This chapter explores the irreducible plurality of appropriate moral considerations and of morally relevant features when evaluating the legitimacy of parental power. The concept of coercion is necessary for evaluating parental power. The chapter discusses numerous theoretical positions such as republicanism, anarchism, various forms of liberalism, and social contract theory. It shows the inadequacy of efforts made to equate power with one of its forms and, in that way, to reduce moral complexity concerning the legitimacy of power. The legitimacy of power leads to arguments about liberty, coercion, control, authority, and paternalism. The chapter focuses on liberal arguments about the legitimate use of control. Liberals in particular are sensitive to the possibility that those exercising control may violate fundamental liberal commitments, such as liberal neutrality, without using coercion and without interfering with liberty. The chapter distinguishes between legitimate and illegitimate parent-child power relations.
This part examines some of the moral questions that arise when evaluating parental power. It evaluates parental power within the boundaries provided by a number of case studies. They are the right to parent and whether parents should be licensed, monitored, and trained; children's capacity and competence to provide informed consent; and sharing lives with children and shaping children's values through civic education. Each case study explores both empirical evidence as well as the relevant legal, policy, and service context.
This chapter shows that the moral dilemmas, for which the liberal account of practical reason is required, arise not only in the political domain but also in relations between parents and children. It examines the role played by consent in the legitimation of power generally and parents' power in particular. Liberals, in their evaluation of the legitimacy of power relations in family, examine whether and to what extent they are based on the consent of the subjugated party. The chapter evaluates the legal validity of parental power by exploring the legal rights granted by the State to parents and children, as well as their legal duties. These legal rights and duties can be discerned from an examination of constitutions and legislation, as well as obligations arising from international, binding covenants and treaties. The chapter considers what type of reasoning is appropriate to justify the coercive imposition of society's basic institutions.
This chapter evaluates the legitimacy of parental licences and the monitoring and training of parents. It discusses the evidence for the effectiveness of parental training programmes as a means to protect children's interests. It explores conceptual questions, relevant empirical evidence, and legal, policy, and service issues concerning parental licences and the monitoring and training of parents. The chapter also explores various proposals for the State's role in respect of adults becoming parents and retaining the right to parent, including the licensing and monitoring of parents. Through the passing of legislation, the implementation of policies, and the provision of services, the State exercises a profound influence on parenting. The chapter examines opportunities both to acknowledge the presence of moral conflict and to try to resolve such conflicts through practical reasoning and practical judgement.
In addressing the issue of informed consent, this chapter examines the legitimacy of the exercise of parents' power over their children. It begins with the legal status of minors and, in particular, the legal rights of minors to make informed consent decisions. The chapter investigates some important legal, policy, and service issues concerning informed consent. The discussion of legal, policy, and service issues, empirical findings about children's competence, professional judgements of competence, and the impact of parenting on children's competence, indicate where conceptual clarification is greatly needed. The chapter also examines empirical evidence relating to children's informed consent. It explores a number of central conceptual issues and addresses a number of ethical questions concerning children's informed consent. The chapter focuses on children's competence in joint decision making. It also focuses on the concepts of competence and voluntariness.
This chapter examines the efforts made by parents to share a way of life with their children as well as those efforts made in the name of the wider society to shape the values of its future citizens. It also examines civic education within a broader political environment of liberal democratic values and institutions. The chapter focuses on the legal, policy, and service issues relevant to civic education. Numerous studies have been carried out concerning civic education, both the civic component of children's formal education as well as specific civic education programmes. However, when children engage with civic education programmes, parents can be faced with moral conflicts concerning the requirement to protect children's liberty. The chapter explains the ways in which philosophers address the moral conflicts. It also addresses some of the ethical questions that arise when considering civic education.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in this book. The book considers the conditions that should be attached to the 'right to parent', and, in particular to, the arguments for parental licences, the monitoring of parents, and the provision of parenting support programmes. It also considers one area where parents exercise power over their children, namely informed consent decisions for children's research participation and medical treatment. The book argues that paternalism as a concept was not sufficient to account for the power exercised by parents. Paternalism is insufficient to account for the legitimacy of parents' power, as there are non-paternalistic forms of parental power. The book argues with the assumption that political philosophers can answer complex moral questions without giving very much consideration to the complexities of the questions raised. Such arguments about political philosophy do or should have generality of theoretical claims.
Judith Shklar’s liberalism of fear is a sceptical approach to political thought that also ranks the vices in a particular way, giving priority to the avoidance of cruelty. For that reason, her work is an important influence for non-moralists (political realists and non-ideal theorists) who say that liberalism is, primarily, about protecting the vulnerable from the power of those who are dominant. These theorists also want to take a novel approach to questions of justification in political thought itself. They are self-avowed in their scepticism: they call for a non-ideal, or non-utopian, form of political thought. At the same time, we should pause to consider a very important question. Can political non-moralists also be liberals, and indeed can they be liberals of a particular stripe? Can they give priority to one value and principle and institutional arrangement over others? As we shall see, in her mature work Shklar says both that the fear of cruelty is the summum malum and that hers is a sceptical argument, one that does not appeal to anything other than actuality. However, we must ask, is there more going on here in putting forward that argument, something that indicates a perhaps surprising degree of convergence with the political moralism of, say, Rawls – a convergence that has so far remained unnoticed?
This chapter charts in detail the development of Shklar’s arguments from the value pluralism of her early work to the value monism of her mature work. And in order to better appreciate what is at stake in this transformation I examine her changing approach to the question of paternalism, and consider this alongside current debates about the different forms of paternalism and their justification. In her early work, as a value pluralist, Shklar claims that we can be left with unresolved conflicts between the value of justice, on the one hand, and educative, perfectionist, and paternalistic commitments, on the other. In her mature work, in contrast, Shklar maintains that we may only ever restrict freedom so as to avoid cruelty and, as a result, she insists that, as a general rule, paternalistic infringements of individual liberty are always unjustified. My reading of Shklar’s work is a novel one, in part because her commentators have not recognised that over time she moves from a value pluralist to a value monist position. It is novel for the further reason that it renders explicit the following assumption: paternalistic treatment of those who lack competence is justified, and it does not violate the liberty of those treated paternalistically.