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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This dissertation examines the relationship between knowledge and politics in the United States under capitalist democracy. Incorporating political theory, epistemology (the study of knowledge), political science, and economics, it examines ways in which the economic inequality endemic to the United States privileges political knowledge contributions to policy debates by wealthy individuals and depresses knowledge contributions by middle- and lower-income communities. This occurs during public debate, in voting, at the level of mass media, and during official legislative debate. Economically marginalized people are less likely to see their needs and interests reflected in policy debates and in policies themselves because our political institutions are not set up to be receptive to political knowledge contributions by economically marginalized communities. This disparity in rates of contributing political knowledge to policy debate causes four principal harms: moral harms to economically marginalized members of the US polity in their capacity as bearers of knowledge, procedural harms to the functioning of US democracy, material harms to the polity in the form of less effective policy outcomes, and harms to the legitimacy of the US government and policies. In short, political exclusion on the basis of wealth not only harms the people of the United States; it also suggests that the United States may not properly be considered democratic. The latter part of this project centers on potential reforms to the United States’ system of politico-economic organization that might promote epistemic inclusion (inclusion of knowledge). These include, but are by no means limited to, expansion of mail-in voting and polling places, campaign finance reform, changes to lobbying regulations at the federal level, and increased state intervention in media conglomerates, and the reversal of the Citizens United ruling. These interventions would serve both to improve epistemic inclusion and to retrieve the possibility of a genuinely democratic United States.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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