Exclusion, Injustice, and the Democratic State

Exclusion, Injustice, and the Democratic State

Who is in and who is out?—these are the first questions that any political community must answer about itself. Particular communities are constituted by the answers they give or, better, by the process through which it is decided whose answers count. This is true even if the decision isn’t definitive, doesn’t draw an absolute line between insiders and outsiders. In fact, absolutism is rarely possible here. Ancient Greeks and Israelites, for example, distinguished themselves from foreigners on relatively straightforward kinship lines. But their political communities included, alongside citizens and brethren, an intermediate group of resident aliens, metics or ge’rim—not kin, but not foreign either, sharing some but not all of the rights and duties of members. What may be more important, divisions of class and gender cut across all these categories, so that there were in both Greece and Israel powerless members and powerful strangers: the formal rules of inclusion and exclusion did not determine the actual process of political (or everyday social and economic) decision making. Nor would it have bothered Greek philosophers or Jewish sages that women, slaves, urban workers, and “people of the land” (am ha-aretz)–even if they were native born and genealogically correct—had little or no say in the government of their communities.

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Lima