhelming preponderance of caring work within the household? Or, to put it in her terms, is what Pateman has called “Wollstonecraft’s Dilemma” capable of being resolved? Is it possible to theorize and practice both equality and difference simultaneously?

Democracy, Political Participation, and Welfare

Three essays in this collection consider the contemporary question of the relevance of participatory democracy, to which Pateman has been committed from the time of her earliest writings. By extension, these contributions also ruminate upon the appropriate relationship between elite, deliberative, and participatory models of democracy, and their prerequisites for our own time.

In his chapter, Alan Ryan reflects on the extent to which the issues and arguments in Pateman’s Participation and Democratic Theory retain force in contemporary theory and practice. A central project of Pateman’s book was to challenge the then received political science wisdom, inherited at least partly from Schumpeter’s theory of democracy, that a “realistic” theory defines democracy in terms of plebiscite. In the modern world, on this account, a democracy is simply a political regime in which an electorate periodically chooses and ousts its rulers. The spirit of Pateman’s rejection of such a thin and cynical understanding of democracy is found in many subsequent arguments for participatory democracy. However, Ryan suggests, ideals of participatory democracy have little direct institutional influence. He finds that it is difficult to imagine implementing the direct democracy of the workplace or small community in our complex societies. Nevertheless, Ryan believes that certain of the values expressed by the ideals of participatory democracy remain important. In this vein, he explores some alternative forms of representation in which a distinction between elites and electorate might not be so strong, including rethinking the possibilities of representation by lot.

Philip Pettit also questions the practicality of Pateman’s notion of participatory democracy in large-scale modern contexts. Pettit argues that modern mass democracies are participatory enough if they provide means for everyone living under a government to have some say in the process of its decision making. With the theory of deliberative democracy, Pettit also thinks that the say that people ought to have should involve their considered judgments and not merely their pre-given preferences. Nevertheless, Pettit contends, theorizing public opinion in terms of judgment rather than preference does not avoid some of the paradoxes of aggregation. The pooling of different voices and judgments runs the risk of producing incoherence in collective judgment. Pettit believes, however, that when participants adopt the participatory perspective of the collective as Pateman prescribes, or engage in what he calls “we-thinking” in making their own judgments, the problem of aggregating individual judgments can be surmounted.

John Medearis draws on Pateman’s work in developing his claim that we can and should distinguish liberal and deliberative from truly democratic justifications of redistributive welfare policies. Like Michael Goodhart, he prefers democratic to liberal grounds for securing welfare rights. In particular, Medearis argues that some deliberative democrats focus on the material security welfare recipients need in order to develop their deliberative capacities. These theorists justify welfare by arguing that recipients have the right to engage in public discourse about welfare policy and other political issues, and to debate the norms that ideally should govern such discourse. Such discussions, Medearis believes, rest on an inadequate understanding of the connection between democracy and welfare. If, like Pateman, we conceive democratic values as primarily about nonsubordination rather than as about deliberation and choice, then we must evaluate justifications for welfare programs by their ability not simply to increase deliberation but also to undermine social structures that produce or reinforce subordination.


In tackling the issues of liberalism, contract, consent, autonomy, and democracy, the essays in this volume address central concerns not only of political philosophy, but also of practical politics at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Together they show the truth of Pateman’s contention that freedom in the so-called private sphere of marriage and family life is inseparable from freedom in public life. These essays share, with one another and with Carole Pateman, a commitment to enlarging the scope of freedom in both realms.

The first step in this enterprise is to realize the often illusory nature of consent and to rethink the relationship between contract and freedom. The next is to diminish the social and economic subordination that precludes the kind of participation in which free persons engage. And to do this requires redistributive measures that provide everyone with the material preconditions for political deliberation and activity. The contributors to this volume, despite their many differences, all share a commitment to trying to make political theory contribute to such new possibilities of political participation and social justice. In this way, the essays stand as a testament to the importance and influence of Carole Pateman’s work to scholars and activists around the globe, and to the vision of human emancipation that animates every word she writes.

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