Disabling Political Theory: Essays at the Intersection of Political Theory and Disability Studies Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 22, 2019
  • Knight, Amber
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • The purpose of this project is to establish disability as an integral subject of inquiry for political theorizing. To date, there has been scant interaction between the academic disciplines of political theory and disability studies, and this dissertation proposes that each has much to learn from the other. The chapters in this dissertation draw from several schools of thought to evaluate the political nature of disability and the often disabling nature of politics. While the chapters are loosely united by a shared commitment to interdisciplinary theorizing, the guiding research questions and objectives of each chapter differ considerably. Specifically, the first chapter analyzes practices of disablism and ableism in John Locke's writings, demonstrating how Locke dehumanizes people with disabilities, ignores their heterogeneity, and erases their political agency by deploying sweeping, monolithic portrayals of disability in order to bolster his arguments about human understanding and political personhood. The second chapter critically examines John Rawls's theory of justice as fairness, Eva Kittay's formulations of justice as caring, and Martha Nussbaum's writings on the capabilities approach, and concludes that a revised combination of the care and capabilities approach would be the most responsive to the situation of the disabled. The third chapter strategizes about how to overcome informal barriers to inclusion that persist even after disabled people are granted the legal right to engage in democratic deliberations. Using Nancy Fraser's concept of participatory parity, it suggests that a truly inclusionary democracy requires a more expansive model of political deliberation, one that can accommodate alternative (even non-verbal) modes of political communication through practices of translation. Finally, the last chapter adjudicates between competing conceptions of vulnerability, focusing on the writings of Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Sandel, and Judith Butler, to rethink dominant political concepts-- equality, solidarity, and reciprocity-- and consider what kinds of structural political reforms would best suit the needs and capacities of vulnerable subjects.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Lienesch, Michael
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2013

This work has no parents.