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Justice and Society : Problems of Reformist Politics


  • Mikael Spång

Summary, in English

The subject of the dissertation is a theoretical discussion of the possibilities and limitations of reformist politics. Theories of social justice and democracy are discussed and assessed in relation to the argument that reformist politics, which underlie the welfare state program, is a contradictory politics. It is suggested that it is contradictory because reformism is constituted by a double relinquishment. Projects to set aside capitalism and the development of a radical-democratic conception of politics are both relinquished. The implications of this are discussed in relation to conflicts around the ideas of liberty and equality, the formulation of morality, and the role of ethical accounts of injustices, as well as the necessary relativization of law or the legal medium for a radical-democratic conception of politics. These discussions serve to to reveal both the problems within reformist politics as well as that of how to overcome them. In the last chapter a concept of social unfreedom is developed in order to account for situations when participants are not able to describe injustices as such and/or are not able to formulate what justice requires. This concept is developed in terms of a reconstruction of Marx' theme of alienation, which can be understood as an account of reification on the one hand, and as a form of rationality whereby reifications can be dissolved on the other. The former, it is argued, are inversions of freedom and equality characteristic for capitalist societies. The account of reification in terms of inversion reveals a displacement of the normative presuppositions for pratices or principles, and the circumstances for their realization. This inversion can neither be accounted for nor dissolved along the lines of theories of equal liberty or similar sorts of normative presuppositions but instead necessiates a simultaneous stress on a politics of need-interpretation and a politics for the satisfaction of needs whereby contradictions are followed up. Since such a politics will have to pursue contrary claims depending on the political conjuncture, it is important that the possibility to shift between various modes of problematizations is developed. The undifferentiated notion of rationality developed in the last chapter is supposed to allow for this.






Lund Political Studies






Department of Political Science, Lund University


  • Political Science


  • communication
  • good
  • right
  • ethics
  • morality
  • social unfreedom
  • equality
  • freedom
  • democracy
  • social justice
  • capitalism
  • reformism
  • social democracy
  • Management of enterprises
  • management
  • Företagsledning




  • [unknown] [unknown]


  • ISSN: 0460-0037


8 december 1999




Palaestra, Lund


  • Gorm Harste (Associate Professor)