Justice Everywhere

a blog about justice in public affairs

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Are Sweatshops Drivers for Gender Equality?

Labour Market Injustice

Labour markets are rife with questions of justice. This series of blog posts; explore cases of injustice, highlight theoretical puzzles and point towards possible solutions. They emerged from debates at the ‘Labour Market Injustice’ Workshop co-hosted by Newcastle and Durham Universities and generously sponsored by the Society for Applied Philosophy.  In this third post Mirjam Mueller explores the putative connection between sweatshop labour and female emancipation.

In 1884 Friedrich Engels argued in The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State that women’s participation in the workforce was key to their emancipation. By entering the workforce on equal footing with men, women would become economically independent and traditional gender relations would be destroyed by capitals indiscriminate demand for labour. Does this mean we should put our hopes on capitalism promoting gender equality?

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Stop Supporting the Living Wage Movement!

Labour Market Injustice

Labour markets are rife with questions of justice. This series of blog posts explore cases of injustice, highlight theoretical puzzles and point towards possible solutions. They emerged from debates at the ‘Labour Market Injustice’ Workshop co-hosted by Newcastle and Durham Universities and generously sponsored by the Society for Applied Philosophy.  In this second blog post Ben Sachs offers reasons to be wary of the campaign for a living wage.

Those who support the Living Wage Movement (LWM) no doubt have their heart in the right place. They support the LWM because they care about the poor or specifically the working poor. However, the LWM is going to divide poor people against each other and thereby undermine their ability to effectively advocate for their own cause. And as to the working poor specifically, the LWM will harm them by misleading people into thinking that they don’t exist.

As we all know, the current reality is that many full-time workers don’t earn enough money to live a decent life—at least not without the state’s help. Fortunately, the working poor are eligible for various state-sponsored programmes, such as the Universal Credit and the Child Benefit (in the U.K.). The crucial thing to notice, though, is that the non-working poor are eligible for those programmes too.

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Freedom for Uber Drivers?

Labour Market Injustice

Labour markets are rife with questions of justice. This series of blog posts explore cases of injustice, highlight theoretical puzzles and point towards possible solutions. They emerged from debates at the ‘Labour Market Injustice’ Workshop co-hosted by Newcastle and Durham Universities and generously sponsored by the Society for Applied Philosophy.

In this first blog post James Hickson explores how the growth of the platform economy affects the values of freedom and independence. Does the rapidly changing nature of work signal a need to debate how we should understand workplace freedom in the first place?  

In April 2016, Travis Kalanick, the CEO and co-founder of Uber, published a blog post defending the company’s classification of their drivers as “independent contractors” rather than standard employees. Kalanick argued that drivers choose Uber “because they want to be their own boss. Drivers value their independence—the freedom to push a button rather than punch a clock, to use Uber and Lyft simultaneously, to drive most of the week or for just a few hours”. Kalanick even quoted one driver who claimed “I would quit if they tried to make me an employee, because I value my freedom as an independent contractor too much”.

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Why are you more angry about Trump’s state visit to the UK than about visits from the leaders of China and Saudi Arabia?

The petition against Donald Trump’s ‘state visit’ to the United Kingdom has gathered over 1.8 million signatories. (I am one of them). Of particular concern to many of these signatories has been Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’, and its perceived infringement of international human rights law. But there is a curiosity, one that has been seized upon by those more positively disposed to Trump. Trump’s actions to date are surely less objectionable, from a human rights perspective, than the historical actions of Saudi Arabia and China, and the leaders of both of those countries have enjoyed recent state visits to the United Kingdom with (relative to Trump) little outcry. Can these differing scales of public reaction be justified? I suspect not; only explained.

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The case for a duty of development assistance

A cash transfer recipient in Kenya, in front of the house he built with the money, in 2014. Photo: GiveDirectly.

The New Statesman journalist Stephen Bush recently predicted that, having achieved their life-long dream of taking Britain out of the EU, the right-wing press’s next target will be DfiD and Britain’s commitment to foreign aid.

The Daily Mail, in particular, have already sharpened their knives. One day they rail about British tax-payer money going to expensive middle-men and consultants. The next, they’re up in arms about in the developing world. Never mind that this form of aid – with no strings attached and no stipulations on what the money can or cannot be used for – has been tested by independent experts and shown to provide one of the highest returns on investment, helping the most people at the lowest expense to the British state.

A robust defence of development assistance is needed. I intend this post to be the first of a number in 2017, arguing for Britain and other developed countries to spend at least the 0.7% of GDP, which has been internationally agreed upon, on development assistance. (Britain is currently one of only six countries to do so, alongside the Netherlands Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden).

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There is too much division of labour: Against all-or-nothing social roles

Marx might have been right, too strict a division of labour is making us worse off in an important respect: we cannot but fail to develop core human abilities, and this failure cannot but affect our sense of wellbeing, of being at home in the world. Not that we should, or could, fully undo the division of labour such that you and I can “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.” But is it unavoidable, or good for us, to have to live by a radical division of labour where the main social roles are an all-or-nothing business?

Consider: you either enter politics, dedicating it a large amount of time, or you have virtually no say in any public affairs. You’re either a parent or someone who can have children in their lives only very sporadically and precariously. You typically either have a full-time job (for many over-engulfing) or an unsatisfying one, which you can all too easily lose, and it probably doesn’t pay enough to live. You’re either in a monogamous relationship, or else your relationship(s) are not socially sanctioned as serious, meaningful, worthy of protection – as marriage and civil partnerships are.

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Debate, Dissent, and Safer Spaces

Thomas Swann is a Research Associate at Loughborough University working on an ESRC-funded project examining rule-making and constitutionalising in anarchist politics. He has a PhD in management and a background in social and political philosophy. His research explores the connections between anarchism and organisational cybernetics, aiming to develop ‘anarchist cybernetics’ as a framework for understanding radical left social movement organisation. His is the final post in the series:

Ethics in Academic Events

As theorists of justice and professional ethicists we are used to scrutinizing the practices of others. Is it not about time that we turned our analytical skills and discerning moral sensitivities on ourselves? Inspired by discussions at the closing of the workshop ‘Global Justice and Global Health Ethics Exploring the Influence of Iris Marion Young’, this series of posts seeks to examine our own actions and practices and explore the moral dilemmas of the academy.

 

Do safer spaces stiffle or enable debate?

In September of this year, the Anarchist Studies Network (ASN) conference agreed upon a draft safer spaces policy for future events. Among other things, the safer spaces policy, called for participants to avoiding making assumptions about people’s gender, be aware of being part of a privileged group, make sure discussions of traumatic subjects are entered into with care and reject racist or sexist language.

Documents like this that are designed to govern behaviour in academic spaces have become controversial over the last year or so. Claims are often made that safer spaces policies (‘safer’ rather than ‘safe’ because insecurity can never be eliminated entirely) are akin to censorship and that they wrap people in protective cotton wool.

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Support Early Career Researchers, Increase Diversity

Maeve McKeown is a Junior Research Fellow in Political Theory at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She is a former co-editor at New Left Project and convener of the St Hilda’s Feminist Salon. Hers is the fourth post in a series on:

Ethics in Academic Events

As theorists of justice and professional ethicists we are used to scrutinizing the practices of others. Is it not about time that we turned our analytical skills and discerning moral sensitivities on ourselves? Inspired by discussions at the closing of the workshop ‘Global Justice and Global Health Ethics Exploring the Influence of Iris Marion Young’, this series of posts seeks to examine our own actions and practices and explore the moral dilemmas of the academy.

 

As political theorists we often critique inequality in society, but we rarely critique inequality in our own profession. We know that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few tenured professors, with junior faculty struggling in short-term, poorly-paid, precarious contracts, often moving cities or countries on a yearly basis (with all the hidden costs that incurs). We know that there are few women and people of colour in permanent, senior positions. So what are we doing about this? And how does it apply to conference organising?

One of the ways academics disseminate their research and are spotted for jobs is through presenting at conferences. But conference fees and travel expenses are often too expensive for junior faculty, with their just-about-living wages (or sometimes not living wages). Short-term contracts usually do not come with research expenses, or at least not sufficient expenses to participate in overseas or even local conferences.

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‘We Middle-Class Liberals’

This post is the third in a series on:

Ethics in Academic Events

As theorists of justice and professional ethicists we are used to scrutinizing the practices of others. Is it not about time that we turned our analytical skills and discerning moral sensitivities on ourselves? Inspired by discussions at the closing of the workshop ‘Global Justice and Global Health Ethics Exploring the Influence of Iris Marion Young’, this series of posts seeks to examine our own actions and practices and explore the moral dilemmas of the academy.

 

Exclusivity in Academia

Verina Wild’s post highlighted that much of the polemical critique of liberal elites is unfair and dangerous. However, academia has played a role in sustaining the cultural divide that is now being effectively exploited by the right to turn people against each other. In this post I explore this issue and discuss how academic philosophers should respond to it.

‘We Middle-class Liberals’

Countless times I have heard ‘we liberals’ or read ‘as middle class people’ in academic discussions concerning questions of justice and ethics. At first it made me think I didn’t belong, later it just made me uncomfortable to be part of an in-group. The idea of a liberal middle-class ‘we’ is troubling and yet class awareness is vital to understanding injustice.  The tension for radical and progressive political theorists between the need to recognize in-group privilege and the need to challenge and oppose rather than reproduce it is a complex one.

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On Sneering Metropolitan Elites – Has liberal diversity become an ideology?

Verina Wild is a post-doctoral researcher at the Philosophy Department at Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, and Senior Teaching and Research Associate at the Institute for Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine at University of Zurich. Her research concerns questions of public health ethics, social and global justice in health and health of migrants. Hers is the second post in a series on:

Ethics in Academic Events

As theorists of justice and professional ethicists we are used to scrutinizing the practices of others. Is it not about time that we turned our analytical skills and discerning moral sensitivities on ourselves? Inspired by discussions at the closing of the workshop ‘Global Justice and Global Health Ethics Exploring the Influence of Iris Marion Young’, this series of posts seeks to examine our own actions and practices and explore the moral dilemmas of the academy.

 

‘Us’ versus ‘Them’

Since the US election the internet has been awash with accusations. Apparently, ‘we liberal intellectuals’ should be ashamed of how blind we have become to real-life experiences or to any other school of thought. ‘We’ have been in “elegantly scented bubbles of privilege and prejudice” [1] in the metropolitan capitals of the world. ‘We’ looked down on ‘them’ (Trump supporters but also conservative academics) without respect, uttering endless calls for openness and diversity, but in reality not being open at all. ‘If ‘they’ are against progressive ideals ‘we’ immediately call them misogynists and racists, instead of listening to ‘their’ thoughts in an open way. ‘We’ are the true haters of democracy, because what ‘we’ really want is the imposed (not democratically elected) rule of progressive, liberal thought. ‘We’ adopt the self-image as the only group who thinks rationally and reasonably. However, in doing so, ‘we’ have been intolerant and dogmatic: ‘we’ are the totalitarians.

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