Kantian Theory

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UTILITARIAN AND KANTIAN APPROACHES TO THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GROUPS AND OUTSIDERS All of the social and political theories discussed in the previous sections agree that good leadership must be in the interests of followers. Where they disagree is on how much inequality between leaders and followers can be justified in pursuit of the common interest. Thus far we have equated the common interest with the interests of leaders and followers alone.[11] We turn now to a second main question about inequality that arises when we notice that outsiders also have interests, which sometimes compete with the interests of leaders and followers. Liberal moral theory, of which utilitarianism and Kantianism are paradigm examples, is committed to the claim that individuals count equally, regardless of group membership. On these theories at least, it is hard to see how leaders and followers might be justified in putting their interests and projects ahead of the interests and projects of members of the outgroup. For example, utilitarianism holds that the capacity for happiness and suffering is the only morally relevant characteristic, and we can assume that this capacity does not differ with membership in social groups.[12] The same can be said for the central characteristic that Kantians find morally relevant, namely, the capacity for rationality. On the face of it, then, both moral theories conflict with what many see as a defining characteristic of leadership as we know it: leaders and followers must be willing to put the interests and projects of group members ahead of the interests and projects of outsiders. In most cases, without this kind of unequal consideration, leadership would not be recognizable to us (Price 2006, ch. 4). Utilitarian moral theory, as developed by philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), John Stuart Mill (1806-73), R.M. Hare (1919-2002) and Peter Singer (1946-), holds that the morality of an action is determined by the overall happiness or well-being produced by that action. The right action is the one that maximizes happiness over suffering and pain. Utilitarians have a very straightforward answer to the question of whose happiness is the object of maximization. Although leadership exercised in the interests of followers is often described as ‘utilitarian’, such a description deviates from standard utilitarian moral theory. According to utilitarianism, leaders should consider the happiness of the whole, where this includes not just group members but members of the outgroup as well. In fact, the moral concern of contemporary utilitarians typically extends to all sentient beings. So it is not enough to add only the effects on the members of one's group, society or country into the utilitarian calculus. The morally correct action is the action that maximizes overall utility, which can sometimes result in a decrease in utility for leaders and followers. Of course there can be utilitarian reasons for a leader to privilege the interests of group members. For instance, short-term attention to follower happiness and well-being may be necessary for long-term increases in overall utility. In other words, privileging the ingroup can be instrumental to achieving utilitarian goals, as when making sure that members of the group are well fed, rested and satisfied is a means to getting them to work in service to others needier than they. Moreover it is sometimes the case that attention to follower happiness and well-being is justified on utilitarian grounds because there is no one needier than followers, or it would be an inefficient use of resources to attend to the happiness or well-being of those who are in fact the neediest. The point, however, is that utilitarianism cannot allow leaders to favor some individuals merely on the grounds they are part of the ingroup. John Stuart Mill may have made it sound as though this kind of behavior would be permissible for leaders. In Utilitarianism he suggests that there are few...
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