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An exercise in pluralist political theory

This is a book about parents, power, and children and, in particular, the legitimacy of parents' power over their children. It takes seriously the challenge posed by moral pluralism, and considers the role of both theoretical rationality and practical judgement in resolving moral dilemmas associated with parental power. The book first examines the prevailing view about parental power: a certain form of paternalism, justified treatment of those who lack the qualities of an agent, and one that does not generate moral conflicts. It proposes an alternative, pluralist view of paternalism before showing that even paternalism properly understood is of limited application when we evaluate parental power. According to the caretaker thesis, parental power makes up for the deficits in children's agency, and for that reason children should be subjected to standard institutional paternalism. The liberation thesis stands at the other end of the spectrum concerning children's rights. The book then addresses the counter-argument that issues of legitimacy arise in the political domain and not in respect of parent-child relations. It also examines the 'right to parent' and whether parents should be licensed, monitored, or trained children's voluntariness and competence, and the right to provide informed consent for medical treatment and research participation. Finally, the book talks about parents' efforts to share a way of life with their children and the State's efforts to shape the values of future citizens through civic education. The overall approach taken has much more in common with the problem-driven political philosophy.

The influence of bureaucracy, market and psychology

Since the 1990s, European welfare states have undergone substantial changes regarding their objectives, areas of intervention and instruments of use. There has been an increasing move towards the prioritisation of the involvement of citizens and the participation of civil society. This book focuses on the altered (powerful) conditions for encounters between citizens and welfare workers. It uses the concept of soft power, which, inter alia, allows for the investigations of the ways in which individuals manipulate each other in an effort to achieve their desired goals. The first part of the book discusses extracts from state-of-the-art research on professions and expertise, and the perception of power that guides the analyses. It also discusses the overall theoretical positioning when analysing encounters between welfare workers and citizens as co-productive and interactionist. The second part presents analyses to show how a bureaucratic context affects the encounter between administrators and clients, and how a market context affects the encounter between service providers and consumers/customers. The analysis of how a psychology-inspired context affects the encounter between coaches and coaches is also provided. All three contexts are to be perceived as Weberian ideal types, in other words, theoretical constructs based on observations of the real world. The concluding part of the book emphasises on the role of the principles of the bureaucracy, the norms from psychology, and the values of the market in the welfare encounter. Key points of the book are summarised in the conclusion.