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A Democratic Theory of Judgment$
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Linda M. G. Zerilli

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226397849

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226398037.001.0001

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Relativism and the New Universalism: Feminists Claim the Right to Judge

Relativism and the New Universalism: Feminists Claim the Right to Judge

(p.163) Six Relativism and the New Universalism: Feminists Claim the Right to Judge
A Democratic Theory of Judgment

Linda M. G. Zerilli

University of Chicago Press

Beginning with Susan Okin's well-know essay, "Is Multiculturalism Good for Women?," this chapter examines the debate over relativism and universalism in contemporary feminist theory and its implications for a theory of judgment. It argues that feminists must make judgments about cultures and practices not always their own. The question is, how are such judgments to be understood? Susan Okin's work is taken as an example of a failure to reflect on what it means to judge and as presupposing that one's own Western cultural standards can and should serve as rules of judgment. The only apparently culturally sensitive positions of Martha Nussbaum and Seyla Benhabib, however, are revealed to be entangled in many of the universalist assumptions of Okin. Refusing such disguised ethnocentrism but also the the idea that first-hand experience is the sine qua non condition of judging, the chapter turns to the work of Hannah Arendt to develop a reflective practice of judgment as a practice of representative thinking.

Keywords:   feminist theories of judgment, Martha Nussbaum, Seyla Benhabib, universalism, Susan Okin, Is Multiculturalism Good for Women, relativism

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