chapter  6
10 Pages

If Institutions Have Consequences, Why Don’t We Hear about Them from Moral Philosophers? 1

ByAaron Wildavsky, Charles Lockhart, Richard M. Coughlin

Social studies are moral studies. Choices among ways of life—the institutionalized embodiment of rules specifying how individuals ought to live with each other—are moral choices. "An important motivation for moral discussion," Gerald Dworkin rightly says, "arises from our desire to justify what we propose to do, or have done, to others". Autonomous people do not have to justify themselves to others. Hermits are interesting and perhaps even valuable people, but since they escape from commitments undertaken by most other people, autonomy may not be the great moral achievement some philosophers take it to be. From the hierarchical standpoint, as the work of Louis Dumont shows, individuals lack not so much autonomy as existence, for they are socially constituted. Because the individual exists to serve the collective—indeed has no existence apart from it—only hierarchical institutions themselves can be said to be autonomous.