Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Feminist innovation in philosophy: Relational autonomy and social justice

Women's Studies International Forum Available online 30 May 2018 In Press, Corrected ProofWhat are Corrected Proof articles? Women's Studies International Forum Author links open overlay panelCatrionaMackenzie Macquarie University, Australia Received 9 December 2017, Revised 14 March 2018, Accepted 10 May 2018, Available online 30 May 2018. Get rights and content Abstract Feminist philosophy has opened up new areas of investigation across a wide range of sub-fields in mainstream Anglophone philosophy, Continental philosophy and applied ethics. Yet, despite the fact that over the last three decades feminist philosophy has challenged and transformed many sub-fields of the discipline, its impact within the discipline is often patchy, and feminist philosophy is regarded by some philosophers as “not real philosophy”. Several factors might account for this phenomenon, including the under-representation of women in the discipline, the chilly climate for women in some quarters of the discipline, a gender-stereotyped culture within the discipline of rewarding those perceived to be “smart”, and the devaluation of the knowledge claims made by feminist philosophers. This article focuses primarily on the final factor, using relational autonomy theory as an illustrative example. This feminist conceptual innovation has challenged and transformed mainstream conceptions of autonomy. However, its impact within the discipline has been less significant than its impact in other fields. 1. Gender and feminism in philosophy Feminist philosophy has opened up new areas of investigation across mainstream Anglophone philosophy – in moral, social and political philosophy, history of philosophy, epistemology and metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language – as well as in Continental philosophy and applied ethics. Some of this work has had an impact well beyond philosophy, especially but not exclusively in other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. Yet, despite the fact that over the last three decades feminist philosophy has challenged and transformed many sub-fields of the discipline, its impact within the discipline is often patchy, and feminist philosophy is regarded by some philosophers as “not real philosophy”.1 The primary aim of this paper is to present relational autonomy theory as an illustrative example of a feminist innovation that has had more impact outside the discipline than within. I begin, however, by describing several factors that make the discipline of philosophy in many respects a hostile environment, both for producing feminist work and for its reception into mainstream philosophy. These include the under-representation of women in the discipline; the chilly climate for women in some quarters of the discipline; a widespread culture within the discipline of rewarding people (mainly men) who are perceived to be “smart”; and the devaluation within the discipline of the knowledge claims made by feminist philosophers. With respect to the first factor, philosophy is a striking outlier among the humanities and social sciences for its gender disparities. These disparities, which obtain across a number of different indicators, make the discipline's gender profile comparable to that in engineering and the physical sciences. These indicators include significant inequalities in gender ratios in a range of areas: in PhD programs and at all levels of the academic career path, especially at more senior levels2; in professional memberships3; and in authorship of articles in top ranked journals, as well as in citation patterns.4 On the basis of detailed analysis of these and several other indicators, Schwitzgebel and Jennings (2016) draw the following conclusions: 1. Gender disparity remains significant in mainstream Anglophone philosophy. 2. Moral, social and political philosophy is closer to gender parity than other areas of the discipline. 3. There is mixed evidence for more pronounced gender disparity at the highest levels of prestige and visibility in the discipline. 4. Although women's involvement and visibility in the discipline has increased over time, the rate of increase is slower than would be expected and appears to have plateaued since the 1990s. The quantitative data is important, but there are three additional, and arguably more significant, factors not revealed by the data that might help to explain the patchy impact of feminist philosophy within the discipline: the chilly climate for women in philosophy; gender-coded assumptions within the discipline about innate philosophical ability; and the devaluation of feminist knowledge claims. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that women in philosophy continue to experience sexual harassment and sexual objectification and that women's intellectual contributions in the classroom or to the discipline are often belittled, dismissed, or treated with condescension. The blog ‘What is it Like to Be a Woman in Philosophy?’ makes dispiriting reading. Reading some of the posts from 2015 to 2016 you would be forgiven for thinking they were recounting events that occurred in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Female undergraduate and graduate students talk of being the only woman in a class of 15 men, of their contributions to class discussions being treated with incredulity or laughter by their fellow students, or simply ignored, of being sexually harassed by both their fellow students and professors, of having their appearance commented on repeatedly by male students or academic staff, of being told that the reason women are underrepresented in Philosophy is that they are simply less capable than men, of being shouted at in public and told that their philosophical views are wrong. A Research Assistant recounts being sacked by the female professor she was working for the day after she brought her one year old daughter to the department, after a male professor made a complaint that her child was too noisy. A tenured woman philosopher writes: “Just met with a male MA student I'm advising so we could discuss his courses. After we'd been over what he planned to do he said, ‘OK, I want there to be something in this for you, too. So I've been reading your work on your website and I thought we could talk about where you want to go with it’. He was completely serious.” Another female academic writes of receiving an email announcing a new edited volume in her field with contributions by various luminaries and prominent contributors. Of course, the luminaries were all men; the prominent contributors were women. And then there are the phenomena of the all-male line-up of conference speakers and the course curricula with readings only by men. The third factor, which further contributes to the chilly climate for women, is the widespread culture within philosophy of rewarding people who are perceived to be innately ‘smart’, or ‘brilliant’. Recent research by Leslie, Cimpian, Meyer, and Freeland (2015) shows how in certain academic disciplines, including philosophy, such perceptions, which Leslie et al. refer to as ‘field-specific ability beliefs’, arise from gender-coded stereotypes. Disciplines in which these beliefs are widespread can seem inhospitable to women and render women vulnerable to stereotype threat, thus providing a partial explanation of women's under-representation in those disciplines.5 In philosophy, these perceptions and expectations are manifest in various aspects of the culture. One of the most damaging is the culture of the philosophy seminar, which is often framed as a combative blood sport, rather than a constructive intellectual exchange, the aim of which is to take down one's philosophical opponent as ruthlessly as possible. In the context of this culture, the ‘smart’ philosopher is the one who is able to ask difficult questions that trap the seminar speaker into confusion or self-contradiction, or conversely who is able to deftly manoeuvre around these traps in defending his own views.6 The good news is that over the last few years these three (and clearly connected) factors are receiving considerable attention. The AAP, BPA and APA are taking the issues seriously. The topic of implicit bias, including in hiring practices, is being openly discussed and has become quite a hot philosophical topic, and there have been several important recent publications on the problems of women in the discipline and how to address them.7 This recent ferment gives some reason to hope that women's position within the discipline will eventually change, even if the rate of change is slower than desirable. The fourth factor – the devaluation of feminist knowledge claims – may prove the most intractable because it goes to the heart of philosophical methodology and disciplinary self-understandings.8 By bringing a gendered lens to philosophical questions and problems, feminist research often challenges the taken for granted assumptions within established sub-fields, opening up new ways of thinking. In some areas, the challenge that feminist research poses to knowledge claims and methodologies has been acknowledged and has transformed the field. In other cases, these challenges are not taken seriously and feminist research is treated as marginal. In yet other cases, the provenance of feminist research is not acknowledged, even while new developments in the field take up questions and replicate conceptual innovations that feminist philosophers have been investigating for decades. There are innumerable examples from feminist philosophy that could be chosen as illustrations of gendered innovations that have challenged and refigured key concepts and approaches, but that have not been fully taken up within the discipline, despite having had significant impact outside the discipline.9 This paper will use relational autonomy theory, including my own contributions to this literature, as an illustrative example.10 What I hope to show is how understanding autonomy through a feminist lens has conceptually refigured the concept. I also want to use some examples that will help to illustrate the conceptual analysis and to indicate the relevance of relational autonomy theory to scholarship beyond philosophy, as well as to potential wider social policy applications. Relational autonomy theory has had considerable impact in social and political philosophy, but is most widely cited by scholars outside the discipline, in adjacent fields such as bioethics, but also in health studies, nursing, and disability studies, as well as law and legal studies, psychology, psychiatry, education, aged care, politics, development studies, and planning and environment.11 Some of the examples I discuss will illustrate the relevance of relational autonomy theory for health care in particular. One of the reasons that relational autonomy theory may have had traction in disciplines beyond philosophy is that it rejects the methodological individualism that is the default paradigm in philosophy. “Methodological individualism” is the assumption that facts about the social world, and explanations of social phenomena, are ultimately reducible to facts about individuals, such as their intentions, goals, beliefs, and desires (Cudd, 2006, 46). Methodological individualism eschews explanations of social phenomena and individual behaviour that make reference to non-voluntary social groups and the structural constraints imposed by group membership on the actions and capacities of group members. By non-voluntary social groups I am referring to social groups whose membership is determined not by the decisions of individuals to form a group (e.g. a club, voluntary association, or even a social movement), but by social institutions, norms and practices, social attitudes and stereotypes, and by structural factors such as patterns of social reward and penalty, privilege and disadvantage that track group membership.12 According to this analysis, a person belongs to a social group whether or not she consciously identifies with that social group. Of course, as feminist work on intersectionality has shown any given individual can belong to several different social groups, and therefore her actions and behaviour can be institutionally constrained in different, and sometimes conflicting ways. In contrast to approaches to autonomy that assume methodological individualism as a default, relational autonomy theory is informed by feminist work on social groups and social oppression. Ann Cudd defines social oppression as “an institutionally structured, unjust harm perpetrated on groups by other groups through direct and indirect material and psychological forces” (Cudd, 2006, 25). Material forces include systematic violence or the social threat of violence, economic deprivation and exploitation, discrimination, harassment and inequality of opportunity, and political exclusion or powerlessness. Psychological forces include mechanisms such as stereotyping, explicit and implicit bias, objectification, and cultural domination. These material and psychological forces can result in adaptive preference and value formation and can cause group and individual psychological harms of humiliation, degradation, and shame. Relational autonomy theorists seek to explicate how these material forces and psychological mechanisms can threaten a person's social status as an autonomous agent and can impair the development or exercise of the capacity for autonomy. By understanding autonomy through the lens of feminist work on social groups and social oppression, relational theory brings into focus the importance of developing conceptions of autonomy that are sensitive to considerations of social justice. Thus relational conceptions, while very pertinent to feminist concerns, are also relevant to broader issues of social justice. In what follows, I will draw on my own recent work on autonomy, and its potential to address social justice considerations beyond feminist contexts, as an illustrative example. Before doing so, it is important to make a distinction between methodological individualism and normative individualism. Normative individualism is the view that the rights, welfare, dignity, freedom and autonomy of individuals matter and impose normative constraints on the claims of social groups or collectives.13 One reason why methodological individualism may function so often as a default assumption in philosophy may be the worry that rejecting methodological individualism entails rejecting normative individualism. However, this does not follow. Relational autonomy theory remains committed to normative individualism while rejecting methodological individualism. Further, it is committed to a socio-relational account of individuals: that our individual identities are constituted by interpersonal, familial and social relationships and intersecting social group memberships, and through processes of enculturation into specific linguistic, political and historical communities. In the following section, I aim to clarify the importance of understanding autonomy relationally, and of upholding normative individualism while rejecting methodological individualism, by contrasting relational and libertarian conceptions of autonomy. Feminist critics often conflate autonomy with libertarian conceptions, and reject the concept of autonomy as premised on socially atomistic assumptions. The following discussion will hopefully serve to show why feminists should reject libertarian views of autonomy while upholding the normative importance of relational autonomy. 2. Libertarian vs. relational autonomy In liberal democratic societies, the principle of respect for personal autonomy is widely accepted – in theory, if not always in practice – as a fundamental normative principle, the importance of which is enshrined in a number of legal and political rights. Put simply, to respect autonomy is to respect each person's entitlement and authority to lead a self-determining life. To lead a self-determining life is to be able to make important decisions about one's life and to act on the basis of one's deeply held values and commitments free from undue interference and domination by others. The presumption is that most adult citizens have the capacity and the right to exercise this authority, even if they do not always exercise it as wisely as they might. I and other relational autonomy theorists do not dispute the importance that is accorded in liberal democratic societies to personal autonomy and to the principle of respect for autonomy. In fact, in my view, an important measure of a just society is the extent to which its political, social and legal institutions support the development of its citizens' capacities for autonomy. However, autonomy is a complex and contested concept. Many substantive disputes in our society about the limits of individual freedom and the role of state regulation arise from disagreements about the meaning of autonomy, and from apparent tensions between the principle of respect for autonomy and our obligations to protect vulnerable members of our society. Relational theories of autonomy have brought a gendered and feminist perspective to understanding and intervening in this contestation over the meaning of autonomy, a perspective informed by feminist ethics and by feminist commitments to combatting both gendered and other forms of social oppression and inequality. To help ground my analysis of relational autonomy later in the paper, in this section I want to contrast it with a very different way of thinking about autonomy, one that has fairly widespread currency in neoliberal discourse. Elsewhere I have referred to it as the “maximal choice” conception of autonomy.14 Because it is associated with the more libertarian end of the broad spectrum of liberal views, I will also refer to it as the libertarian conception. The libertarian maximal choice conception equates autonomy with negative liberty, or non-interference, and assumes that autonomy is best promoted by maximizing freedom of choice, and minimizing regulatory and other forms of constraint on individual choice. It represents the main threats to autonomy as paternalistic restrictions on an individual's freedom of choice by other people or the state. This conception of autonomy lends support to a noninterventionist, anti-regulatory view of state responsibility, which views state assistance in the form of social welfare, health care provision, support for education, and redistributive taxation policies as constraints on individual freedom. It is also associated with the rhetoric of consumer sovereignty and self-regulating markets. It therefore provides a philosophical justification for an increasing tendency in neoliberal economies to individualize risk and responsibility. If to be autonomous is to be free from constraint in the exercise of individual choice, then to be autonomous is also to be individually responsible for the risks and to bear the costs of one's choices. The rhetoric of maximizing choice in the name of promoting individual autonomy therefore goes hand in hand with an emphasis on the responsibilities of individuals to understand and manage the risks attendant upon their choices. It also leads to a corollary de-emphasis on the social constraints on individual choice and on our social responsibilities to ensure that the burdens of risk are not borne disproportionately by vulnerable individuals or social groups. The rhetoric of maximal choice is widespread in contemporary neoliberal societies, although its ideological grip varies from place to place and this rhetoric is also widely contested. It probably has the strongest ideological grip in the US. In Australia, it surfaces in moves towards the increasing privatization of healthcare and education, and in objections to public health initiatives that seek to impose stricter controls on the marketing of harmful products such as junk food, tobacco or alcohol. Such initiatives are often branded by libertarian maximal choice theorists as forms of “nanny state paternalism”. The libertarian conception of autonomy has been subject to criticism by feminist theorists, such as legal theorist Martha Fineman who refers to it as “the autonomy myth”.15 The autonomy myth is a central plank of what she calls the “liberal subject” model of citizen-state relations, which is based on a flawed conception of citizens as self-interested, independent, rational contractors. The liberal subject model and the autonomy myth, she claims, thwart the development of social, legal and institutional structures that aim to redress disadvantage, and sanction gross social and political inequality. In contrast to this model, which gives priority to the value of autonomy, Fineman proposes an alternative model of citizen-state relations, which she calls the “vulnerable subject” model. The aim of this model is to re-conceptualize state responsibility and what we owe to one another as citizens. By foregrounding human vulnerability and dependency, rather than autonomy and independence, it highlights distributive inequalities that make some citizens more vulnerable to the vicissitudes of fortune than others, and supports redistributive and regulatory mechanisms that lessen disadvantage and promote substantive equality. I agree with Fineman that the rhetoric of maximal choice, personal responsibility, and the minimal state often functions to mask social injustice, structural inequality, and corrosive disadvantage, and that it shifts the onus of responsibility for redressing these problems away from the state and onto individuals. I also agree that the libertarian conception of autonomy associated with this rhetoric should be rejected. However, in my view autonomy – understood as both the capacity to lead a self-determining life, and the status of being recognised as an autonomous agent by others – is crucial for leading a flourishing life in contemporary liberal democratic societies. It is a mistake therefore to reject the value of autonomy altogether, and I think a relational conception can reconcile the value of autonomy with social obligations to mitigate vulnerability. Feminist relational ethics is informed by a wide body of feminist research, including feminist perspectives on the relational and social constitution of individual identity, on the ethics of care, and on social oppression, power and structural injustice.16 Feminist relational ethics rejects social atomism and understands persons as embedded in interpersonal and social relationships, and as shaped and constrained by intersecting social determinants, such as those of gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, and so on. In line with the agenda of relational ethics, relational autonomy theorists uphold the importance of personal autonomy, especially for women and other groups subject to historical and contemporary forms of social oppression. At the same time, relational autonomy theorists seek to analyse the ways that the development and exercise of personal autonomy is enabled or constrained by social relationships and by social norms, structures and institutions. Whereas libertarian maximal choice conceptions provide support to economic, health and welfare policies that either abandon vulnerable individuals or groups to their fate or subject them to punitive regimes of surveillance and oversight, I will argue that if we take the relational perspective seriously concerns about social justice must be central to any adequate theory of autonomy. 3. Relational autonomy: a multidimensional analysis Autonomy is both a status and a capacity concept. As a status concept it refers, as mentioned earlier, to the idea that individuals are entitled to exercise self-determining authority over their lives. As a capacity concept, autonomy refers to the capacity to be self-defining and self-governing; that is, to make decisions and act on the basis of preferences, values or commitments that are authentically “one's own”. One of the central aims of relational autonomy theory is to explain how gender and other kinds of social oppression, such as racial oppression, can threaten a person's social status as an autonomous agent and can impair the development or exercise of the capacity for autonomy. One of the challenges facing feminist efforts to theorize the impact of social oppression on autonomy is to negotiate what Khader (2011) refers to as the “agency dilemma”. This is the challenge of recognizing and analyzing the vulnerabilities of persons subject to social oppression or deprivation, while also acknowledging and respecting their agency. In particular, since the effects of social oppression can run deep and can shape people's identities and self-concepts, responding to the challenge posed by the agency dilemma requires explaining how social oppression can be simultaneously identity constituting yet identity fracturing, and agency constituting yet autonomy impairing. In recent work, I have proposed that a multidimensional analysis of the concept of autonomy is helpful for teasing apart the variable impacts of social oppression and inequality on autonomy.17 My proposal is that the concept of autonomy involves three conceptually distinct, but causally interdependent dimensions or axes: self-determination, self-governance, and self-authorization. The self-determination axis is conceptually allied to the notion of freedom and is focused on autonomy as status. It identifies external, structural conditions for individual autonomy, specifically conditions relating to freedom and opportunity. By distinguishing self-determination as a distinct dimension of autonomy, this axis enables identification of the myriad ways that gender-based structural inequalities, injustices and forms of oppression constrict women's freedoms and opportunities and thereby impair our abilities to lead self-determining lives. The self-governance axis identifies internal agential conditions for autonomy, specifically competence and authenticity, and is focused on autonomy as capacity. By distinguishing self-governance as a distinct dimension of autonomy, this axis draws attention to the mechanisms through which the internalization of gender-based structural inequalities, injustices and forms of oppression, can constrain women's psychological freedom and thwart our agency. The self-authorization axis foregrounds the way in which autonomy status and capacity are bound up with self-evaluative attitudes of self-respect, self-trust and self-esteem and with social relations of recognition. By distinguishing self-authorization as a distinct dimension of autonomy, this axis aids in clarifying how regimes and practices of gender-based social subordination can distort women's self-evaluative attitudes. For the remainder of the paper I will explicate each of these dimensions in more detail, using illustrative examples that demonstrate the relevance of relational autonomy theory for social and political analysis in a range of domains, including health care contexts. Although relational autonomy theory, and my multidimensional analysis, were motivated by an effort to analyse the effects of gender-based oppression on autonomy, these examples show how using gender as a critical analytic lens leads to a feminist conceptual innovation that can then be extended and applied in other domains. Before discussing these examples, it is important to stress that autonomy is a scalar concept, or a matter of degree and domain. A person can be self-determining, self-governing and self-authorizing to differing degrees, both at a time and over the course of her life. Autonomy is thus not an all or nothing matter. The benefit of a multidimensional analysis is that it enables a more nuanced identification of the different ways in which social oppression and inequality can impair autonomy and thereby assists in the development of appropriate social policy interventions and support for persons whose autonomy may be reduced in one or more of these dimensions. 3.1. Self-determination The notion of self-determination, I have suggested, identifies external, structural conditions for individual autonomy, specifically freedom and opportunity. Let me now explain in more detail how I understand freedom and opportunity. Libertarian autonomy, as I mentioned earlier, understands autonomy as negative liberty, or freedom from undue interference. The kernel of truth in this view is that it is difficult for a person to lead a self-determining life if political or personal restrictions prevent her from making choices about matters that are important to her life, such as being able to practice her religion, express her political opinions, pursue a career or personal projects, and decide with whom she will have intimate relationships, where she will live, or whether she will have children. However, in my view understanding self-determination in terms of absence of interference or negative liberty is misplaced for two reasons. First, to lead a self-determining life what matters is not absence of interference as such, but rather freedom from domination and from subjection to arbitrary forms of power and interference.18 On this view of freedom, self-determination requires substantive socio-relational equality of status, and this in turn requires not only that the basic liberties must be legally, politically and socially entrenched and resourced, but also that these liberties must be equally accessible to, and equally able to be enjoyed by all members of a society. Basic liberties refer to both political and personal liberties. Political liberties include freedom of thought and expression, freedom of association, freedom of conscience and religious exercise, freedom to engage in political participation, and freedom from arbitrary arrest. Personal liberties include freedom of movement, freedom of sexual expression, and freedom from all forms of coercion, manipulation, exploitation, and violence, including sexual exploitation and assault. The importance of these personal and political liberties for individual self-determination is reflected in their inclusion in important human rights documents. To the extent that oppression deprives women and other socially oppressed groups access to political and personal liberties, it impairs their status as self-determining agents. The second reason that it is a mistake to understand self-determination as negative liberty is that the political and personal liberties will only be formal rather than substantive unless people have available to them within their social environments a sufficient array of opportunities, or “significant options” (Raz, 1986). Having access to significant options does not mean having unrestricted access to an ever-expanding array of consumer choices. Rather, it means having adequate access to goods and opportunities required to lead a flourishing life: adequate nutrition, sanitation, and personal safety; social goods such as quality education, affordable health care, decent housing, social support, and opportunities for cultural engagement; genuine opportunities for political participation and paid or unpaid employment; and some degree of mobility. Capabilities theory provides one articulation of this notion of significant options.19 Lack of access to significant options or crucial capabilities impairs people's capacities to make autonomous choices and lead self-determining lives. For example, in poor communities, food choices, such as high levels of consumption of processed and sugary foods, are often shaped by factors such as the low cost and ready availability of processed or sugary foods compared with fresh fruit and vegetables, insufficient education concerning nutrition, and, in some cases, time poverty due to long working hours. Making healthier food choices may thus not be a significant option for people in those communities. This is a significant problem in remote indigenous communities in Australia, where, in many cases, the cultural practices involved in obtaining traditional food sources have withered, where there are few employment options and so most members of the community depend on government benefits, and where the one general store in the community might charge exorbitant prices for fresh fruit and vegetables. As a result, children and adults live on a diet of highly processed, sugary foods, leading to significant health problems such as diabetes and kidney diseases. In Central Australia, a health initiative led by local indigenous communities, the Mai Wiru Sugar Challenge Foundation, is working with communities to counter this problem.20 Their initiatives include collaborating with store owners to remove as many highly processed and sugary products from stores as possible, ‘sugar teaspoon’ labeling of products, trucking in large quantities of subsidized fresh fruit and vegetables, employing a full-time nutritionist to help train Aboriginal nutrition advisors in the stores to assist community members with food choices, and building a ‘Good Living Café’ in each store and providing cooking lessons to help teach the community how to prepare healthy food. Libertarians are likely to view such initiatives as paternalistic and hence as autonomy-undermining.21 However, from a relational perspective, they enhance individuals' abilities to lead self-determining lives. This is not only because these initiatives promote the health and thereby the flourishing of community members. It is also because these initiatives enable healthy food choices to be a significant option for community members, thereby expanding their options in autonomy-enhancing ways. When healthy food choices are not genuinely available to community members, their option sets preclude the choice to lead a healthy life. Thus the option sets available to them fall below the threshold for having adequate options, impairing their ability to lead self-determining lives.22 3.2. Self-governance To be self-governing is to be able to make and enact choices that express or cohere with one's identity, commitments and values. Self-governance requires knowing who one is and what one values (authenticity), as well as mastery of a complex repertoire of reflective and other skills required to enact one's commitments and values (competence). Within the mainstream literature on autonomy, self-governance is typically understood as a matter of exercising internal agential control over one's will and elements of one's psychology. This control and the capacities that underpin it are typically understood in narrowly cognitive and volitional terms. In contrast, relational autonomy theorists draw attention to the importance for self-governance of a wide range of emotional, imaginative and critically reflective skills, such as capacities to interpret and regulate one's own emotions, to imaginatively envisage alternative ways of acting, and to challenge social norms and values (see e.g. Mackenzie, 2000, Mackenzie, 2002; Meyers, 1989). Moreover, mainstream theorists typically understand individual agents and the capacities that underpin our agency in socially atomistic terms, that is, in abstraction from social relationships and the broader social environment. Relational autonomy theorists challenge these socially atomistic assumptions, arguing that self-governance is a socially constituted capacity, which can only be developed and exercised with extensive interpersonal, social and institutional scaffolding. By challenging the assumptions that frame mainstream theories, relational autonomy theorists are able to analyse the ways that capacities for self-governance can be both enabled and constrained by the social environment. In analysing the social constraints on self-governing agency, relational theorists focus on mechanisms of psychological oppression, such as stereotyping, explicit and implicit bias, sexual objectification, and cultural domination, as well as the effects of adaptive preference formation and false consciousness. Adaptive preference formation arising from social oppression or deprivation is a phenomenon whereby an individual's preferences are harmfully adapted or habituated to the constraints of her situation – harmfully adapted because these preferences may conflict with the agent's needs or with valuable goods, and absent those constraints she is unlikely to have formed these preferences.23 Agents whose preferences are adaptive in this sense seem to be complicit in perpetuating their oppression. There are usually many factors involved in the development of adaptive preferences, but one factor may be the phenomenon of false consciousness. The concept of false consciousness refers to false beliefs formed under conditions of oppression that support the maintenance of oppressive social relations of dominance and subordination (Cudd, 178–80, Meyerson, 1991).24 Privileged groups often have false beliefs about themselves and about other social groups that rationalize and justify their dominance in the social hierarchy. A case in point is the litany of false beliefs in almost every culture justifying male domination and female subordination. These beliefs are typically encoded in unjust stereotypes that work to justify the perpetuation of the current social arrangements. However, it is not only privileged groups that are susceptible to and motivated to accept unjust stereotypes and the false beliefs encoded in them. False consciousness also refers to the phenomenon whereby members of subordinate groups accept these false beliefs – sometimes explicitly endorsing them, sometimes by implicitly acquiescing to them, sometimes failing to recognize the role played by these beliefs in their actions and choices. In thinking about how adaptive preferences and false consciousness can impair self-governance it is critical to be mindful of the “agency dilemma”, and to recognize that psychological oppression is not global – gender oppression, for example, does not turn women into simple “dupes of patriarchy”, to use Uma Narayan's (2002) expression. Rather, its effects are typically partial, resulting in degrees of internal conflict, struggle and resistance, and fractured self-concepts. For example, as the empirical literature on implicit bias shows, one can reject sexist or racist stereotypes about oneself or others, but still find oneself reacting or behaving in ways that reinforce these stereotypes.25 It is also important to recognize that in oppressive social contexts people often have to make strategic trade-offs, sacrificing goals in one domain in order to protect them in another domain. Khader's (2011) work on adaptive preferences and women's empowerment in development contexts makes this point powerfully. The same point is also relevant to contexts such as domestic violence, where a woman might bear the brunt of her partner's violence herself in order to protect her children. I think these kind of trade-offs are often rational responses to severely constrained circumstances. However, I don't agree with Khader that they are autonomous, because it is important to distinguish between rational choice and autonomous choice.26 Having said that, it is important to stress again that self-governance is not an all or nothing matter, but a matter of degree and domain. The challenge for initiatives that aim to foster the development of skills for self-governing agency, whether in the development context, with women leaving abusive relationships, or for example in drug rehabilitation programs, is to provide the right kind of social scaffolding – scaffolding that respects people's agency while at the same time developing interventions that help to transform harmfully adaptive preferences. As Khader argues, this requires developing interventions through a participatory and dialogical process with those involved. She gives as an example an empowerment project in rural Honduras with women whose husbands severely restricted their mobility and who prior to the project had harmfully adapted their preferences in line with their oppressive situation. The interventions developed by local practitioners with the women, and based on their cultural values, aimed to empower women through educational programs, income- and food-generation programs, and confidence-building programs which were designed to assist them to renegotiate their relationships with their husbands. 3.3. Self-authorization Self-authorization involves regarding oneself as authorized to determine the direction of one's life, to take ownership of, or responsibility for, one's decisions, actions and values, and as able to account for oneself to others. Regarding oneself as having the authority to speak and answer for oneself in turn seems to require having certain self-evaluative attitudes, of appropriate self-respect, self-trust and self-esteem or self-worth. Psychologically these self-evaluative attitudes are typically dependent on and vulnerable to the character of our interpersonal and social relations. Self-authorization is therefore fundamentally social because it is bound up with social relations of recognition. Failures of recognition are quite typical in social relations involving domination, or inequalities of power, authority, or social and economic status, especially when these are inflected by gender, race, class, ethnicity, or disability. The literature on the effects of internalized sexism, racism, ableism and ethnic bigotry, is replete with examples of how social oppression or marginalization can undermine a person's sense of herself as having a legitimate voice, and as competent and authorized to speak or answer for herself. Likewise, it is difficult to develop a sense of self-respect, if by virtue of one's social group membership one is systematically treated as a moral inferior or as less worthy of equal treatment. And it is difficult to develop a sense of trust in one's judgment if by virtue of one's social group membership one is susceptible to stereotype threat (the fear that one will conform to negative stereotypes about the social group to which one belongs). An example from the public health context will hopefully help to clarify the relevance of self-authorization for social policy, in this case for thinking about how to develop public health initiatives that are autonomy promoting rather than undermining. Here I am drawing on a recent article by Carter, Entwistle, and Little (2015), which uses my multidimensional approach to compare several different public health campaigns related to obesity and to assess whether these campaigns are likely to be autonomy-enhancing or autonomy-undermining. One of the public health campaigns they assess is the recent Australian “Live Lighter” campaign, which was a series of television advertisements that featured “realistic-looking visuals of internal organs throbbing in a glistening sea of disgusting yellow ‘toxic fat’” (Carter, Entwistle, Little, 2015, 1026) and suggested to the audience that when they are tempted to eat pizza, or potato chips, or to drink a sugary soft drink, they should recall this image to help control their unhealthy eating behaviours. From a libertarian perspective, this campaign might be thought to respect autonomy because it simply provides health information. However, in contrast with the Mai Wiri initiative mentioned earlier in the paper, which I characterized as autonomy-enhancing, Carter, Entwistle and Little argue that the disgust-based “Live Lighter” campaign is autonomy-undermining. This is because it reinforces the social stigmatization of obesity, i.e. the idea that fat bodies are disgusting, and conveys the message that what makes people fat is their lack of self-control. By reinforcing the social stigmatizing of obesity, this kind of message is likely to impair both self-governance and self-authorization. This is because it is likely to prompt stereotype threat, anxiety and self-consciousness, which are associated with lowered performance and motivation, and to further undermine self-evaluative attitudes of self-respect, self-esteem and self-trust. Carter, Entwistle and Little argue that to promote autonomy, public health campaigns therefore need to ensure that they do not convey messages that undermine self-authorization. 4. Conclusion My aim in this paper has been to provide a broad overview of some of my recent work on relational autonomy theory, using examples to demonstrate its relevance beyond philosophy. Contra feminist critics of autonomy, such as Fineman, I hope to have shown why feminists should not jettison the concept, while also showing why the concept needs to be refigured through the lens of a feminist analysis of social oppression and social justice, as relational theorists have done. Like a lot of feminist work in philosophy, relational theories of autonomy seem to have had greatest traction outside the discipline, or in sub-fields of the discipline, such as bioethics, applied ethics, and social and political philosophy where there is a (relatively) larger proportion of women. The impact of feminist philosophy in other sub-fields of the discipline, however, is patchy to say the least. This is a problem not just for feminist philosophy but also for mainstream work in the field, which stands to be substantially enriched by incorporating feminist insights into the framing of philosophical questions and the development of philosophical theories. To give just one illustrative example, with my co-editors I have recently completed an edited volume on the social dimensions of moral responsibility.27 One of the central aims of the volume is to analyse the implications of social oppression, structural injustice, and inequalities of power for our moral responsibility practices and for philosophical theories of moral responsibility. For decades, the philosophical literature on moral responsibility has been dominated by metaphysical debates about free will and determinism, and scant attention has been paid to moral responsibility as an interpersonal and social practice. This preoccupation with metaphysical issues has recently been challenged by a growing number of theorists who argue that the capacities required for agency and moral responsibility are socially scaffolded through interpersonal accountability practices.28 However, even those theorists who have initiated this ‘social turn’ assume an overly idealized conception of these practices and of our social relationships as reciprocal and equal. Yet in contexts of structural injustice, in which social relationships are typically asymmetrical and structured by inequalities of power and status, this assumption is misplaced. If moral responsibility is a social practice, then theorists need to grapple with the question of how this practice may be distorted in contexts of structural injustice. Feminist philosophy provides ample resources for approaching this question. Yet both the question and the resources provided by feminist philosophy have been overlooked by moral responsibility theorists. Even more surprisingly, despite the fact that the mainstream theoretical literatures on moral responsibility and autonomy overlap, the literature on relational autonomy, and its potential relevance for understanding the social dimensions of moral responsibility, has not registered at all with moral responsibility theorists. This is a salient example then of how, with respect to two adjacent topics in the discipline, while feminist concerns have become central to the literature in one area, they have had no impact at all on an adjacent literature. Sub-disciplinary siloing may be a partial explanation of this phenomenon. A more likely explanation, however, is that the topic of free will and determinism, which has dominated the philosophical literature on moral responsibility, is regarded as a hard topic in metaphysics (and hence coded male), and is structured by methodologically individualist assumptions. Moral responsibility theorists who seek to analyse the social dimensions of moral responsibility are gradually challenging these assumptions. Yet their focus has been on responding to and countering potential metaphysical objections to their views. As a result, they have failed to notice a major problem that needs to be addressed by social theories of moral responsibility – the asymmetry of accountability practices in contexts of structural injustice – and they have overlooked the resources available within feminist philosophy for understanding the problem. Acknowledgements Earlier variants of this article were presented in 2016 at the Centre for Law and Social Justice, Leeds University; the Institute for Health and Social Policy, McGill University; and the Gendered Innovations in the Social Sciences Conference, ANU. Thanks to audiences on all those occasions for helpful comments and discussion. Thanks also to two anonymous referees for this journal for their constructive comments. 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Thaler Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness Yale University Press, New Haven, CN (2008) Tronto, 1993 J. Tronto Moral boundaries: A political argument for an ethic of care Routledge, New York and London (1993) Vargas, 2013 M. Vargas Building better beings: A theory of moral responsibility Oxford University Press, New York (2013) Veltman and Piper, 2014 A. Veltman, M. Piper (Eds.), Autonomy, oppression, and gender, Oxford University Press, New York (2014) Young, 1990 I.M. Young Justice and the politics of difference Princeton University Press, Princeton (1990) 1 For critical discussion of this kind of view within the discipline, with respect to diversity more generally, see Dotson (2012). 2 Data from the Australasian Association of Philosophy (AAP), the British Philosophical Association (BPA) and the American Philosophical Association (APA) shows that in Australia, the UK and the US only 27% of philosophy PhD graduates and 27% of academic staff are women. At the full professor level the ratios are even lower, with women's representation dropping to between 15 and 20%. For Australasian data, see Goddard (2008) and Dodds and Goddard (2013). For UK data see Beebee and Saul (2011). For US data, see Norlock (2011), Haslanger (2013), Hassoun and Conklin (2015). Interestingly, however, data from the AAP shows that women who do commence PhDs are more likely to complete at a higher rate than their male counterparts (Goddard, 2008). 3 See Schwitzgebel and Jennings (2016) for an analysis of gender ratios in membership of the APA (24% women), and participation in conference programs of the APA (32% women in 2014/15). 4 See Schwitzgebel and Jennings (2016) for an analysis of gender ratios in authorship in five leading philosophy journals, including two in the field of ethics, where the proportion of women is higher than elsewhere in the discipline (12% women authors in 2013–15). This latter figure is consistent with an analysis done by Haslanger (2008) of data from the same journals in the period 2002–2007 (13% women authors in the same five journals). Schwitzgebel and Jennings also assessed rates of citation of women authors in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (10% of the most cited authors), and rates of extended discussion of an author's work in a sample of 20 journals (14% women authors). 5 Thanks to an anonymous referee for alerting me to the research by Leslie and colleagues. 6 The use of the male pronoun here is deliberate. See Moulton's (1983) classic diagnosis of this phenomenon. Unfortunately, the culture that Moulton diagnosed is still prevalent in too many quarters of the discipline over three decades later. 7 See especially the chapters in Hutchison and Jenkins (2013). On implicit bias and ranking exercises within philosophy, see Saul (2012); on the philosophical implications of implicit bias, see Brownstein and Saul (2016). 8 The expanding literature on epistemic injustice (see e.g. Fricker, 2007; Medina, 2013) provides a powerful tool for analysing and explaining how stereotypes and identity prejudice can function to discredit the knowledge claims and undermine the epistemic credibility of members of marginalized social groups. 9 For an overview of the breadth and depth of scholarship in contemporary feminist philosophy, see Garry, Khader, and Stone (2017). 10 For an overview of relational approaches to autonomy see Mackenzie and Stoljar (2000). For more recent volumes, see Veltman and Piper (2014) and Oshana (2015a). My discussion in this paper draws on material from some of my more recent published papers on relational autonomy, including Mackenzie, 2010a, Mackenzie, 2010b, Mackenzie, 2014a, Mackenzie, 2014b, Mackenzie, 2015a, Mackenzie, 2015b, Mackenzie, 2017. 11 This citation information is based on the analysis of google scholar citation data conducted by Wendy Carlton in 2016. 12 For important analyses of the characteristics of non-voluntary social groups, see especially Cudd (2006) and Young (1990). 13 My analysis of normative individualism here draws on Anderson (2009). 14 See Mackenzie, 2010a, Mackenzie, 2010b, from which I draw some of the material in the following two paragraphs. 15 See especially Fineman, 2008, Fineman, 2010. I discuss and criticize Fineman's contrast between the ‘autonomy myth’ and the ‘vulnerable subject model’ at length in Mackenzie (2014b), from which I draw some of the material in this and the next paragraph. 16 The relevant literature is too voluminous to cite in detail. Some of the classic work in feminist ethics that has helped define the field includes Young (1990) on social group identity and structural injustice, Benhabib (1992) on the social self, and Gilligan (1982), Tronto (1993) and Kittay (1999) on care and justice. 17 This multidimensional analysis is first proposed in Mackenzie (2014a) and discussed subsequently in Mackenzie, 2015a, Mackenzie, 2017. The discussion that follows draws on some material from these articles. 18 The notion of freedom as non-domination is associated with the republican tradition of political philosophy. In contemporary political philosophy it has been articulated and defended most notably by Pettit, 1997, Pettit, 2012. It has also been criticized by feminist theorist Phillips (2000). Among relational autonomy theorists, Oshana, 2006, Oshana, 2015b argues that non-domination is a condition for autonomy. Recent scholarship on Mary Wollstonecraft draws links between her analysis of women's oppression and earlier traditions of republican thought. In Mackenzie (2016), I draw on some of this scholarship to argue that Wollstonecraft's analysis of self-governance and her critique of women's oppression prefigures some of the central themes of relational autonomy theory. 19 The capabilities theory of justice was originally developed by economist Sen, 1992, Sen, 2009, and subsequently by philosopher Nussbaum, 2000, Nussbaum, 2006, Nussbaum, 2011. It has been influential among feminist theorists in a range of fields, including economics and development studies. Among feminist philosophers, Anderson, 1999, Anderson, 2010 and Robeyns, 2003, Robeyns, 2010 have been the foremost exponents of capabilities theory. In Mackenzie (2014a), I develop in more detail the suggestion that capabilities theory provides an important articulation of the opportunity conditions for self-determination. 20 More information about this initiative can be found at: It is also featured in the documentary That Sugar Film, written and directed by Damon Gameau. 21 Nudge theorists, however, (see e.g., Sunstein & Thaler, 2008), who are sometimes referred to as “libertarian paternalists”, would support these kinds of initiatives on broadly consequentialist public health grounds. 22 Thanks to an anonymous referee for pressing me to clarify this point. 23 For an important recent feminist contribution to the literature on adaptive preferences see Khader (2011). For recent discussions of the relevance of the notion of adaptive preferences for relational theories of autonomy, see Stoljar (2014), Cudd (2015), and Mackenzie (2015a). 24 See Meyerson (1991) for a book length discussion of the concept of false consciousness. The role of false consciousness in perpetuating oppression is also discussed in Cudd (2006, 178–180). Feminist theorists may be wary of the concept of false consciousness, for reasons discussed in the following paragraph. While I agree with these cautionary concerns, I think the concept nevertheless identifies a real phenomenon. 25 For a detailed survey and philosophical discussion of this literature, see the essays in Brownstein and Saul (2016). 26 I discuss this distinction and its conflation by Khader in Mackenzie (2015a). For related discussion see also Stoljar (2014) and Cudd (2015). 27 Hutchison, Mackenzie, and Oshana (2018). 28 See especially McGeer (2012), McKenna (2012), and Vargas (2013). View Abstract © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.