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September 21: Waheed Hussain (Toronto)

3:30 to 5:00 pm in KTH 109

“Pitting People Against Each Other”

Abstract: Many important institutions in liberal democracies today tend to be competitive, including labor markets, elections, and college admissions processes. Most people would agree that these arrangements are permissible, but most  would also agree that there are limits: a friendly competition is one thing; a life or death struggle is another. This paper develops a novel account of the political morality of competitive institutions. It shows that these institutions are sometimes morally defective simply in virtue of the intensity of their competitive character and that the defect cannot be explained simply in terms of familiar ideas, such as welfare, fairness or equality. It goes on to develop a new view. According to the fragmentation account, competitive institutions are morally defective when they seriously obstruct the form of solidaristic integration required by certain social relationships, such as marriage, academic collegiality or co-citizenship. The paper develops the political implications of the fragmentation account, showing how a “common good” conception of the political relationship can explain the moral limits on large-scale competitive institutions, e.g. college admissions.