Political Feminist readers in theories of social justice, such as McKinnon and Okin often present a radical critique that subverts traditional theories but tends to withdraw to liberal traditional solutions. McKinnon and Okin conclude their brilliant critical analyses of the patriarchal state or social institutions with legal propositions that eventually maintain patriarchal judicial structure or suggest family reforms that preserve the traditional bi-parental family structure. The argument that I present in this article is that the limitations of feminist theory’s critics of social justice theories reside in their avoidance of entering into the question of subject construction in these theories. The subject in social justice theories is always a self construction, one that is le noble sauvage, an autonomous and lonely subject (Hobbes and Rousseau for example). It is a subject who is unable to learn about himself through the Other. The presence of the Other to the One in traditional theories of justice is a source of threat, fear, envy, competition and conflict, as Syela Benhabib shows. In these theories the subject’s gender is always male and when the female enters the scene she is recognized as that who is not him, as his opposite.

However, when psychoanalytical feminist theorists, such as Gilligan and Chodorow, discuss the question of the subject construction they unveil traits like intimacy and empathy as essential to the female construction of the subject. But here there is another limitation. Their conclusions remain restricted to theories of ethics rather than theories of justice. Nonetheless, they provide us with new perspectives that pave roads to the construction of the Other as its subject and to move on to theories of justice. After presenting these problems, I wish to conclude by discussing the subject construction beginning from the Other and its projections on theories of social and political justice. I shall address this topic by referring to the question: to what extent can a theory of justice evolve around a subject construction that is an Other and not a self?

The traditional theories of social justice are all based on the principle of universalism whether they are rooted in utilitarian, communitarian or libertarian thoughts. The centrality of this principle, among other things, enables making the discourse between them sensible as it starts from the same foundational ground. This is clearly demonstrated in the monumental work of John Rawls: A Theory of Justice (Rawls, 1971). Rawl’s theory has, since it was initially published, provided the discursive ground on which most contemporary social justice theories stand [1]. It is therefore not too unsafe to argue that no sound theory of justice can do if it relinquishes the principle of universality. In the last few years these theories which are perceived as classic theories of justice, are facing challenges through serious contestation of the notion of universalism. Theoretical developments in directions of multi-culturalism (Kymlica, 1990), feminism (Scott, 1990), globalisation and late capitalism (Jameson) challenge the classical theories of justice and generate vigilant, interesting and enthusiastic discussions that problematise the theoretical notion of universality.

The common denominator of these theoretical developments is that they all approach theories of social justice with suspicion of their claim to homogeneity and to the qualities that grant them with the foundational idea of universality. Thus, these challenges jeopardize the principle of universality and lead a way to beg for repairing or providing alternative foundational perceptions.

In this paper I shall discuss the problem that arises when theoreticians of gender make an attempt to discuss the notions self/other with relation to the principle of universality, as perceived by traditional/classic theories of justice. My argument is that the traditional theories of justice fail to accept the female as an agent and as an autonomous subject. As long as the idea of universality remains a corner stone of these theories the problem shall remain unsolved. Following Seyla Benhabib’s discussion of the generalized and concrete other in her article ‘The Generalized and The Concrete Other: The Kohlberg-Gilligan Controversy and Feminist Theory’ (Benhabib, 1985), I shall discuss the problem of the principle of universality with regard to the construction of the subject. Following that I shall examine Benhabib’s suggestion of the possibility to develop an alternative notion of ‘an autonomous other’.

Methodological difficulty stands in the way of feminist thought when trying to contest this challenge. Prominent feminist theorists who want to address new issues in gender face difficulties when trying to insert the issues within the context of the traditional discourse on social justice. The attempt to problematise the foundational ground of social justice theories can be achieved by engendering them, that is by looking into the sex-gender systems that emerge from them. More specifically this task requires subverting the foundational ground of the realm that the traditional social justice theory defines as the private sphere, and is opposed to the public sphere. The major trait attributed to the public sphere is its politicized nature. It is this trait that distinguishes it from the private sphere. Hence the move that the gender theorists take when interfering in social justice discourse is mainly a move of politization of what was never mixed with the polity, strictly defined as sterile from politics: the private sphere. Politization is viewed as the dynamic processes through which social power relations are constituted. Hence division of labor that is based on the binary of private/public becomes political in two senses: First, the genealogy of the binary is traced down along the discussion of the private/public sphere, so that the political nature of the theory is exposed in the analysis of power relations showing that it is mistakably restricted only to the public sphere and consequently leaves the misleading impression that the private is sterile of it. And secondly, the parts of the binary which were defined as non-political issues are politicized. At this point issues such as sexuality, motherhood, and reproduction, which were separated and represented as belonging to the private non-political realm are re-conceptualized, deconstructed, revealed and represented within the power-relation context, in which they are immersed. The gender issues that this move generates can be categorized in four politicized groups:

a. The issues of women’s transparency in traditional theories of social justice.
b. Criticism of the introduction of the patriarchal family in classical theories of     social justice.
c. The blindness of social justice to women’s fate of being oppressed and     unprotected from sexual violence.
d. The problem of essentiality that reinforces women’s social roles due to their     biological ability to give birth and to breast feed. This problem stems from     reductionism of gender that justifies viewing women as instruments rather     than treating them as human beings and as an end in themselves.

Many feminist theories attempt to redefine the female self by breaking down the dichotomy between the private and public spheres, thereby exposing the private sphere as political. Thus, politization as a methodology operates as a subversive act of reading traditional texts. However, I would argue that this is not as radical as many seem to think, as many of these theories fail to provide a new alternative, thus merely reinforcing the private/public division of spheres. In this respect the feminist reading of traditional texts on social justice is most often considered as radical. Considered as such I contend that these theories are over-generalized as radical even in cases in which they are not. In the case of Susan Muller Okin (Okin, 1986) whom all embrace as a radical theorist, the radicalism of her work is reflected from subversive and critical reading of traditional theories of justice. However, the following part of providing new alternatives coalesces with the liberal, theoretical ground and results in the traditional solution of reinforcing the private/public division of spheres. Thus even if subversive reading isn’t trivial, and maybe considered as radical, this type of radicalism ends before reaching the stage of concluding resolutions. Her writings adopt mechanical methods which fall back into traditional liberal resolutions of engendering the theories. For example, extending men’s rights so it covers women too but failing to see patriarchal specific perceptions of women’s realities that continue to maintain women’s inequalities. This strategy results in ‘correcting’ the theories by ways of expecting women to resemble to men. Something like: ‘whenever you see the word ‘he’, please add a diagonal mark and write ‘she’. This approach can also be found in the writings of liberal feminist theorists like Martha Nussbaum (Nussbaum, 1999). Another example is in the legal discourse where theorists make legal adjustments without really challenging the patriarchal foundations of the entire legal system. MacKinnon (Mackinnon 1989), like Okin Muller, took a radical approach at the subversive stage of the liberal discourse but also failed at the concluding stage. She suggested promoting reforms such as Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) to equality (1989), pornography (1992), and hate speech (1991) acts. The Supreme Court of Canada even adopted it, in part. She is involved in litigation, legislation, and policy development on women’s human rights [2]. However, these reforms conform with the foundational ground of the legal system which is liberal but patriarchal in nature. Hence, it is almost impossible to enforce the legal changes in the direction of gender reforms. As it happened, when the reforms came to test in the court, in the case of pornography the reforms failed because liberal laws of freedom of occupation were preferred over the protection of women from violence. Another example that illustrates the difficulty to go radical all the way in social justice theories is that of Carol Pateman (Pateman, 989). Pateman suggests leading reforms in the family division of labour. But even when contesting the division of labour of private versus public and presenting the family as a site of oppression and inequality for women, the dichotomy private/public remains the same and retains its bourgeois conservative intergenerational and class rights. In all the above mentioned approaches the family as a social institution is often analyzed within the context of heterosexual bi-parental binary boundaries; one of the most serious consequences is that a single parent family appears to be incurably a crippled case of the ‘healthy bi-parental family’. I therefore conclude that we tend to exaggerate in granting too much radical credit to feminist theorists who restrict themselves to the liberal boundaries while suggesting reformist adjustments only [3]. The limitation to these approaches is that liberal and sometimes conservative theorists of gender do not contend with issues of specific contexts in which the individual subject emerges; contexts where the gender develops, and where the moral and gendered self is formed.

Another difficulty that arises from these approaches is that when addressing gender issues, leading feminist theorists don’t enter the issue of the gender subject construction. Okin (Okin, 1986), McKinnon (Mackinnon, 1989) and Young (Young, 1990) for example, when they search for gender issues in traditional social justice theories, assume the gender subject as constructed within traditional theories of justice without deconstructing the notion of subject and its constituencies. Then, they reinsert it into the broader contexts of the gender discourses on division of labor, women transparency or the violation of women’s rights accepting the male construction of the subject as obvious. The female subject is treated in these theorists’ works in the same universalized way the male subject is treated. Therefore, even though the analysis initiates a radical tendency and yields a promise to subversive proposition, it often is concluded in more liberal traditional terms.

A different approach to the issue of the subject construction in feminist thought can be found in Gilligan’s work. She addresses the question of the subject construction within the psychoanalytic context of her work. Nevertheless, she does not ground it in theories of justice, although she refers to them. Kymlika puts this difficulty in clear words saying that she ‘avoids the language of universality’ (Kymlicka, 1990, 271). Gilligan is committed to a ‘web of ongoing relationship’ which she sees as concrete and prior to moral beliefs or actions. The relationship is not impartial, whereas according to liberal and more traditional theories of social justice, social justice’s relations must be so and must not distinguish between individualities. Universality is required from social justice relations because of the premise on which social justice theory lies, the premise of equal moral worth of all human beings. This premise is grounded in the principle of universality.

The problem of the principle of universality in theories of social justice links at this point with the problem of the construction of the subject and has serious implications on the broader scope of the discussion; the discussion of constituting the moral self and the construction of identities. The problem is not how to link the particular with the universal but how to link the individual with the universal.

In ‘The Generalized and The Concrete Other: The Kohlberg-Gilligan Controversy and Moral Theory’, Seyla Benhabib addresses the issue of equality of women within the context of moral theories suggesting to engender and to amend current theories of justice. Benhabib argues that moral philosophies that uphold a universalistic approach suffer from two inherent deficiencies: One deficiency relates to the way philosophy treats the ‘self’. She contends that it is a notion of ‘self’ which is not grounded in the concrete; it is rather an abstract self from which a moral subject is implied and depicted as a generalized configuration. It is inferred that this subject appears to be a unified rational entity that can’t bear particular differences between subjects without destroying the universalistic principle. But why is that so?

A dialectical glance at the notion of universality uncovers a deep chasm between the modernist perception of the universal and the deconstructive view of it. Often this chasm is incidentally mentioned as the mark of distinction between modernism and post modernism. I would like to take a few moments to further look into the problem of the universal before associating it to our discussion with regard to the constitution of the moral subject.

The notion of the universal in modernist thought, as delineated by Hegel leans on several traits that conceal particularistic parts. First the universal is ‘the ‘rational’ and can be apprehended only in this speculative way.’ (Hegel, 1978, 31) Universality is thus defined as concrete in character ‘and so explicitly universal [which] is the substance of self consciousness […] its immanent idea.’ (Hegel, 1987, 21) An example for concrete universals is the mind or reason, which Hegel argues, ‘particularizes itself into differences which are interconnected by its universality in which the parts of an organism are held together by the single life which they are all share’ (Hegel, 1978, 323/4). Based on Kantian notions of the relations between the parts and the whole, Hegel continues to argue that in order to secure recognition from others it is necessary to have ‘a universal and universally valid embodiment in laws, in other words in determinate thoughts’ (Hegel, 1978, 218). At this point, Hegel merges the absolute mind with the universal:

[t]he one and only absolute judge, which makes itself authoritative against the particular and at all times is the absolute mind which manifests itself in the history of the world as the universal. (Hegel, 1978, 279)

The link that connects the universal and the rational together is the need for external laws. Benhabib’s formulation of these traits of the notion of universality is introduced as follows:

[u]niversality is a regulative ideal that does not deny our embodied and embedded identity, but aims at developing moral attitudes and encouraging political transformation that yield a point of view accepted to all […] [it] is not ideal consensus of fictitiously defined selves, but the concrete process in politics and morals of struggle of concrete embodied selves, striving for autonomy. (Benhabib, 1985:5)

Benhabib’s reformulation of the idea of universality thus exhibits the concealed particularistic parts of the notion by pointing to the identity’s embeddings and embodiment.

Thus the notion of the universal must be somehow mediated. In modernist thought it is mediated by powers of abstraction of the subject (the rational subject) which joins the individual and the universal in an epistemic manner.

This is an idealization of the form of life of the mind that is introduced as capable to universality and thus to provide the individual (‘the rational’ individual) with a quality of reciprocity. The subject becomes an instance of the universal and is able to acknowledge this quality in the other. Viewed as such universalism is associated with morality and supplies the foundation for legal systems and principles of justice. However, these are a quality and an ability that are immanent to the subject and in this respect they are pre-social. All these are expressions that beg the question, when were these notions of universality, reciprocity and morality internalized by the subject? How did the principles of justice or morality become familiar to him? It is difficult to find sound answers to these questions without shaking the notion of universality.

The internalization of the idea of the universal occurs by way of construction of the subject and by means of social coercion rather than by means of rationality and autonomous choice. This is a different way of describing the same process of the construction of the universal that is supported by various deconstructionist theorists. Bourdieu, for example, connects the subjective to the objective, in particular within the context of oppression of economic and cultural powers. It is first and foremost a construction of social relations. In developing the notion of habitus through which he relates to the notion of the universal he contends that the subject construction is a social process and not a pre-social one. Here he presents the idea of social recognition by the subject as a form of epistemic universalism that reveals how the association of universality works in society as an oppressive force (McNay, 2009, 133). The idealization of the universal turns, in Bourdieu’s work, into an episteme that is the source of harm – social and economic harm (McNay, 2009, 133).

Thus, old schools of social justice are contested by new thoughts such as Bourdieu’s that see the notion of universality as produced by way of economic and social harms. The aim of old schools efforts is targeted then at preserving the notion of universality that appears to be a production of rationality that is the production of the ability attributed to the subject. However, the subject is introduced as a unity of rational entity. Differences among subjects can’t be elected without deconstructing the principle of universality.

Theorists of multi-culturalism, feminism, critics of globalisation and late capitalism adopt similar criticism of the old schools and open new options to the modification of social justice theories based on a new understanding of the notion of the subject. Whether they are aware of it or not they discard traditional starting points such as sameness and similarities of mankind and instead they stress ideas of differences between subjects. They suggest seeing the notion of difference as an idea that is worth considering with regard to the understanding of the subject construction albeit the substantial peril to the idea of universality.

According to Benhabib, the shift of the new schools in the direction of fostering differences rather than universality and sameness do not provide us with a satisfactory solution to the problem of universality and the unified subject. What it does is to merely undercut the methods that the universalistic moral philosophy offers for the discourse on the moral subject. Indeed it allows to develop the discourse in the direction of understanding the subject in terms of the ‘the other’ rather than ‘the self’. However, the discourse still struggles with the problem of understanding the subject, not in concrete terms of ‘the other’, but as a generalized ‘other’ (Benhabib, 1985, 410). A move that is no more than an empty exercise of taking the point of view of the ‘other’ without suggesting any distinction between ‘the generalized other’ and ‘the generalized self’. In other words this shift also introduces people as rational entities while assimilating differences between them and dissolving their individuality into the universal. Rationality stands still as the force that maintains the individual subject construction.

Examples to these models can be drawn from theories of justice such as Michael Walzer’s (Walzer, 1994), Charles Taylor and Amartya Sen (Sen, 1990). It can be found also in theories of feminists such as those I have already mentioned: Susan Moller Okin, Martha Nussbaum, Catherine McKinnon and Iris Marion Young.

In order to cope with this problem of individuation of the ‘self’ or of the ‘other’ it is required to renounce moral norms of formal equality and abstract perceptions of the subject. What is renounced is uniformity and its construction as a pre-social subject that is linked to the universal by rational forces rather than social power relations. Consequently delusive moral norms of formal justice and abstractions of the subject perish and clear the way to the foundation of reciprocal relationships like respect, self esteem, commitment to a concrete ‘oneself’ and an ‘other’. It requires however, the foundation of an ‘other’ that will be inclusive of her personal affiliations, her cultural background’ her singularity as an individual, her economic, social and political contexts of her existence. In other words the problem is how to see the One not through the eyes of the self, and not as a homogeneous unified pre-social identity.

The problem of the One subject can be described by looking at the way in which theories of justice relate to the self. All theories of justice are based on differing assumptions that separate good life from justice (Benhabib, 1985, 411). In descriptions of the pre-judicial state one finds presuppositions on the state of nature and on the nature of the individual human being that are constituted as facts. The state of nature is constituted either as a nightmare (Hobbes, 1660) or a utopia (Rousseau, 1991). The individual is depicted either as a mushroom (Hobbes, 1660) or as a noble sauvage (Rousseau, 1991). They have no mother or female spouse (Sophie appears later and represented as Emil’s Other). These theories go on to delineate the One’s narcissistic character. At this point the discussion moves to constitute a separation between good life and justice. A man is One, sovereign uninhibited, enslaved by his lusts and desires and he is incapable of seeing himself through another self. At the presence of the other the sovereignty of the self is immediately destroyed. Hegel presents this position most clearly in his Master-slave discussion of recognition (Hegel, 1978, 212-14). When encountering the other, the self always comes forth insecure and undetermined. The brother- sibling of the self who resembles him threatens the exclusive status of his uniqueness. The way to regulate these unconfident relationships as it appears in these theories; Benhabib contends that it is attainable by inculcating/inserting/injecting the father to the picture, a father in the image of the law. The law legislated in the name of the father rehabilitates the threatened self. Property is introduced into the picture and the self is reconstructed in the image of a bourgeois. From this moment onwards the endeavor of a just social order is unceasingly occupied by reducing the insecurity by means of outflanking fear, taming jealousy of other’s property, and domesticating competition by inserting rules of games that are termed to be fair.

The meaning of the rules is that strict lines between self and the other must be drawn and are drawn by means of intimidation and alertness that infuses the knowledge that the other is watching me all the time and wants to transgress my space. This is the contextual foundation of abstract theories of justice. It constitutes an imaginary world which fairness and morality are not intrinsic to it but need to be implanted into it. A ‘self’ is operating autonomously as it were but in fact it is dismantled from the real body and detached from intimacy, reciprocity and amity. This is a self that learns how to acknowledge the needs of the other from being concentrated in his own self and out of fear from the other. The ability of settling conflicts and establishing righteous demands is thus anchored in mutual recognition that the other’s demands are the same as those of the self. From the memories of the state of nature it is implied that mutual recognition of demands derives of sources of fears and of desires of the self that are projected on the other.

But this is a bizarre world, in which mothers and sisters don’t exist, a world where individuals are men before they are children and where female individuals are boys before they are girls. In a universe like this there is no place for a female. Women are not autonomous, they raise children, they provide, they are private entities, not public, not political, and not sovereign. The female is the ‘opposite of’. Her world founded on negativity as she simply isn’t what he is. Her civil identity is grounded in lacking autonomy and in having no phallus. The citizen takes her as that which isn’t him.

In classic theories of justice, women are concealed in the dimness of the private sphere and they are chained and associated with reproduction in the bedroom. Precisely in this site, detached from the public sphere, as in the heart of rainforests, a culture of intimacy and caring is flourishing and developing. The history of this world of culture has never been documented and there isn’t any precession of time or dynamic change about it. In the theories of justice, caring, reciprocity and intimacy evolve from nature and the earth. In other words this culture as opposed to the state of nature metaphor, that, as much as it is a fiction, there were those who have contended it and with the reality that it implies, is an a historical reality that pertains the private sphere and pertains to circuits of life that cannot be transferred from private to public and from nature to culture. What we have here is a split between the private and the public spheres that cannot be bridged. Discourses of history, politics and morality are detained as irrelevant to the culture of the private sphere. Discourses of history, politics and morality emerge from the public life and flourish in its heart. The unbridgeable split is revealed through dichotomies of the enlightened reason versus dimed feelings, universal law versus mundane body, autonomous unified and substantial self versus eclectic other. These are all categories that eventually extract to constructionist subjectivity versus reified objective. Benhabib transfigures these splits and dichotomies saying that:

gender-sex system [is] a grid through which the self develops an embodiedidentity a mode of being in one’s body and of living the body. The self becomes an I in that it appropriates from the human community a mode of physically, socially, symbolically experiencing its bodily identity. (Benhabib 1985:5)

And she continues to ask the question: What could be the contribution of feminism to moral philosophy?

Based on Gilligan’s research, Benhabib argues that women often tend to take the ‘particular other’s position and to express feeling of sympathy when it is required. The problem was that in classical theories it was presented as a confusion and weakness on the part of women and even as ethical disability, and from now, in feminist theories the cognitive state of sympathy expression was re-contextualized. It is presented as an essential advantage that is rooted mainly in female experience.

The implication of this move is revolutionary in that it requires reorganizing the understanding of the development of the ‘moral subject’. It also requires reorganizing the abstract basis of moral norms that determine reciprocal relations. The moral, according to the evidence found in the ‘ethics of care’, is not the separation of ‘oneself’ from ‘another’, but rather it is a state of moral maturity that marks an ability of the ‘self’ to be invested in others. In conclusion then, this advantage can guarantee growth and institutional development on the basis of other’s needs and on the basis of reciprocity instead of situating the autonomous sovereign individual as the basis for the ‘moral subject’ which was frightened and competitive as it was constituted in traditional liberal theories. An individual that is, according to Benhabib, a fiction that is rooted in the state of nature, which is also a fiction invented by classical theories of justice.

In spite of the above argumentation against the traditional theories and the split between justice and care, it must be admitted that Kohlberg’s answer to Gilligan, reinforces the position of Benhabib. Kohlberg admits that caring and empathy are part of the sequence that resides in the range of rights and responsibility. Caring and justice are not considered as norms that essentially contradict each other. The difference between Gilligan and Kohlberg lies in the categories of orientation that give priority to justice over caring but still relate to both. In other words we do not have a polarization and dichotomy between justice and caring but rather a continuity of norms that does not indicate the existence of an essential gap with gender character. Responsiveness and caring to situations are linked to special duties to the family, friends, to concrete others and they are followed, as Kohlberg suggests, by abstraction forces to develop respect, fairness and contract. But this is part of his answer to Gilligan and it is not different from his initial conventions according to which women are morally less developed then men.

Even when this distinction is repaired as a continuity and not a dichotomy in theories of justice, we are still interested in the study of the subject development and the moral dimensions that qualifies her to become capable of making choices which align with social justice. This is in contrast with Kohlberg and Gilligan’s debate, who were interested in particular in the development of the ego. For them the moral dimensions were significant implications to the debate. However, the implications were possible but not necessary to the understanding of the identity development in the theoretical discourse. But when moving on to other fields of discussions the development of the moral subject beyond the psychological realm, to those of the political and the social justice other dimensions arise and should be addressed. Implications on gender relations and their incorporation to theories of social justice are unavoidable.

Benhabib begins to face this challenge by presenting two presumptions: First, that a sex-gender system is an essential one that is practiced as a field for social experiences. She divides it symbolically so that a socio-historical constitution determines gender differences. The development of the self is determined through sex-gender systems and provides the body with a form of life and existence. The self acquires corporal, symbolic, social and cultural experiences of which the human self is formed in a dynamic process as quoted above. Second, the gender-sex system has historically contributed to the oppression and exploitation of women. This point is elaborated and more specifically applied from Bourdieu’s understanding of the notion of the universal social experience, as I have noted previously.

The tasks of feminist theory with regard to social justice derive out of these two assumptions: Feminist theory must tell how and where all of this sex-gender system is designed, what are the practices that make it happen, how do they occur and develop, and finally, produce an emancipating and reflexive analysis that will lead to overthrowing the oppression and exploitation; more specifically the oppressive methods that deprive women from liberty, and forms of exploitation that generate women’s inequality.

Benhabib is interested in eradicating oppression and exploitation through critical scientific research and through developing insights of moral and political principles at the level of normative discourse and the level she defines as meta-ethical. In these levels the eradication of oppression and exploitation is achieved through the work of logic of justification, logics of subversion and tools of reflecting on concrete contents of moral decisions. How can we do this? Benhabib illustrates: contextual definitions that are taken from the moral domain such as moral autonomy which can be found in a wide range of social justice writings along three or more centuries from Hobbes to Rawls, they all privatize the female experience. Female experience is treated as irrelevant to the moral discourse. Their entity, their existence, is considered dissembled and disembedded. The female existence thus presented is lacking affinity to the human experience. The other that is relevant to the human experience is not the women but the brother, a human being that resembles the self whose experiences are consistent with the first assumption of Benhabib; the assumption that corporal, symbolic, social and cultural experiences are of the same masculine sex and the same heterosexual gender.

This was the only way that it was possible to develop a homogenous and universal theory of justice, one that is equally applied to men as human beings. In the application phase, the concrete subject is revealed as a white, western man, owner of property. All the other forms of existence are ignored, including female human beings, and other beings such as animals and the universe. The problem is that the universalistic principle is apprehended as homogenous and leads to a deadlock. The discourse becomes limited and is concluded with a dead end. As the principle of universality is static and narrow in its nature it leads to a rigid discourse.

Benhabib suggests modifying the discourse of universality on the subject of the individuation of the other and expanding the universality principle around the idea of an interactive principle. This shall enlarge and enable interactivity of the discourse. It shall open options to acknowledge plural models and enable accessibility to sites where it is possible to create diverse forms of humanity. These sites shall be like fertile soil for the growth and prosperity of recognition of differences that can be morally validated.

Sites of this type provide a starting point of difference rather than uniformity and sameness for moral and political discussions. The self here is mirrored in the other and is submerged in him. Such a starting point seems to be more relevant to the moral discourse of the self than the autonomy, homogeneity, resemblance and sovereignty.

What remains of the principle of universality? Benhabib contends that universality becomes a regulative principle. It functions like a lighthouse that paves the road to the constitution of moral approaches. But at the same time, this moderating principle encourages political transformations and enriches the points of view. In political moves of radical deliberative democracy the meaning of such a process is that there is greater number of stand options from which one can make her choice and the chances that they will be accepted are also greater. Developing the principle of universality in the direction of transforming it into a regulative principle is a practice that is concrete to political struggles between selves whilst everyone shares the desire for autonomy.

The solution is therefore to open interactive options that bring to discourse the stand point position of the generalized self with the generalized concrete other. The generalized and the concrete autonomous self is nurtured from and embedded in the interaction with the other through universality that functions as a regulative principle. The working of this principle is depicted, as the order of things stands out, from the culture that women developed in the darkness where they have always been the other. Two rules of this mode of self-construction: Bonding and independence, and they permit simultaneity of autonomy and closeness. Such a conjunction carries the potential of bonding together, a good life, caring, reciprocity and justice. The first move is therefore to expose, to historicize and then to produce a cultural context in which ethics of caring flourish next to ethics of justice, without overthrowing them.


  1. Rawls’s theory of justice corresponds with both theories that came before and after it. It encounters Hobbes, J.S. Mills, Bentham, Locke and many works before his time and replies Nozick and Dworkin, to name only two of those who came after him; whether they have followed or contested his theory.
  2. Participation in Litigations acts and Women’s Legal Education and Action Fundhttp://www.cddc.vt.edu/feminism/MacKinnon.html
  3. These are all white women of thought, Anglo-Saxon women, whose distinctions with regard to the rights of subaltern women who ‘can’t speak’, as Spivak’s ground breaking article is entitled, are restricted to the ‘etc.’ abbreviation (Spivak, 1988); a method that refers to social categories without specifying them. This categorization amalgamates them loosing the significant knowledge that constitutes their specificity. By saying ‘race, class, religion, ethnicity etc’ one looses significant information that makes the difference between the categories. But why stop there? The differentiation invites a categorization that goes on to form an endless list of groups.


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