Non-domination and the Accommodation of Minority Social Practice

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Bachvarova, Mira
Non-domination , Democratic authority , Relational autonomy , Minority practice , Political legitimacy , Polygamy , Accommodation , Multiculturalism
This thesis develops an account of non-domination as a principle of legitimacy that ought to govern both inter-group and intra-group relations in multicultural states. It applies this principle to the question of how political institutions should respond to claims for the accommodation of controversial minority practices, using the example of the polygamous community in Bountiful, British Columbia. In developing this account, the thesis engages with three bodies of theoretical literature – of multiculturalism, of political legitimacy, and of autonomy. In the dominant normative theories of multiculturalism, answers are centered on what the limits of toleration are, what it means to recognize a collective identity, or what group rights can be claimed and how group rights are balanced with individual rights. While not rejecting the importance of these issues in a pluralistic state, my approach de-centers them by subsuming them under the broader problem of what makes a political authority morally legitimate vis-à-vis particular collective - as well as abstract individual - subjects. I argue that the most promising response to this problem lies with the concept of non-domination, conceived as a foundational principle of political legitimacy for multicultural states. This principle both demands and checks a democratic method for determining specific forms of accommodation. In some cases the advancement of non-domination between groups conflicts with the advancement of non-domination within groups. In political theory this question is often taken up by feminist scholars concerned with the ‘paradox of multicultural vulnerability’ and, more generally, with the dilemma of how to identify and critique internalized oppression while promoting full respect for individual moral agency. Borrowing from these debates, I outline a conception of the relational moral autonomy of the person and argue that it forms a necessary component of a non-domination- based analysis. The conclusion of the thesis with respect to minority social practices is that specific claims should be determined on the basis of a democratic process aimed at uncovering whether and when, all things considered, the accommodation of that particular practice is consistent with non-domination both between and within groups.
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