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Evaluating Parental PowerAn Exercise in Pluralist Political Theory$
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Allyn Fives

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781784994327

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784994327.001.0001

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Caretaker or liberator?

Caretaker or liberator?

(p.33) 2 Caretaker or liberator?
Evaluating Parental Power

Allyn Fives

Manchester University Press

Are parents caretakers or liberators? Is the role of parents to act in a paternalistic fashion so as to take care of their children or is it instead to set their children free? In this chapter, I argue that those who defend the caretaker thesis do so on the basis of assumptions characteristic of the liberal view on paternalism. It is assumed that paternalism entails interfering with another’s liberty, that it does not involve moral conflicts, and that it is justified treatment of those who lack the qualities of an agent. In addition, no clear distinction is made between children who lack the qualities of an agent and children who are merely incompetent. What is more, the same assumptions underlie the liberation thesis. Indeed, both the caretaker thesis and the liberation thesis are questionable because they operate with a definition of paternalism that is highly problematic. I also want to make one further argument here. Namely, even an adequate conceptualisation of paternalism is insufficient as a general account of parental power, as there are non-paternalistic forms of parental power as well.

Keywords:   Caretaker thesis, liberation thesis, children’s right to liberty

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