Young, Iris Marion. Responsibility and Global Justice: A Social Connection Model
Abstract: The essay theorizes the responsibilities moral agents may be said to have in relation to global structural social processes that have unjust consequences. How ought moral agents, whether individual or institutional, conceptualize their responsibilities in relation to global injustice? I propose a model of responsibility from social connection as an interpretation of obligations of justice arising from structural social processes. I use the example of justice in transnational processes of production, distribution and marketing of clothing to illustrate operations of structural social processes that extend widely across regions of the world. The social connection model of responsibility says that all agents who contribute by their actions to the structural processes that produce injustice have responsibilities to work to remedy these injustices. I distinguish this model from a more standard model of responsibility, which I call a liability model. I specify five features of the social connection model of responsibility that distinguish it from the liability model: it does not isolate perpetrators; it judges background conditions of action; it is more forward looking than backward looking; its responsibility is essentially shared; and it can be discharged only through collective action. The final section of the essay begins to articulate parameters of reasoning that agents can use for thinking about their own action in relation to structural injustice
Comment: This text responds to theories of individual responsibility for global distributive justice proposed by John Rawls, David Miller, and Onora O'Neill. It would work well as a response to them, but also contains overviews of their positions (i.e. it isn't strictly necessary to be familiar with their body of work). The text contains illustrative examples of understanding collective responsibilities for injustice, such as goods produced in sweatshops. The text would work well in a course that covered distributive justice, social responsibility, or global justice.
Young, Iris Marion. Justice and the Politics of Difference
Publisher’s note: In this classic work of feminist political thought, Iris Marion Young challenges the prevailing reduction of social justice to distributive justice. It critically analyzes basic concepts underlying most theories of justice, including impartiality, formal equality, and the unitary moral subjectivity. The starting point for her critique is the experience and concerns of the new social movements about decision making, cultural expression, and division of labor–that were created by marginal and excluded groups, including women, African Americans, and American Indians, as well as gays and lesbians. Iris Young defines concepts of domination and oppression to cover issues eluding the distributive model. Democratic theorists, according to Young do not adequately address the problem of an inclusive participatory framework. By assuming a homogeneous public, they fail to consider institutional arrangements for including people not culturally identified with white European male norms of reason and respectability. Young urges that normative theory and public policy should undermine group-based oppression by affirming rather than suppressing social group difference. Basing her vision of the good society on the differentiated, culturally plural network of contemporary urban life, she argues for a principle of group representation in democratic publics and for group-differentiated policies.
Comment: This is an important work of feminist political philosophy. It would be useful to teach in a course on feminist philosophy, or as part of a course or unit on theories of justice, as it engages with many of the seminal thinkers in this area, such as Locke, Rousseau, and Rawls.