Justice Everywhere

a blog about justice in public affairs

Debate the Future of the European Union with Political Philosophers

Together with an amazing group of people, I have initiated Twelve Stars. Twelve Stars in Europe’s flag symbolize Europe’s unity in diversity. The Twelve Stars project  brings together citizens and practical philosophers from all over Europe to discuss proposals for the future of the European Union. Twelve Stars is premised on two assumptions. First, that the ideas of political philosophers can make a real contribution to improving the European Union. Second, that political philosophers have much to learn from discussing their proposals and arguments with a wider audience.

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Call for Applications: Equality and Citizenship Summer School in Rijeka

The Center for Advanced Studies – South East Europe, the University of Rijeka, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Rijeka and the Croatian Society for Analytic Philosophy are organizing the 5th edition of the Equality and Citizenship Summer school from June 25th – 29th, 2018 in Rijeka, Croatia.

The Summer school does not reproduce, in a diluted form, the familiar teaching format of a university course. Instead, it is organized around “Author-Meets-Critics” symposia that are dedicated to publications and works-in-progress by some distinguished authors. All the leading participants will give a paper on a topic on which they are currently working, or a précis of a recently published book. During the symposia dedicated to them, they will then reply to the papers given by the other scholars.

This year’s leading participants are:

Prof Cecile Laborde, University of Oxford

Prof Julian Savulescu, University of Oxford

Prof Jonathan White, The London School of Economics and Political Science

Prof Lea Ypi, the London School of Economics and Political Science

The summer school is primarily aimed at attracting post-doc researchers and doctoral students. Participants are invited to send their applications by June 10th 2018. All participants will receive a certificate of participation that describes the activities in which they have participated at the summer school.

Tentative Program:

June 25th, 2018

9.45 – 10.00 Welcoming address

Symposium on The Meaning of Partisanship by Jonathan White and Lea Ypi

10.00 – 11.30 Jonathan White and Lea Ypi – Precis to The Meaning of Partisanship

11.30 – 12.00 Coffee break

12.00 – 12.50 Nebojša Zelič – Political Engagement and Civic Friendship

13.00 – 13.50 Enrico Biale and Giulia Bistagnino – What Role for Experts in Democratic Politics? A Discussion from the Epistemic Function of Political Parties

13.50 – 14.30 Lunch

14.30 – 15.20 Ivan Cerovac – Epistemic Value of Partisanship

15.30– 16.20 Neven Petrović – Judging Politicians Morally

16.30 – 17.20 Ali Emre Benli – Cosmopolitanism and Avant-garde Political Agency

20.00 – Jonathan White and Lea Ypi – Public Lecture: Political Parties in Modern Democracies (Opatija, Hotel Continental)

June 26th, 2018

9.30 – 10.20 Sara Amighetti – How Can a Partisan Be a Good Ally

10.30 – 11.20 Elvio Baccarini – Partisanship, Public Justification, Compromise

Symposium on Liberalism’s Religion by Cecile Laborde

19.00 – 20.30 Public Lecture: Is the Liberal State Secular? (Filodrammatica, Rijeka)

June 27th, 2018

10.00 – 11.30 Cecile Laborde – Precis to Liberalism’s Religion

11.30 – 12.00 Coffee break

12.00 – 12.50 Sara Amighetti – How to Understand the ‘Critical’ in Critical Republicanism? Thoughts on Laborde’s Methodology

13.00 – 13.50 Ivan Mladenović – Political Liberalism and Justificatory Secularism

13.50 – 14.30 Lunch

14.30 – 15.20 Sebastián Rudas – Minimal Secularism and Disestablishment in Catholic Countries

15.30 – 16.20 Miklós Zala – Can Conscience Justify Religious Accommodation?

16.20 – 16.40 Coffee break

16.40– 17.30 Elvio Baccarini – Public Reason and Religious Reasons

28th June, 2018

Julian Savulescu Symposium

17.00 – 18.30 Julian Savulescu – The Science and Ethics of Moral Enhancement

18.30 – 19.20 Viktor Ivanković – Moral Nudging and Moral Bioenhancement – Are there Relevant Moral Differences?

29th June, 2018

10.00 – 10.50 John McMillan and Luca Malatesti – Neuroethics and the Case of Psychopathy: some Methodological Considerations

11.00 – 11.50 Miklós Zala – Is Disability a Detrimental Difference? A Human Variation Perspective

12.00 – 12.50 Viktor Ivanković and Lovro Savić – Vaccination and Herd Immunity Thresholds

13.00 – 13.50 Sergio Filippo Magni – Procreative Beneficence Towards Whom?

13.50 – 14.30 Lunch

14.30 – 15.20 Darko Polšek – Behavioral Economics’ Contribution to Human Enhancing Discussions

15.30 – 16.20 Aleksandar Šušnjar – Intuitive Moral Reasoning and Moral Bioenhancement

16.30 – 17.20 Tomislav Miletić – Moral Enhancement and Ambient Intelligence: The Path Forward

17.20 – 17.40 Coffee break

17.40 – 18.30 Filip Čeč – Moral Bioenhancement and Manipulation

18.40 – 19.30 Elvio Baccarini – Moral Bioenhancement of Criminal Offenders

More details at http://cas.uniri.hr/call-for-aplications-the-5th-edition-of-equality-and-citizenship-summer-school/

(note that application deadline has been extended to June 10).

 

Plastic Pollution: How to avoid further degrading our natural environment

The theme of this year’s World Environment Day (5 June 2018) is Beat Plastic Pollution. Plastic pollution is indeed a serious problem, severely affecting animals, humans, and marine ecosystems.  Removal of the pollutants that are already in the environment is exceedingly difficult, so we should also ask: How can we avoid plastic and other pollutants entering the environment in the first place?

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Moral progress in beliefs and practices

Abraham Lincoln said: “If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong”. Similarly we could say: “If the abolition of slavery is not an instance of moral progress, then nothing is an instance of moral progress.” The abolition of slavery is the favourite example of philosophers who write about the topic of moral progress. While the existence and the possibility of moral progress are contested, the view that if there were such a thing as moral progress, the abolition of slavery would be an instance of it is not. (By the way, I fully acknowledge that slavery still exists, especially new forms of slavery, which are in some respects even worse than the old forms. But this doesn’t change the fact that the slave trade that we used to have for centuries is now illegal in every country in the world.) Other popular examples of moral progress include the development of a human rights regime, the emancipation of women and the abolition of foot binding. In a previous post, I argued that moral progress is not impossible and cited evolutionary considerations. In this post, I challenge Michelle Moody-Adams’ view of moral progress in social practices as the realization of previously gained moral insights.

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Should we grant legal personhood to robots?

With significant recent advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, it is increasingly pressing that we consider the legal and ethical standing of autonomous machines.

Here I post some considerations on this matter from a recent debate organised by Thomas Burri (University of St. Gallen) with Shawn Bayern (Florida State University) and myself:

A Moral Case for Strikes against Syria? Part II: Punitive Strike

In this post, I explore the punitive justifications for the recent strikes against Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons. In the previous post, Sara was right to call into question the HI justification for the strikes provided by Theresa May. Indeed, even if one could assume that the strikes could satisfy the just cause criterion (and this is a big if), it’s doubtful that other ad bellum criteria could be met (proportionality and reasonable chance of success). The situation is Syria is complicated with multiple parties involved, either directly or through proxy. It is, therefore, difficult to determine what success would mean in this context and, correspondingly, what would be counted as proportionate force. I think Sara is right that the strikes could not be justified on the basis of HI. But, I ask, are there any other justifications for these strikes?

Traditionally, just war theory is highly restrictive with regards to what counts as just cause to turn to war. According to these requirements, only war of national self-defence (or in other-defence) can trigger a just response to the use of force. Recently, HI has been accepted as another justification but, overall, just war theory is restrictive rather than permissive. However, Michael Walzer – whose ‘Just and Unjust Wars’ is considered the seminal text on the ethics of war – believes that limited force should be seen as morally distinctive from war. In short, if traditional just war theory is restrictive in what injuria, or wrongdoing, can justify the use of force, the doctrine of limited force – jus ad vim – can justify military force in response to a wider range of threats due to the limited nature of the force used. Limited force is different from war in that the former lacks the latter’s ‘unpredictable and often catastrophic consequences’. It is, therefore, easier to justify than, say, a full-scale war.

Acknowledging the differences between war and force-short-of-war is crucial in understanding the justification for the recent strikes on Syria. This is so because on the traditional reading of just war theory, only self and other defence or HI could justify the use of force. Force-short-of-war, however, is more permissive and, thus, could satisfy other just causes where traditional just war theory cannot. The question now becomes what could possibly be the reason(s) for the strikes jointly conducted by the US, UK and France? I think there could be two possible just causes: punishment as retribution and punishment as deterrence. I note here that even though both retribution and deterrence come under the umbrella of punishment, they require distinct justifications.

With respect to the former, the justification would be that the Syrian regime deserves to be punished for the injuria caused. The strikes act as retribution to the alleged use of chemical weapons (subject to the rule of proportionality which I will address shortly). Regarding deterrence, the strikes could be argued as necessary to uphold the international ban on the use of chemical weapons. Deterrence, in this sense, could also be understood as not limited to the Assad’s regime but also to signal to other regimes that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.

Do we have reason to believe that the strikes were to punish Assad? I think we do. First, the strikes did not seem to fit with any broader, long term American, British and French objectives in Syria. The main aim of the military operation in Syria (bar the strikes) led by the US has been to nullify the threat of the Islamic State (ISIL) and other designated terrorist groups. A secondary aim is to provide support (financial, logistic, and training) to selected rebel groups. Prior to the strike in April 2017, there was no recorded deliberate attack of US-led forces against the Syrian’s regime. This can be explained by the West’s hesitation to escalate the conflict and risk a direct confrontation with Russia and, to an extent, Iran. The targeted strikes on the 14th of April, then, were out of this context. The targets were directly linked to the Syrian regime’ chemical weapons programme. Thus, it’s logical to think that the strikes were, in fact, retributive punishment to the Syrian’s government for the use of chemical weapons. Furthermore, the strikes seem to uphold what former US President Barack Obama said was a ‘red-line’ for the Assad’s regime (a red-line which Obama failed to uphold). This is consistent with the strike in April 2017 when Trump ordered the US Navy to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles at Shayrat Airbase in response to the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack. The message seems clear: international norms on the use of chemical weapons must be respected. Failure to do so would result in military strikes to deter any state or non-state actor from using it in the future.

Thomas Cajetan, the 16th century Italian philosopher, once said wrongdoing demands vindictive justice, even in the form of force if necessary. If we think that the use of chemical weapons on civilians constitutes a wrongdoing (of a special kind), then limited strikes (force-short-of-war) to punish the wrongdoer could certainly provide a just cause.

In what remains, I sketch my thoughts on whether the strikes could satisfy the requirements of proportionality and success. If we think that the strikes were only to punish Assad, we need to ask whether the harms caused by the strikes were proportionate punishment to the initial wrongdoing, namely Assad’s use of chemical weapons (one cannot carpet-bomb a country in the name of justice). No civilian casualties were recorded, there’s no report of leaking chemical materials after the strikes, all targeted sites were of military targets and not dual-use facilities (those that can also be used for civilian functions). This suggests that the harms caused by the strikes were not disproportionate to the realisation of justice. The criterion of success, I hope, is clear in this case as it’s defined by the acknowledgement, and affirmation, that a moral wrong was committed and this demands some forceful response.

The case becomes less clear if the strikes were intended to deter Assad from further use of chemical weapons. As Sara convincingly put in the previous post, it’s unlikely that Assad would be deterred from further uses of this kind of weapons absence significant presence of troops on the ground. Any force used, then, would fail the success criterion and therefore be disproportionate. One could ask, even if Assad would not be deterred from using chemical weapons but maybe other state and non-state actors would think twice before using these weapons? If that’s the case then, perhaps, there are some deterrent effects the strikes could bring. I think this is possible but for this to work, there needs to be an uncompromising rule where any use of chemical weapons would be met with the same forceful response. Failure to uphold this rule would result in the diminishing deterrent force of the strikes. In this sense, the strikes are justified because the ban on chemical weapons is a good thing to uphold, the question of whether Assad himself would be deterred is irrelevant.

Of course, in an ideal world, we do not want to give state the judicial role regarding when to punish other states for wrongdoings. However, given an UN Resolution would likely result in a deadlock and previous attempts to strip Assad of his chemical capabilities were unfruitful, the duty to act sometimes falls on individual states. Military actions-short-of-strike should be strictly governed by the rules of jus in bello (perhaps even a stricter regime) and uphold the safety of non-combatants, as were the case in the recent strikes. Thus, I think that the strikes could be justified as punitive force.

A Moral Case for Strikes against Syria? Part I: Humanitarian Intervention

Early on Saturday, 14 April, it was announced that the US, UK and France had conducted targeted strikes on three targets in Syria – a chemical weapons and storage facility, a research centre and a military bunker – in response to Assad’s (alleged) use of chemical weapons in Douma.  The reaction to this news was mixed. One key problem that was highlighted was the question of the legality of the strikes, under both domestic and international law. However, although these are of course very important issues, a different one has remained relatively unexplored: could these strikes be permissible from a moral perspective? Given that international law is largely customary, and given that law doesn’t exhaust the limits on our behaviour, this is a crucial question.

There are a number of ways in which the resort to strikes on regime targets in Syria could be justified. The common moral framework for thinking about the morality of war, just war theory, recognises a number of reasons for legitimate use of force: self-defence against aggression, defence of another state against aggression and, increasingly, intervention to alleviate humanitarian suffering. In this post and the next, Anh Le and I will consider whether the strikes could be justified according to the standards set by just war theory. Here, I will consider possibly the most controversial just cause: intervention in order to stop severe suffering. In the next post, Anh will investigate whether the strikes can be considered morally legitimate as forms of punishment.

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Values in Science & Science in Normative Theorising

Last year, Kevin C. Elliott published three new books on ‘values in science’:

                        

Given that empirical research is often used by moral, social, and political philosophers in scholarship on questions of justice, we thought it would be interesting to chat to Kevin about his recent work and its implications for moral, social, and political philosophy.

Erin Nash: Hi Kevin, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by Justice Everywhere. To start us off, perhaps you could tell us about how philosophers of science understand the term ‘values’, and how values influence science.

Kevin Elliott: Thanks, Erin. Briefly, I think values are qualities that are desirable or worthy of pursuit, but it’s important to keep in mind that many different things fall under this description. For example, when theories have qualities like explanatory power, wide scope, or predictive success, we typically consider these things to be values because they tend to indicate that a theory is true or reliable. Some label these ‘epistemic values’. Other qualities of theories, such as their tendency to promote environmental protection, public health, economic growth, or gender equality, are also typically regarded as values (often called ‘non-epistemic values’) insofar as they help us to achieve ethical or social goals. The question that permeates all my recent books is what role, if any, ethical and social values like the promotion of environmental protection or gender equality should play in scientific research.

For example, values can subtly influence the questions that get asked in socially relevant fields like agricultural research. There are many ways of trying to improve agricultural production so as to benefit poor farmers, produce more food, and lessen our impacts on the environment; they involve efforts to develop higher-yielding seeds, more ecologically sensitive farming strategies, or more efficient markets for agricultural goods. Even if researchers are not consciously being influenced by values, decisions to focus on some of these questions or approaches rather than others are value-laden insofar as they serve the interests of some individuals and institutions rather than others.

Values can also affect the assumptions and choices that scientists make when they are analysing or interpreting their results. For example, chapter four of Tapestry discusses how economic predictions about the costs of climate change are influenced by value-laden decisions about how much to “discount” costs that occur in the future relative to costs that are borne at present. Values can also influence how much evidence scientists or policy makers demand before they are willing to draw conclusions – this is the basis for what is often called the ‘argument from inductive risk’. In the seventh chapter of Exploring Inductive Risk, Robin Andreasen and Heather Doty discuss studies designed to identify inequalities in the retention or promotion of women university faculty, and especially women faculty of colour. They note that even when the available data suggest that disparities could potentially be present, one still needs to decide how much evidence is sufficient to conclude that problematic forms of discrimination are genuinely occurring. Choosing what rule to use for inferring that discrimination is occurring depends on value-laden decisions about what mistakes we are most concerned to avoid.

Erin: What is unclear, though, is whether philosophers of science take non-epistemic values to play a role in all aspects of science or only in some. For instance, in Tapestry, on one hand you say things like “…scientific reasoning is thoroughly imbued with value influences” (pp. 166–167). But on the other hand, you use caveats such as “…it is often unrealistic to find a perfectly value-neutral way of communicating scientific information” (p. 133). I’ve found this sort of hedging to be common in the literature. But I think this can be quite confusing! If it is the case that value judgements can be avoided in some circumstances, we are left with at least two further questions: (1) How do we identify those circumstances? (2) Where non-epistemic values are currently playing a role in science, should they be, or should they to be in the way or to the extent that they currently do?

Kevin: You make a very perceptive point. I don’t think I have this issue totally sorted out in my own mind. At present, my inclination is to say that non-epistemic values are always at least somewhat relevant to scientific reasoning, but I acknowledge that the extent of their relevance and the best ways of addressing them vary a great deal from case to case. One reason for insisting that values are always relevant is that all scientific research has at least some potential to influence society over the long term. So, given that scientists always run the risk of being incorrect when they draw their conclusions, social values are always somewhat relevant for deciding how much evidence they should be demanding. However, most of the work done in some fields, such as theoretical physics, does not have the sorts of immediate and obvious social impacts that we saw in the research I described earlier about gender discrimination, so in these cases it makes sense to consider social values more indirectly.

Erin: So how can we determine whether certain value influences are appropriate?

Kevin: In my Tapestry book, I suggest three criteria for determining whether value influences are appropriate: transparency, representativeness, and engagement. First, it is important for scientists to be as open as possible about the details of their work and the ways in which values might have influenced it so that others can recognise those influences. Second, when scientists make value judgements, those judgements should be informed by ethical principles and social priorities. Third, it is important to engage key stakeholders in efforts to identify important value judgements and to reflect on how to address them. However, much more needs to be said about the nature of these criteria and how they work together. For example, I don’t think we can draw the simple conclusion that whenever these three criteria are met, value influences are appropriate, or whenever they are not met, value influences are inappropriate. I see them more as rules of thumb that can help us to incorporate values in science more responsibly.

Erin: I like your criteria, but I have a few concerns. For instance, with regards to your second criterion, it doesn’t seem like we have broad common ground on ethical principles and social priorities within our societies. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if we endorse value pluralism. A commitment to democratic values and a concern for the proper place of science and scientists in democratic societies also motivated W.E.B. Du Bois’ early defence of the value-free ideal for science, as Liam Kofi Bright has recently explained. Along similar lines, Stephen John has argued that because people hold different values, science that is value-laden may fail to contribute to ‘public knowledge’. Do you find these arguments persuasive?

Kevin: I’m very sympathetic to the sorts of concerns that you are highlighting. This is partly why I suggest with Ted Richards in the concluding chapter of Exploring Inductive Risk that in some cases, scientists should try to avoid making controversial value judgements themselves. For example, when there is a great deal of disagreement about how to interpret the available scientific evidence, it might make the most sense for scientists to report the state of the evidence as clearly as possible, and let others decide what conclusions they want to draw. Similarly, sometimes it is possible to report more than one way of interpreting the available evidence so that decision makers can decide which approach fits better with their values. For example, economists studying climate change can report how their analyses of climate impacts differ based on the decision to use different discount rates. However, Ted and I would respond to the work of Bright and John by emphasising that even in these cases, an array of implicit value judgements have probably still played a role in how the available evidence was collected, analysed, and communicated. Thus, despite the limitations of my criteria, I don’t think we can avoid them. Scientists need to acknowledge value judgements as best they can (transparency), make them as responsibly as possible (representativeness), and invite critical reflection about them from an array of perspectives (engagement).

Erin: What advice can be derived from the values in science literature for political philosophers, social theorists, and policymakers who use empirical research to support their normative arguments?

Kevin: It’s really important for scholars and practitioners who draw on scientific research, and perhaps social-science research in particular, to recognise the potential for this research to be subtly influenced by non-epistemic values. As I noted earlier, the questions scientists ask, the assumptions underlying their interpretation and analyses, the evidence they demand before drawing conclusions, and the ways their results are framed and communicated can all involve value-laden judgements. Thus, when this research is informing important decisions that will have social consequences, it is important to scrutinise potential value influences and recognise how they may have influenced the research and its communication.

Erin: So perhaps this debate is best thought of as being situated at the interface of philosophy of science and moral, social or political philosophy? If this is the case, how do you think moral, social, and political philosophers might be able to contribute to, and help advance, this debate?

Kevin: I totally agree. We actually just had a discussion about the need to bring together moral, social, and political philosophy with the philosophy of science at a conference session devoted to my Tapestry book. An important theme was the fact that my criteria (transparency, representativeness, and engagement) need a good deal more elaboration, and this is the kind of work that moral, social, and political philosophers are well placed to do. For example, moral philosophers can help us think through the ethical principles that are most appropriate for guiding particular value judgements, such as decisions about what discount rates ought to be used when analysing the economic costs of climate change. Moreover, there will almost always be disagreements about these ethical principles, so we also need political philosophers to provide guidance about how to address these disputes. What forms of engagement should we employ for responding to disagreements about important value judgements? Which stakeholders should be involved in the deliberations? One of the most obvious lessons to be gleaned from the recent work on values in science is that philosophers of science desperately need guidance from moral and political philosophers, so I’m really grateful that you provided this opportunity to talk about my books on this blog!

A full review of Kevin Elliott’s A Tapestry of Values: An Introduction to Values in Science by Erin Nash can be found here.

On Striking as a Privilege

As the readers of this blog probably already know, UK-based academics have been on strike for five days over the past two weeks, and the industrial action is likely to escalate further. The current dispute concerns pensions, is quite major, and many good things have been written about it – including, and indeed especially, by other political theorists.

The question I would like to address here has less to do with the specifics of the current dispute and more with a general point that circulates among fellow-academics – and philosophers in particular – nearly every time the possibility of a strike is raised: are we, as comparatively privileged workers, justified in striking to keep and sometimes even improve our privileged status? The point is made in a particularly forceful manner when strike for pay is at stake, but is actually equally relevant to pensions – after all, UK academics are currently striking to defend their current defined benefit pension plan, and the very fact of being in a defined benefit pension scheme (even if one whose conditions have worsened over time) is a rare luxury these days.

Over the last two weeks, I have myself been suspiciously quiet about the fact that I am on strike in many of my daily interactions. This is especially the case with people who might reasonably regard my being on strike as a luxury – such as the carers at my daughter’s nursery, who are on minimum wage, do not get sick pay, and could not even dream of being in a union. That is, I feel self-conscious not only about what I am striking for, but about the very fact of being on strike: just that, in itself, feels like a privilege.

And yet I have little symapathy for the argument that academics should not strike; indeed I believe that too much self-reflection on our relatively privileged status is a display of complacency rather than virtue.

So, why do the comparatively privileged have a claim to strike?

  1. Because it’s either us or nobody else. The practice of withdrawing labour comes well before the establishment of the right to do so within a framework of labour law: the first strikers were engaging in industrial action at their own risk. Then, at least in Europe, strike has (fortunately) become a right. In so doing, it has come to be perceived as something that requires certain some guarantees to be in place: strong union-friendly legislation, the guarantee that one will not lose one’s job over industrial activity, etc. But as labour standards – after a steady improve over the golden era of the welfare state (apologies for the oversimplification) – have been deteriorating again in OECD countries over the last decades, this right has become less of a universal guarantee and more of a privilege of the few who still enjoy a permanent and secure contract, robust labour guarantees, the luck of working in strongly unionized sector, etc. If you come to see something as a right (and rightly so, don’t get me wrong!), then something is obviously problematic when only some enjoy it, and on arbitrary grounds at that. The question of whether those privileged few should exercise a right which others are deprived of has some prima facie legitimacy. But we are not doing atypical and vulnerable workers any favour by not exercising our right to strike. We are only actively contributing to erasing striking from the toolkit of progressive politics. If the very idea of striking is to stay alive, the last thing to do is tell those who can still strike relatively safely that it is bad taste of them to do so. Of course, we want to find ways of enabling those who are even much more vulnerable than us to engage in industrial action again, and this is a tricky task to say the least – but making industrial action a vestige of the past is certainly not a sensible way of achieving said aim.
  2. Because the benefits we would be giving up on would exacerbate, not mitigate, inequality. Yes, the demand for a pay increase that reasonably follows the trajectory of growth and inflation, and for keeping a defined benefit pension scheme, are a privilege of the few these days. But we all know perfectly well that we are not being asked to give up on those in order to redistribute down. By refusing to resist, we would only contribute to making inequality steeper.
  3. Because it is about relational goods. For decades now, academics have been asked again and again to do a little bit more, a little bit better, for a little bit less – and often with no good justification. Whether or not there are workers whose conditions are incomparably worse, this is not a way to treat people in the workplace and ought to be resisted, period.
  4. Because it is about showing disobedience, defiance and will to fight back. UK universities are increasingly run like businesses, with all the problems that this entails – short termism, disregard for the specific nature of higher education, job insecurity, hierarchy in decision-making, and the treatment of staff as disposable goods being only some of them. Those of us who can still do so without bearing prohibitive costs should simply engage in all the push backs they can. The idea that workers should just shut up, get their heads down, and get s%&t done must encounter resistance.

Are there other reasons why the comparatively privileged should strike? Or are there other, stronger objections to the right of the relatively privileged to strike which deserve a fair hearing?

 

Workplace Democracy – a proposal for saving democracy

This is an interview with Isabelle Ferreras, who has just published a book on workplace democracy – to my knowledge, it’s the most detailed argument and proposal for a specific form of workplace democracy that has been provided in recent years. To get a sense of what it is all about, check out the animated trailer at www.firmsaspoliticalentities.net. We asked Isabelle to tell us more about her book, and we are very happy that she immediately agreed to do so.

Q: How did you get interested in the topic of workplace democracy?

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