Liberalism and Affirmative Obligation

Oxford University Press
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The scope of affirmative obligation is a point of contention among liberals. Some see affirmative obligations required by social justice as incompatible with a strong commitment to individual freedom. The task before the moderate liberal is then to consider what a consistently liberal view of affirmative obligation would have to be in order to accommodate liberal commitments to freedom and justice and also account for long-standing institutions that are central to liberal democratic society. In this book, Patricia Smith argues that this can be achieved by reconstructing the liberal doctrine of positive and negative duty. She offers a careful consideration of these elements of liberal principles as they relate to affirmative obligation. Through an innovative analysis of the institutions of family and contract, Smith develops the idea of duties of membership as preferable to natural duties (to explain family obligation) and as needed to supplement contractual duties (to explain professional obligation). This idea is then applied to the problem of justifying political obligation. She argues that membership obligations, implied in cooperative endeavor, must supplement obligations of consent that are central to liberal theory. This is deftly illustrated through a state of nature theory that includes community membership, eliminating atomistic individualism while maintaining consonance with what Smith calls cooperative individualism. The resulting view of liberal individualism is consistent, complete, and capable of handling long-standing liberal institutions, while taking seriously the demands of affirmative obligations. Smiths clear articulation of a liberal view of affirmative obligation finds a middle ground on this polarized topic, with compelling and reasoned implications for liberal political philosophy. Her discussion will interest students and scholars of legal and political philosophy and political science.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Nov 26, 1998
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9780195354041
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Political
Political Science / History & Theory
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Conservatism & Liberalism
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In minute-by-minute detail, Patricia Smith tracks Hurricane Katrina as it transforms into a full-blown mistress of destruction. From August 23, 2005, the day Tropical Depression Twelve developed, through August 28 when it became a Category Five storm with its “scarlet glare fixed on the trembling crescent,” to the heartbreaking aftermath, these poems evoke the horror that unfolded in New Orleans as America watched it on television.

Assuming the voices of flailing politicians, the dying, their survivors, and the voice of the hurricane itself, Smith follows the woefully inadequate relief effort and stands witness to families held captive on rooftops and in the Superdome. She gives voice to the thirty-four nursing home residents who drowned in St. Bernard Parish and recalls the day after their deaths when George W. Bush accompanied country singer Mark Willis on guitar:

The cowboy grins through the terrible din,
***
And in the Ninth, a choking woman wails
Look like this country done left us for dead.

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Patricia Smith is the author of four previous collections of poetry, including Teahouse of the Almighty, winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the Paterson Poetry Prize. A record-setting, national poetry slam champion, she was featured in the film Slamnation, on the HBO series Def Poetry Jam, and is a frequent contributor to Harriet, the Poetry Foundation’s blog. Visit her website at www.wordwoman.ws.

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