Home / Fellows / Gustaf Arrhenius


Gustaf Arrhenius

Professeur de philosophie
University of Stockholm, Sweden
Democracy, Boundaries, and Fair Distribution of Power
01 January 2011 -
30 June 2011
Gustaf Arrhenius is Torgny Segerstedt Pro Futura Scientia Fellow and Docent (Reader) in Practical Philosophy at Stockholm University and SCAS since 2006.

He is also an Affiliated Researcher at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford, an Associate of Oxford Centre for Ethics and Legal Philosophy, and a member of the Tampere Club. He has recently been a visiting researcher at CERSES, CNRS, Paris; a Senior Visiting Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford; and a Fellow at SCAS.

He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from University of Toronto and his FD in practical philosophy from Uppsala University.

Arrhenius research interests are primarily in moral and political philosophy, and he is especially interested in issues in the intersection between moral and political philosophy and the medical and social sciences (e.g., economics, law, and political science). He has written extensively on our moral obligations to future generations, applying the methods of social choice and game theory. Currently he’s researching issues in population ethics, the structure of value, democratic theory, and the measurement and fair distribution of power.

The focus of the project will be on the democratic boundary problem– Who should be eligible to take part in which decision-making processes? – and democracy understood as a theory offair distribution of power.The boundary problem is a fundamental issue in democratic theory. If nothing else, all thedifferent notions of democracy have one thing in common: a reference to a community ofindividuals, “a people” who are, in some sense, collectively self-governing. One of the aims of theproject is to find a principled solution to this intriguing and under-discussed problem.As I shall show in the project description, the boundary problem forces us to reconsiderfundamental questions regarding the theoretical status of democracy and opens up for a newexciting (albeit controversial) way of understanding democracy, namely as an ideal regarding fairdistribution of power. Roughly, the idea is that people’s power over a decision should beproportional to how each individual’s relevant interests are affected by the decision.The standard view of democracy (one person, one vote) is afflicted with a number of wellknownproblems: majorities may oppress minorities and infringe on basic individual rights;majority cycles may lead to inconsistent decisions; outcomes can be manipulated by control overthe voting agenda; etc. An interesting aspect of democracy as fair distribution of power is that itmay dissolve or substantially alleviate many of these classical problems.In addition, one can be dissatisfied with the focus in recent political philosophy on thedistribution of goods like material resources, welfare, capabilities, primary goods, etc, at theexpense of distribution of power. A theory of fair distribution of power, the main aim of thisproject, may remedy this situation as well as generating new interesting solutions to classicalproblems in democratic theory.

Other or several periods