Justice Everywhere

a blog about philosophy in public affairs

Year: 2021 (Page 1 of 5)

Political Philosophy in a Pandemic: Chapter Preview (Adam Swift)

Several Justice Everywhere authors have been involved in a book project about the ethics and politics of COVID-19. The volume, Political Philosophy in a Pandemic: Routes to a More Just Future (Bloomsbury 2021), is a collection of 20 essays covering five main themes: (1) social welfare and vulnerability; (2) economic justice; (3) democratic relations; (4) speech and (mis)information; and (5) the relationship between crisis and justice.

The second of three chapter previews that we’re releasing in the run up to the book’s publication next week comes from Adam Swift, who contributed a chapter to the final theme on the relationship between crisis and justice. His chapter, Pandemic as Political Theory, takes a step back to consider what the COVID-19 crisis reveals about the nature of politics and political theory in general.

Swift suggests that the pandemic has, in large part, simply provided more vivid evidence of something we already knew – that we live in societies where people are subject to unjust laws made in unjust ways. But, slightly more optimistically, Swift considers the possibility that the pandemic might function as a wake-up call, alerting us to just how bad things have become and giving us evidence that big changes are politically possible. For that reason, he speculates, it may prove to be more effective in altering societal values than political theorists have managed to be.

Swift was a guest on the UCL Uncovering Politics podcast recently, talking primarily about his work on the principles of education policy. Here’s a short clip from the end of the discussion, in which he talks about his chapter, Pandemic as Political Theory:

 

The collection has now been published in e-book versions, and the print versions will be published on 23rd September. You can order/pre-order your copy here (or via Waterstones, Amazon, etc.).

You can also check out the book in more detail via this widget, which includes the Table of Contents, Foreword by Onora O’Neill, and Introduction to the volume by Aveek Bhattacharya and Fay Niker.

Political Philosophy in a Pandemic: Chapter Preview (Julia Hermann)

Several Justice Everywhere authors have been involved in a book project about the ethics and politics of COVID-19. The volume, Political Philosophy in a Pandemic: Routes to a More Just Future (Bloomsbury 2021), is a collection of 20 essays covering five main themes: (1) social welfare and vulnerability; (2) economic justice; (3) democratic relations; (4) speech and (mis)information; and (5) the relationship between crisis and justice.

The first of three chapter previews that we’ll be publishing over the next few weeks comes from Julia Hermann, who contributed a chapter to the final theme on the relationship between crisis and justice. Her chapter, co-authored with Katharina Bauer and Christian Baatz, is entitled Coronavirus and Climate Change: What Can the Former Teach Us about the Latter? Check out her short video introduction to their chapter below:

 

The collection has now been published in e-book versions, and the print versions will be published on 23rd September. You can order/pre-order your copy here (or via Waterstones, Amazon, etc.).

You can also check out the book in more detail via this widget, which includes the Table of Contents, Foreword by Onora O’Neill, and Introduction to the volume by Aveek Bhattacharya and Fay Niker.

Welcome back: Launching our 2021/22 season!

Justice Everywhere returns this week for a new season. We continue in our aim to provide a public forum for the exchange of ideas about philosophy and public affairs.

We have lots of exciting content coming your way! This includes:

So please follow us, read and share posts on social media (we’re on both Facebook and Twitter), and feel free to comment on posts using the comment box at the bottom of each post. If you have a suggestion for a topic or would like to contribute a guest post on a topical subject in political philosophy (broadly construed), please feel free to get in touch with us at justice.everywhere.blog@gmail.com.

From the Vault: Books by the Justice Everywhere Team

While Justice Everywhere takes a break over the summer, we recall some of the highlights from our 2020-21 season.

 

Over this past year, several Justice Everywhere authors have published (or are soon to publish) books in 2021. Check them out below:

Several other Justice Everywhere authors are currently working on books on topics connecting philosophy and public affairs, so keep tuned in for more information about these over the coming year!

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Justice Everywhere will return in full swing on 6th September with fresh weekly posts by our cooperative of regular authors (published on Mondays), in addition to our Journal of Applied Philosophy series (published on Thursdays). If you have a suggestion for a topic or would like to contribute a guest post on a topical subject in political philosophy (broadly construed), please feel free to get in touch with us at justice.everywhere.blog@gmail.com.

From the Vault: Good Reads on Children and Upbringing

While Justice Everywhere takes a short break over the summer, we recall some of the highlights from our 2020-21 season. 

 

Here are three good reads on issues relating to children and upbringing that you may have missed or be interested to re-read:

  • Anca Gheaus’s post, Having Slaves and Raising Children, which discusses just how far one may push the analogy between holding slaves and raising children in a world like ours, which has not yet fully outgrown the long tradition of denying rights to children.
  • Daniela Cutas and Sabine Hohl’s post, which explores the question: What Do Co-Parents Owe Each Other? (This post is part of our ongoing collaboration with the Journal of Applied Philosophy.)
  • Helen McCabe’s guest contribution, Ending Child Marriage in the UKwhich examines the philosophical dimensions of a recent bill proposing to raise the minimum age of marriage in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to 18 – namely, questions about what decisions people should be permitted to make at 16, and about the balance between maximising people’s options and protecting a small number from significant harm.

Stay tuned for even more on this topic in our 2021-22 season!

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Justice Everywhere will return in full swing on 6th September with fresh weekly posts by our cooperative of regular authors (published on Mondays), in addition to our Journal of Applied Philosophy series (published on Thursdays). If you have a suggestion for a topic or would like to contribute a guest post on a topical subject in political philosophy (broadly construed), please feel free to get in touch with us at justice.everywhere.blog@gmail.com.

On The Decision to Leave Afghanistan

This post is not an assessment of the military performance of the Afghan National Army or whether the American withdrawal made sense politically (or if it could have been planned better). There are more qualified people for that task. What’s lacking in the current discussion is a just war perspective; in other word, a moral assessment of the decision to wrap up our military involvement in Afghanistan. This post offers a tentative analysis of President Biden’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan and, crucially, to do nothing to aid the government of President Ghani when it became evident Kabul would fall.

Let us begin by retracing American involvement in Afghanistan. America and Coalition Forces (CF) began bombarding Taliban positions in October 2001 in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks 9/11. The justification was one of self-defence: the Taliban provided safe haven for Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda – the group responsible for the 9/11 attacks – and without immediate military action, further attacks would be staged there. But military action against the Taliban then was not a straight forward case of self-defence. This is because Al-Qaeda had ceased its attacks against the US at the time American, British and CF fighter planes began bombing Afghanistan. At best, then, attacking Taliban then was a case of defence against a future threat. The logic was that had the Taliban been allowed in power, they would continue to provide a sanctuary for Al-Qaeda to freely plan attacks against civilians.

Afghan civilians trying to flee Kabul from Hamad Kazai Int Airport (credit: Al-Jazeera)

There was some weight behind this logic. 9/11 was not the first time Al-Qaeda under bin Laden targeted US personnel. There were the bombing of the U.S.S Cole and the double-bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, to name some of the more prominent attacks. Now, while this logic makes sense, without a concrete threat, the details of which demonstrate another attack was imminent, the invasion of Afghanistan to topple the Taliban resembles either an act of reprisal or preventive military action, both of which are not generally accepted as a just cause for war under the traditional doctrine. An argument could be made that the nature of terrorist threat – clandestine, secretive, diffused – makes it impossible to intercept imminent threats. It would be too late to wait for the threat to develop and become imminent. The only solution to handle terrorist threats, the sort that was posed by the allegiance between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, was to nip them in the bud: prevention rather than pre-emption.

Some just war scholars like Jeff McMahan think that preventive wars can be permissible if the following conditions obtained: a threat will attack at some point in the future and defending against said threat is possible now but not later. The argument against this, of course, is rarely do we possess the sort of epistemic certainty to determine whether both of these conditions can be satisfied. Broken relationships can be amended, ruling out the need for preventive action. Similarly, new technologies can emerge which can greatly increase the defensive capabilities of the defender. The debate about the morality of preventive military action is ongoing but let’s leave the initial phase of the war in Afghanistan and fast forward to the present.

Provided that the US and CF had just cause to invade Afghanistan in 2001 under the auspice of the right to self-defence, this mission had finished in the mid-2000 when both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were routed out of the country. Al-Qaeda became a decentralised network with each regional group taking responsibility to conduct regional operations, losing the ability to plan and coordinate attacks on the scale of 9/11. The Taliban were operating out of bases in Pakistan, after having been swiftly overthrown by CF. And yet the US and CF would stay in the country until 2021, with a troop surge approved by President Obama in 2009.

The rationale for this period of fighting seemed to have shifted away from one of self-defence to one of supporting the new Afghan state from Taliban encroachment. The argument was made that the Afghan society post-Taliban was underpinned by democratic ideals of equality, liberalism and pluralism. Indeed, many positive changes did happen in the post-Taliban years. Women were allowed to have an education and stand for public offices. Elections were held, although some with questionable practices. Generally, people living in metropolitan areas such as Kabul or Kandahar (when the Taliban did not target these cities) enjoyed greater freedom compared to under the Taliban.

But there is a legitimate question whether distributive war to enhance greater level of individual rights can be permissible (Cecile Fabre is among the most famous proponents for distributive wars, or subsistence wars). The war in Afghanistan had resulted in the deaths of 69,000 Afghan soldiers and police, more than 50,000 civilians and more than 3,500 CF with the number of injured in the hundreds of thousands. Millions of people have had to flee the country permanently due to the violence. It is sensible to assume that had the US and CF not withdrawn by the agreed date this year, the Taliban would resume their brutal campaign, targeting CF and civilian targets. One should then ask if a war fought and sustained to gain more freedom for some Afghan can be proportionate, given the enormous human cost?

And there’s the requirement that a war must have reasonable chance of success. Put simply, one should not engage in fighting if one doesn’t stand a good chance to secure the objective through means of war. The US alone spent about $2 trillion over 20 years in Afghanistan, $83 billion of which on building up the Afghan security forces. However, the speed at which the government in Kabul fell to the Taliban demonstrates that without CF’s support, and together with it more bloodshed and losses of lives, the Afghan government couldn’t sustain the progressive gains on its own. When quizzed by reporters about his decision to leave Afghanistan, President Biden asked rhetorically if the Afghan government, after 20 years of receiving financial and military support from CF couldn’t defend the country, what are the chances they would be able to do so had CF stayed for longer? I believe the President here was referring to the principle of success: the war in Afghanistan, for various reasons, had become ‘unwinnable’ in that the objective of nation building and enshrining principles of liberalism could not be achieved through means of fighting.

From the Vault: Collaboration with Journal of Applied Philosophy

While Justice Everywhere takes a break over the summer, we recall some of the highlights from our 2020-21 season. This post focuses on our ongoing collaboration with the Journal of Applied Philosophy.

In 2019, Justice Everywhere began a collaboration with the Journal of Applied Philosophy. The journal is a unique forum that publishes philosophical analysis of problems of practical concern, and several of its authors post accessible summaries of their work on Justice Everywhere. These posts draw on diverse theoretical viewpoints and bring them to bear on a broad spectrum of issues, ranging from the environment and immigration to economics, parenting, and punishment.

For a full list of these posts, visit the JAP page on Justice Everywhere. For a flavour of the range, you might read:

Stay tuned for even more from this collaboration in our 2021-22 season!

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Justice Everywhere will return in full swing on 6th September with fresh weekly posts by our cooperative of regular authors (published on Mondays), in addition to our JAP series (published on Thursdays). If you have a suggestion for a topic or would like to contribute a guest post on a topical subject in political philosophy (broadly construed), please feel free to get in touch with us at justice.everywhere.blog@gmail.com.

From the Vault: Good Reads on Public Philosophy

While Justice Everywhere takes a short break over the summer, we recall some of the highlights from our 2020-21 season. 

 

Here are three good reads on issues relating to public philosophy that you may have missed or be interested to re-read:

  • In From Armchair to Engaged Philosophy, Nicolás Brando reflects on the the benefits of philosophers directly engaging with their subjects of research throughout the whole research process – applying this to children as the subject of an important strand of recent and current philosophising. Nicolás’s post references Diana Popescu’s interview with Jo Wolff, which discusses the idea of “engaged philosophy”, published as part of our Beyond the Ivory Tower series.
  • Anh Le’s post, which addresses the question: Should Academics also be Activists?
  • Lisa Herzog’s interview with Rowan Cruft, the latest in our Beyond the Ivory Tower series, in which they discuss his public philosophy, and in particular his contribution to the Leveson Inquiry into the practices and ethics of the British media.

Stay tuned for even more on this topic in our 2021-22 season!

***

Justice Everywhere will return in full swing on 6th September with fresh weekly posts by our cooperative of regular authors (published on Mondays), in addition to our Journal of Applied Philosophy series (published on Thursdays). If you have a suggestion for a topic or would like to contribute a guest post on a topical subject in political philosophy (broadly construed), please feel free to get in touch with us at justice.everywhere.blog@gmail.com.

 

Wrongly Weeded Out: Richardson’s Removal and Unreasonable Rules

In this guest post, John Tillson and Winston C. Thompson discuss the recent case of US track star Sha’Carri Richardson’s suspension from competing at the Olympics.

Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended from the US Olympic team after testing positive for marijuana. This is ultimately because the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) decided to ban THC in-competition in all sports. THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main psychoactive component of cannabis/marijuana. WADA can prohibit athletes’ use of substances in order compete in the Olympics and other major sporting events such as those organized under the auspices of World Athletics. Richardson has apologized for her actions and US President Biden has commented on the case saying, ‘the rules are the rules’.

But is that all there is to the case? Is the mere existence of the rules sufficient reason for following them? The ban and Richardson’s violation of it have generated controversy and raise ethical questions. What kinds of rules may justly restrict participation in sports? Must athletes abide by whatever rules the World Anti-Doping Agency make up, as Biden seems to indicate? After all, Richardson was not required to participate in athletic competitions. Should her voluntary choice to do so, oblige her to comply with any standards or rules of such competition? When athletes compete, should they do so on whatever terms the de jure authorities set, and would it be wrongfully dishonest of them not to? Perhaps, if she rejects them, Richardson should explicitly petition against the rules rather than silently and secretly violating them and trying to get away with it? Maybe the ban on THC is a good rule: maybe smoking weed sets a bad example to the impressionable young, or is in some way unsportsman-like? Maybe consuming THC disadvantages other competitors?

For our own part, we cannot see any compelling reason for any agency (especially not a powerful agency like WADA) to ban THC, or for Richardson not to violate the ban as it exists. On our view, her rule-breaking and secrecy about it was not wrongful. We hold this position as we perceive that Richardson was deprived of a fair set of choices by WADA, as it made the following unfair imposition on her: Choose between either ‘doing something which harms and disadvantages no one while providing you a reasonable degree of comfort’ or ‘not competing in your sport even though such activity is a meaningful and essential part of your life and identity’. The imposition of such invasive restrictions on a person should not be permitted and persons are morally permitted to violate attempted efforts at such impositions. In the absence of some equally well-regarded league of THC-legal races, or an exciting THC-legal Olympics, it’s unfair to expect athletes to conform to unjust rules when there are no viable alternatives for similarly meaningful athletic performance.

Below, we explain our position.

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Vaccine Equity and the Responsibility of Rich Countries

What We Owe to Each Other is the title of Tim Scanlon’s famous work on contractualism. As the title reveals, Scanlon seeks to investigate how to treat others with the due respect and dignity they deserve. This post is not about contractualism or about the TV show. Rather, borrowing Scanlon’s book title, I suggest what rich nations should do to address the global vaccine inequity that is hampering poorer nations’ efforts to combat the pandemic. The account sketched here must stand a good chance of being accepted by the relevant rich states. To this end, the following constraints must be accepted. First, governments are primarily driven by concerns for their own citizens and residents. This means that, as non-ideal as it may sound, global egalitarian ideals would not be realised, at least for now. Second, and relatedly, access to vaccines would always likely to be decided by free market principles. Again, legitimate objections, especially egalitarian ones, can be raised against this but this is a constraint that must be accepted, given the dominance of free market thinking in Western countries. Third, as a result, COVAX’s original goal – ‘to ensure that people in all corners of the world will get access to COVID-19 vaccines once they are available, regardless of their wealth’ – was always a wishful thinking.

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