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The Political Theory of Political ThinkingThe Anatomy of a Practice$
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Michael Freeden

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199568031

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199568031.001.0001

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Ranking and the Distribution of Significance

Ranking and the Distribution of Significance

(p.132) 4 Ranking and the Distribution of Significance
The Political Theory of Political Thinking

Michael Freeden

Oxford University Press

The ranking of political, ideational, and material goods is central to thinking politically because societies and groups compete over what is significant in their lives and those of their members. Selection and prioritization of collective assets is a function of scarcity or of urgency. Rights are a particularly forceful way of shooting something of value to the top of the pecking order—here they are a structural device independently of their content. The chapter then explores the problem of incommensurable values where ranking is arbitrary or rationally impossible, yet the political is entrusted with such ranking, as decisions have to be made on one ground or another. That is particularly acute in zero-sum choices where two positions are irreconcilable, and the case study of abortion discourses is employed to illustrate it. Finally, the use of emotion in underpinning ranking and urgency is discussed.

Keywords:   ranking, rights, prioritization, incommensurability, abortion, emotion

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