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Compare angel def 1. Zionist Read more in this article about some frequently asked questions and fun facts related to our definitions. RELATED WORDS tyranny , repression , dictatorship , oppression , influence , supremacy , superiority , sovereignty , dominance , power , might , jurisdiction , rule , sway , despotism , command , dominion , suppression , prepotency , subordination.

Nearby words dominant trait , dominant wavelength , dominantly , dominate , dominating , domination , dominations , dominative , dominatrix , domine , domine, dirige nos. Examples from the Web for domination Local pushback against ISIS domination in these areas to bring a power sharing arrangement, seems ever more remote. Buchanan's Journal of Man, January Various. Cuba Arthur D. Emma Goldman Charles A. A minority position in the literature sees domination fundamentally as a relation between groups, where any domination between individuals is parasitic on group membership.

If this is true, the domination of one individual by another counts as such only because one belongs to a dominant group and the other belongs to a subordinate group Wartenberg That agents alone can be dominated is rarely disputed; but can agents alone dominate? What about non-agents like institutions or systems or ideologies? The grocer posts slogans favorable to the regime in the window of his shop. By posting the slogans, he both signals his cooperation with power and extends its reach. Workers who have deeply imbibed the values of capitalism might be another example see Thompson , : e.

While it may be that the values of capitalism are a social construct produced over time by agents for their own benefit, if what motivates the worker is their own corrupted sense of self-worth, it makes sense to think that they might be dominated by an ideology rather than other agents. The central question is whether we can understand possible examples of domination by systems or ideologies as instances of domination by agents through systems or ideologies. An affirmative answer is more often assumed than argued for in the literature, but Frank Lovett tries to motivate it with this example:.

Imagine a society in which the law of property recognizes the possibility of ownership in human beings, but in which it just happens that there are as yet no slaves. Later still, the masters repent, and manumit their slaves. Lovett thinks we will agree that domination occurs only during the period after slaves are imported and before their manumission: the legal system that allowed property in slaves enabled domination but did not dominate. The proposed lesson of another thought experiment—this one from Gwilym David Blunt 17—18 —is that domination without agents is conceivable but impracticable, at least in the near term.

If this is domination, it cannot be domination by the deceased legislator on the assumption that the dead have no agency , or by the automatons who are assumed to be not sophisticated enough to count as agents , or by the privileged population who did not write the laws and cannot control the automatons ; therefore, it must be the system itself that dominates.

In general, the disagreement about whether agents alone dominate tracks the division between theories directly influenced by neorepublicans and those descended from other traditions. Working from this central example, the republican tradition tends to see institutions, systems, and ideologies as sources of power that make mastery possible rather than as standalone sources of domination without agents. If, instead, our attention is focused on the ways power can shape the consciousness of those under its sway, domination by, e.

One of the most persistent recent disagreements concerns whether or not domination requires the exercise of power. Neorepublicans tend to link domination to what agents are in a position to do or have the capacity to do rather than what agents actually do. This is mostly because of the role domination plays within neorepublican ideas of freedom. Neorepublicans say their advantage is the way they highlight how potential interference reduces freedom.

This is the point of the most famous example from the republican tradition: the slaves of a kind or lazy master are slaves nonetheless, and so are paradigmatically unfree even though their master is too kind or lazy to interfere with them.

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What does it look like to have power that counts as domination even though unexercised? This way of examining social relationships looks away from how empowered agents exercise their power to the nature of that power itself. We do not stop objecting to paradigmatic dominators merely because they promise to make kind and judicious use of their powers; emancipation seems to require that they cease to have that kind of power.

This highlights neorepublican doubts about whether self-regulation by the powerful can reduce domination Lovett There are two primary lines of objection to the claim that only a change in how power relations are structured can check domination, rather than changes to the outcome of the relation or to the character of the empowered. The first is that it fails to capture realities of what the dominated really object to; the second is that it leads to significant over-generalization.

No one denies that victims of power object to the outcomes of its use, and not merely to their initial vulnerability to that power. Certainly, neorepublicans want to say that both are objectionable. But if we insist that domination refers properly only to the structure of a power relation, and not to outcomes of that relation, we may have a difficult time explaining the standard use of domination to refer to overwhelming power wielded against the defenseless.

Is this counterfactual history still a story of European domination? If not, it is tempting to identify European domination with the actual harm inflicted on people who were not equipped to resist them Katz There is reason to think, too, that the dominated sometimes have complaints specifically about the character of the powerful.

This issue has been revisited in the work of Christopher Lebron and Melvin Rogers forthcoming.

1. Domination: The Basic Idea

Rogers especially insists that theories of domination influenced by neorepublicanism overplay the irrelevance of character to dominating power. This transformation requires not only the external checks on domination achievable by legal reforms, but a transformation in the hearts of white Americans. Rogers argues that neorepublican theories of domination are formed by resistance to political slavery, where the essential humanity of the slave is not in question; unlike chattel slavery, which was built on and maintained by an ideological commitment to white supremacy and black inferiority.

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Legal reforms may be sufficient to counter political slavery: they represent a turn of the legal order toward closer alignment with the already acknowledged value of the enslaved. However, legal reforms alone, while necessary, are not enough when this value is systematically denied. Over-generalization worries are the most common objection to neorepublican approaches to domination. If domination is just the capacity for arbitrary interference, and given that such capacities seem ubiquitous, domination may be ordinary to the point of triviality.

Even when sitting around minding their own business, physically strong people have the capacity to overpower weaker people; even if they never do, people with a natural gift for persuasion have the capacity to talk the gullible out of their savings Friedman Also, if the primary function of the state is to minimize domination, neorepublicanism suggests that the state should try to make people less strong or less persuasive in order to reduce their capacity for arbitrary interference.

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For some feminists, the over-generalization worry is specifically that neorepublicans make relationships of care and dependency unreasonably suspect. A caregiver who would not dream of harming their charges nevertheless has the capacity to: infecting wounds instead of cleaning them, throwing someone down the stairs instead of helping them up Friedman Pettit acknowledges this feature of his theory when he claims that caring and uncaring mothers—and presumably caring and uncaring fathers—alike dominate their children in a state of nature Pettit — The alternative is to insist that though care providers may stand in a relationship of unequal power with a vulnerable dependent, unless this power is abused it does not dominate.

The attractiveness of this alternate depends on how we understand powers or capacities. If A has a power or capacity to interfere so long as it is possible in any sense for A to do so, as Pettit sometimes suggests, criticism focusing on the value of care is damaging: clearly, it is [e. If, however, A does not have the power to interfere so long as appropriate penalties are in place for such interference, the objection may not be so potent.

A hallmark of feminist ethics and political philosophy has been the insistence that power relations inside the home often manifest domination, even though the home can be a center of loving care and dependence, and that legal regulation—against spousal abuse or child neglect—might reduce that domination Costa Such laws, of course, do not make interference impossible simpliciter ; instead, it makes interference risky and potentially costly. Also, shifting from domination as mere power to domination as abuse of power may lead to other unattractive results, especially given broadly feminist commitments.

Does the bully dominate the white children just as much as the black children? What about someone like s American senator Joseph McCarthy? He had the same power to interfere in the lives of right-wing and left-wing Americans; but citizens on the left had far more reason to fear him. Perhaps the intuitive judgment here is that the bully only dominates the black children, and that McCarthy only dominates left-wing citizens.

Both examples are from Ian Shapiro ; It should be noted, however, that the persuasiveness of these examples depends in part on whether we think domination is the sole political evil, at least in the sense that all other political evils can be addressed most effectively by minimizing domination. Interestingly, Shapiro emphasizes the possibility that someone may be vulnerable to domination without being dominated, and that vulnerability to domination—like domination itself—is morally significant and represents an injustice While the idea of domination as vulnerability recurs in the neorepublican literature, there is relatively little examination of this intermediate category: those who are vulnerable to domination without being dominated.

The controversy about whether completely dormant power can dominate continues, but there is broad consensus that you can be dominated even if nobody is actively dominating you at the moment.


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Even if there is no domination without an actual display of power over you or people like you at some time, domination might persist when unexercised precisely because of its previous exercise. If power has been exercised over you in the past, or over someone like you perhaps because you are both members of a subordinated social group , this will affect how you relate to those in power.

For example, suppose you know that the boss can fire you at will. He has not fired you or even threatened to do so, and so has not actually exercised his power over you. Even so, you have seen him exercise this power over other employees. This motivates the view that your domination does not require the active exercise of power against you even though it might require the active exercise of power against someone relevantly like you. Of course, this leads to further questions: e. Such questions have received relatively little attention thus far but see Hirschmann Exercised or unexercised, what kind of power is domination?

If domination is about how social relationships are structured, what is A in a position to do if A dominates B? If domination requires the exercise of power, how does A use their power when they dominate B? Along one dimension, we can sort answers to these questions into the moralized vs. For a moralized theory, identifying domination requires us to settle more foundational questions about what is morally right or wrong, just or unjust. For example, if we say that dominating power is the power to violate human rights, our theory of domination depends on a theory of human rights—obviously a moral theory.

Non-moralized theories hold that we can identify domination without reference to theories of the right or the good. For example, if we say that dominating power is power over the means of production, our theory of domination will depend on a [plausibly] descriptive theory of what counts as the means of production. Contributions to the contemporary discussion of domination from all-comers are generally motivated by profound ethical concerns. Sorting is also required along another dimension. In addition to questions of moralization or non-moralization, there is the question of how domination relates to the use of power to dictate norms and rules, or the use of power to claim authority.

Is domination always an attempt to rule? Does domination always involve a claim—however mistaken—by dominators that their power is legitimate? Does domination always involve an attempt by the powerful to demand that the dominated conform to norms? If you answer any of these questions in the affirmative, you advocate a norm-dependent theory of domination.

Confusion is easy here, given that moralized theories often appeal to norms and rules. Norm-dependent theories say that domination always involves power exercised through norms and rules that some regard as legitimate—perhaps the dominator, perhaps the dominated, or perhaps both.

As we will see, for theories that are not just norm-dependent but also moralized , domination always involves a failure to respect the moral status of agents as sources of the norms that govern them. If a theory of domination says instead that the patriarch dominates because his demand for obedience unjustly undermines the right of his spouse and children to shape the norms that govern them, that theory is both norm-dependent and moralized.

A theory that depends in part on an account of unjust infringements is clearly moralized. It is not always easy to sort theories into these categories. The sorting is complicated by the fact that whether a theory is moralized or norm-dependent is sometimes a matter of active controversy. In what follows, theories will be sorted to reflect the intentions of the theorist—at least as far as these intentions can be discerned. This section will examine theories from each division, with their basic motivations and primary exemplars.

Theories identifying domination with even unexercised power tend away from moralization and norm-dependence. If A has a great deal of power over B , A will be well positioned to wrong B , or to force B at least to act like A has authority. What is essential? Roughly, that A has an unchecked or uncontrolled power to impose their will on B , to shape the framework of choices available to B so that B is highly likely to cooperate with A.

Usually, the second movement describes the controls or checks present in non-dominating social relationships and absent from the dominating ones. These two motives will be treated in order below:. First, what kind of social power is of interest to a theory of domination? Removal and replacement are both objective forms of choice interference: mind-independent alternatives been removed or replaced. Misrepresentation of options is cognitive : e. If B is credulous and refuses to ride their bike from embarrassment, A manages in this way to interfere with B by misrepresentation see Pettit This general emphasis on choice is what provokes the over-generalization worries already introduced Shapiro ; Friedman ; Blunt ; McCammon Some choices clearly have more weight than others.

Connecting the former as well as the latter to dominating varieties of choice-interference, because both might represent, e. If, however, we want to keep domination and the reduction of freedom conceptually connected, there is reason to see domination in all power to interfere, at least when that power is outside the control of the interferee.

While Pettit analyzes domination in terms of choice-interference, his favorite heuristic focuses directly on dominated agents, and the way they are social related to their dominators. Other theories share this emphasis on domination as a kind of power within a social relationship and tend to prefer it to talk of choice-interference Lovett ; McCammon What is a social relationship? To get from social relatedness to domination has other requirements.

It is difficult to see how A could dominate B unless A has more power over B than B has over A within their social relationship. Further, for A to have power over B plausibly requires that B cannot easily exit the relationship. To get domination, something more is required than mere choice-interference or power within a social relationship.

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This move was an attempt to emphasize the non-moralized nature of his theory. The terminological shift was probably wise, given the natural tendency to contrast arbitrary power with power backed by good reasons or power put to good purpose. Arbitrary power, for neorepublicans, has never been merely unreasoned power. The language of control also has echoes in his earlier work. Of course, for a non-moralized theory, identifying domination as anti-democratic must involve a non-moralized account of democracy. What is more difficult is showing how even broadly democratic states are non-dominating if we think the absence of domination involves literal control of the state by those it governs.

It is clear that the vast majority of individual citizens do not control their state in any meaningful way; given the enormity of contemporary states, it is unclear how they could. We might say that they should rest content with a fair share of control, or with a fair chance at control. But to say that we avoid domination when we have a fair share of control looks very much like a way of moralizing the theory, since fairness is clearly a moral notion.

Frank Lovett argues that avoiding domination does not require democracy, but instead subjecting the powerful to reliably enforced and widely known rules. Perhaps democracy does, in fact, most effectively reduce domination, but this should follow from substantive argument, not from the mere analysis of concepts Lovett Also, there is reason to think that subordinate groups are less dominated whenever their overlords must abide by reliably enforced and widely known rules, even when those rules do not express the will of the subordinated in any way. Lovett uses the following case to make his point:.

Suppose that for various historical, economic, and cultural reasons, one group in some society manages to acquire a preponderance of social power, which it wields over the other groups in that society directly and without constraint, much to its own benefit. Since the subordinate groups are in no position to challenge directly the preeminence of the powerful group, they instead demand only that the various rights and privileges of the latter be written down, codified, and impartially enforced by independent judges.

In time, let us suppose, the powerful group accedes to this demand, on the view that since the rules will be designed to benefit them, after all, there will be no significant cost in their doing so. If power is organized and systematized in law, it does sound odd to call it arbitrary. After all, it may be entirely predictable in such circumstances. Lovett tacks closer to the commonsense idea that what is arbitrary is unpredictable, unreasoned, and unfettered by rules. That such regimes would remain oppressive is obvious, but he believes this should be explained by the presence of other political evils than domination.

In actual systems of domination, A often has power over B not because A alone has more power e. Often, in such cases, A has power to adjust the system, or access to such power, while B does not. Suppose A lives in a society that introduces a reliably enforced, common-knowledge rule that A can harass B only by putting B in the stocks but may not whip B. This changes the situation both for A and B. Now, A alone does not decide whether and how to harass B : now, A is not checked simply by what A thinks they have reason to do.

If this is right, domination can be reduced even by non-democratic reforms. Empowered groups often dictate the terms of their dealings with subordinated groups based only on their own sense of how things should be, and the deliberatively isolated power of groups may be strengthened by measures that reduce the deliberative isolation of individuals. Norm-independent, moralized theories of domination are less influential than non-moralized varieties.

Even so, their appeal is easy to see. There is straightforward reason to moralize domination: i. Slave masters rape and assault their slaves. Men within patriarchy rape and assault women. Domination allows evil deeds go unpunished. This impunity is perhaps what matters most to those who think of domination in a moralized way. To be sure, not that every act of moral wrong manifests domination.

When a master tortures his slave, this is domination; but when a slave gets the drop on his master and tortures him it may not be, even on the assumption that both cases of torture are wrong.

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The difference is in what the master will face as a consequence for torturing the slave, as opposed to what the slave will face for torturing the master. The master wrongs the slave with impunity; the slave wrongs the master only at grave risk from the enforcers of the system that enslaves him. To get domination instead of wrongdoing , it is necessary to include a requirement like this: as a first pass, A dominates B just because A can wrong B in the context of an asymmetric power relation favoring A.

If A can wrong B with impunity, and B knows this, A will be well-positioned to exercise control over B. Shapiro looks to local custom for guidance about the standard for legitimate power, unless those customs dramatically undercut the interests of the less powerful. For example, he is happy to leave judgments of legitimate parental power to parents, except for those who would deny their children education and healthcare. A non-moralized account of basic interests, of course, might connect interests to what people actually value, regardless of what they have reason to value.

But this would leave us in the awkward position of being unable to recognize domination in brainwashed slaves who value their subordination. The Paradigms all typically think of themselves as the ones who make the rules, and that their subjects have an obligation to comply. To say that dominators, as such, always claim this kind of authority is to endorse a norm-dependent theory: that A dominates B by virtue of having a kind of socially legitimate power over them.