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Keywords:

  • agency;
  • autonomy;
  • choice;
  • collectivity;
  • commodification;
  • consumerism;
  • democracy;
  • dependency;
  • equality;
  • individualism;
  • rationality;
  • self-governance;
  • sexuality;
  • social construction;
  • social fragmentation

Abstract.  The Western conception of the individual as a rational, self-directing agent is a mythology that organizes and distorts religion, science, economics, and politics. It produces an abstracted and atomized form of engagement that is fatal to collective self-governance. And it turns democracy into the enemy of equality. Considering the meaning of democracy and autonomy from a perspective that takes the subject as truly social would refocus our attention on the constitutive contexts and practices necessary for the production of citizens who are capable of meaningful self-governance. Under modern conditions, it is in the development of sexual autonomy that we learn how to take initiative with respect to our well-being and do so in concert with others. Where the view of rational agency as the defining characteristic of humanity yields a deracinated view of autonomy, a more realistic, humanistic view that we are, necessarily, social beings yields a view of freedom and self-governance as social phenomena that require empathy, negotiation, compromise, cooperation, and mutual recognition and respect.