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An exercise in pluralist political theory
Author: Allyn Fives

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.

Abstract only
Allyn Fives

5 Parental power How should we conceptualise parental power and how can it be evaluated? In previous chapters, in the evaluation of parental power I made the case for an irreducible plurality of moral considerations and of morally relevant features. In this chapter, I will examine what is, I argue, an irreducible plurality of forms of power itself. I leave until the following chapter to explore the moral considerations appropriate for the evaluation of its legitimacy. However, in the current chapter, I do go some way towards addressing methodological issues

in Evaluating parental power
Allyn Fives

Part III The moral legitimacy of parental power In this the final part of the book, I examine some of the moral questions that arise when evaluating parental power. A great deal has been said already about the conceptual and methodological challenges faced when we do evaluate parental power. How then are we to proceed? To start with, we should acknowledge the growing interest among political philosophers in the debate between so-called ideal theory and non-ideal theory. This debate is concerned with whether and to what extent normative political philosophy

in Evaluating parental power
Allyn Fives

Part II Conceptual and methodological issues How are we to evaluate parental power? In the next four chapters, I will look at the conceptual and methodological issues raised by that question. I make the case for a pluralist approach to methodology generally and the conceptualisation of power more specifically. This is necessary, I will try to show, as efforts to reduce plurality fail. When we evaluate parental power, there is an irreducible plurality of morally significant features and of relevant moral considerations. In addition, because of this irreducible

in Evaluating parental power
Allyn Fives

, is the least satisfactory. I will make the case for an alternative, pluralist, definition of paternalism, according to which paternalism does involve moral conflicts, it does not always involve interference with a ­ nother’s liberty, and it is only exercised over those possessing the qualities of an agent. I will then ask, is parental power always paternalistic (Chapter 2)? Based on an extended analysis of the caretaker thesis and the liberation thesis, I argue that parental power often is not paternalistic, as understood by my preferred definition. Therefore, the

in Evaluating parental power
Abstract only
Philosophy, power, and parents
Allyn Fives

of parental power. It is widely accepted that we should not interfere with an adult’s liberty so as to promote that adult’s well-being. We should not treat others in this way as, in the main, we think this type of paternalism is inappropriate as a way to structure the way we live together as fellow adults and fellow citizens. However, at the same time, it is widely accepted that parents may, indeed should, exercise power over their children in precisely this way. It is argued that, as a general rule, parents should prioritise children’s own well-being whenever it

in Evaluating parental power
Allyn Fives

justification of parental power. Insisting that, as a general rule, we should give priority to one moral claim, for example that parents’ coercive power must be based on children’s hypothetical consent, is inadequate to the plurality of moral considerations that are appropriate for the evaluation of parental power. I have also argued that there is no sufficiently strong reason to concern ourselves with only one feature of parentalpower over’, for example, parental coercion. As I will try to show here, such an approach would be inadequate to the various morally relevant

in Evaluating parental power
Allyn Fives

act in a paternalistic fashion so as to take care of their children or is it instead to set their children free? 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 (see Purdy, 1996; Burtt, 2003; Archard, 2004; Brighouse and Swift, 2014). The liberation thesis stands at the other end of the spectrum concerning children’s rights. According to the liberation thesis, we tend to underestimate children’s capacity for agency, and we ignore

in Evaluating parental power
Allyn Fives

it, whether in whole or in part (2003 [1989], p. 242). While institutions in the public sphere are imposed in this way, in contrast, it is argued, parent–child relations are situated in the private sphere of the family, and they do not involve the exercise of coercive power over those whose consent is normally required for legitimacy. The second objection follows from the first. In the political domain, it is argued, we must appeal 148 The moral legitimacy of parental power to the most ­objective moral standards, and this is because of the moral seriousness of

in Evaluating parental power
Abstract only
Allyn Fives

’s general findings of a conceptual and methodological nature? The first conclusion is that paternalism is insufficient to account for the legitimacy of parents’ power, as there are non-­paternalistic forms of parental power, and they too can be legitimate. This finding has important implications for both the liberation thesis and the caretaker thesis, for both equate parental power with paternalism. The implication is that we must break out of what has been a very limiting debate and move beyond categories of caretaker and liberator. I also concluded that, when we do need

in Evaluating parental power