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Markets, Democracy and Economic Justice in the Age of Postmodernism: Fictions, "Factions", orFrictions?


  • Haider A. Khan

    (Department of Economics, University of Denver)


This paper starts with an initial gesture accepting the validity of many of the criticisms of modernity by some leading postmodern thinkers.From this initial position, it then evalutess the postmodernist positions themselves with regards to democracy and justice by paying careful attention to the arguments of these leading postmodernists Following this procedure, Lyotard's characterization of the discourse on morality and justice as phrase-regimes can be shown to lead to an ethical impasse. His appeal to the Kantian sublime, in this context, would seem to be a category mistake. The aesthetic category of sublime does not fit the requirements of moral judgments even in Kantian terms. Epistemologically, the postmodern dilemma arises from a correct critique of metaphysics and transcendentalism. However, the critique is partial and negative. It is partial in the sense that it does not take the challenge of Kant to develop normativity seriously enough to explore alternatives as Hegel did. It, therefore, pursues entirely the negative critical path leading to thoroughgoing skepticism and nihilism.Derrida's belated attempts to rescue philosophy from a linguistic nihilism may succeed. But it still falls far short of offering a positive account of normativity. This paper offere as an alternative to natural law and transcendental norms an approach based on Hegel's explorations in dialectics. Following this alternative offers a way of exploring democracy and economic justice. A concrete set of institutions consistent with the development of self-determination can be seen as necessary for the idea of economic justice to have meaning. In the spheres of production, distribution, exchange, law and contracts among others, the development of appropriate economic and political institutions allowing this inter-subjective idea of freedom to unfold becomes the thematic development of economic justice.At the microlevel, by carefully considering poststructuralist psychoanalytical theory of Lacan and others a dynamically oriented approach to the question of the subject becomes possible. Pre-Freudian thinkers such as Hegel or Marx did not see the formation of the individual in all its deeply problematic aspects.A continuum of subjectivity ending with the fully liberated individual offers various possible levels of moral agency. In an economically and socially unjust setting radical analytic and social interventions will be necessary for these possibilities to materialize.

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  • Haider A. Khan, 2006. "Markets, Democracy and Economic Justice in the Age of Postmodernism: Fictions, "Factions", orFrictions? ," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-418, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
  • Handle: RePEc:tky:fseres:2006cf418

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