Justice Everywhere

a blog about justice in public affairs

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What’s wrong with an epistocratic council?

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "experts cartoon"

Why do we trust experts to take care of our health and not to take care of our interests in the political realm? This is a very old question of democratic theory. Epistocracy is a neologism frequently used in recent works to refer to a form of government by those who know more or are wiser than the mass.

Two different aspects might differentiate an epistocracy from a democracy: the absence of political equality in the selection of the rulers, or the absence of egalitarian accountability. In addition to these undemocratic aspects, an epistocracy would differ from other non-democratic regimes by some mechanism allowing people who distinguish themselves from the mass by their wisdom or expertise to rule or at least enjoy an important degree of political power. The best example and – to my knowledge – the most interesting challenge to our democratic convictions is Jason Brennan’s idea of an “epistocratic council”. Members of this council would be selected on a meritocratic basis, passing a competency exam. And all citizens would have an equal voice in the choice of the expertise criteria.

Leaving aside the practical challenges such as the choice of the people in charge of preparing the exam, what would be wrong with such an epistocratic council?

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Against Indiscriminate Killing Even in Supreme Emergencies

For the past few weeks, people on- and offline have spoken up to question Winston Churchill’s legacy. They generally highlight his racism, his support for the use of concentration camps, his treatment of Ireland, his complicity in the Bengal famine, and more. Some protested in a Churchill-themed café. In response, others argue that he nevertheless deserves to be remembered for his role in fighting off the Nazis and inspiring the British public in dark times. There are, however, important questions to ask even about Churchill’s role in fighting the Nazis. Churchill authorised the indiscriminate killing of civilians by bombing German cities. In justifying this tactic, Churchill appealed to the extraordinarily dangerous nature of the situation. But does this justify indiscriminate killing? This question still has relevance today. US drone strikes in the Middle East and Afghanistan in many respects resemble a campaign of indiscriminate violence, and so it is necessary to ask if this campaign can be justified. I will here argue that the logic of Churchill’s defence does not, and indeed cannot, justify the use of indiscriminate violence.

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Winner of the 2nd Jonathan Trejo-Mathys Essay Prize Announced

2018 Jonathan Trejo-Mathys Essay Prize to Francisco Garcia Gibson (Buenos Aires)

The Global Justice Network is very pleased to announce the winner of this year’s Jonathan Trejo-Mathys Essay Prize, awarded annually to recognize a stellar contribution to the political theory and philosophy of global justice, which was one of Jonathan Trejo-Mathys’ areas of scholarship. The prize is sponsored by the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy at Boston College.

This year’s prize goes to Francisco Garcia Gibson, postdoctoral researcher at the National Research Council of Argentina (CONICET) and the Centro de Investigaciones Filosóficas (CIF) at the Universidad de Buenos Aires for his essay  “Guns or Food: On Prioritizing National Security over Global Poverty Relief”. The committee believes that the essay makes an important contribution to the scholarship in political theory, philosophy and international relations through its discussion of the normative commitments of political realism.

Honourable mentions go to Nicole Hassoun, Associate Professor at Binghampton University, for her piece on “Fair Trade: An Imperfect Obligation?” and Anahi Wiedenbrüg, doctoral research student at the LSE, for her submission “On the Responsibilities of Dominated States”.

Congratulations to all three authors. All three papers will be published in the next issue of Global Justice: Theory, Practice, Rhetoric.

 

Recent Vacancies in Political Theory/Philosophy/Ethics

Lecturer in Human Rights, University College London (closing 11/02/18)

Lecturer in Philosophy, University College London (closing 11/02/18)

Assistant Professor in Political Theory (tenure-track), Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile (closing 15/02/18)

Hoover Chair Fellowships, Universite Catholique de Louvain (closing 23/02/18)

Lecturer / Senior Lecturer in Social & Political Philosophy, University of Edinburgh (closing 27/02/18)

Postdoctoral Fellowships in Political Theory/Philosophy, Justitia Amplificata, University of Frankfurt / Free University of Berlin (closing 01/03/18)

Lecturer/Senior Lecturer/Reader in Political Theory, University of Essex (closing 04/03/18)

Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Western Australia (closing 04/03/18)

What, if anything, is wrong with private money in political philosophy?

Recently, there have been increasing worries about the role of private money that funds libertarian political philosophy (see e.g. here or here). The role of private money in academic research is not precisely a new problem; it has plagued other fields for decades (see e.g. here for a study of some of the more problematic forms). But it seems to be rather new for political philosophy, or at least it seems to have gone to levels it has not had in the recent past. But what exactly is wrong with it? Isn’t it simply an exercise of freedom of expression to use one’s money to sponsor scholarship one is interested in?

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Iris Young, Bad Dates and #MeToo

Can Iris Young’s analysis of structural injustice, problematic norms, individual guilt and forward-looking responsibility contribute to contemporary feminism as #MeToo broaches the subject of bad dates and male privilege?

This blog post comes with a trigger warning as it contains discussions of sexual harassment and sexual assault and controversial opinions regarding them.

Last week much of my facebook feed was again  full of discussion regarding accounts of sexual abuse  and comment regarding the #MeToo movement.

One of last week’s stories concerned the behaviour of a male celebrity who publicly endorses calls to end sexual abuse in the entertainment industry and beyond. A woman who dated the celebrity detailed to a reporter how he acted in a pushy, forceful  manner. She explained how he ignored non-verbal cues to slow down their encounter and end more overtly sexual activity, and then re-initiated sexual activity after she stated that she was feeling pressured. The woman left their date feeling violated and miserable. The report has been broadly discussed with a spectrum of opinions emerging regarding the case: some sympathetic to the celebrity, others criticising his hypocrisy and abuse and some suggesting we are reluctant to acknowledge this as abuse because we want to protect ourselves from facing the reality of the problems we have encountered in our own sex lives.

Last week also saw criticism of the #Metoo movement gain momentum. A letter was published by concerned women in the French entertainment industry who believe that the movement has gone too far and begun to stigmatise men who make clumsy and persistent advances. The letter also suggested that the movement has begun to undermine women’s power and self esteem, prohibit people’s legitimate sexuality, censor artistic expression and prevent the enjoyment of art made by perpetrators of sexual violence.   The letter too has provoked extensive discussion, clarification, criticism and response.

How should we think about these cases and positions? There are two sorts of understandings that opponents in the debate often identify each other as falling into.

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Recent Vacancies in Political Theory/Philosophy/Ethics

Assistant Professor PPE – Politics & Governance, Utrecht University (closing 31/12/17)

Assistant Professor PPE – Philosophy, Utrecht University (closing 01/01/18)

Assistant Professor in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, University of Groningen (closing 14/01/18)

Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Moral and Political Philosophy, University of New South Wales (closing 18/01/18)

Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Reading (closing 22/01/18)

Call for papers – Exploring the Migration-Terrorism Nexus from a Justice Perspective

In the past few years the ‘migration crisis’ has challenged the EU’s internal cohesion and has been instrumentally used by populist and nationalist movements to raise public concerns. At the same time, terrorist attacks have multiplied in Europe and some of them have been perpetrated by migrants of first or second generation claiming allegiance to Islamic fundamentalist groups.

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CEU update/ application news

Last April the Hungarian parliament approved a new law that regulates the operations of foreign (non-EEA) universities in Hungary. Among other things, the new law requires a bilateral agreement between Hungary and the country of the university’s origin, and they should also deliver education programs in the countries where they are accredited. Although ‘lex CEU’, as has been popularly referred to, was defended on purely administrative grounds it clearly is part of an orchestrated attack on free institutions—NGOs, independent media, and the judiciary. At the time, it seemed impossible for CEU to fulfil these conditions: deadlines were tight, the costs were enormous since CEU has no educational activity in the US where it is accredited, and securing a bilateral treaty with the US government was unfeasible since, American educational matters are regulated at State level rather than at the federal’s level.

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Sufficiency on Political Inequality

If you consider yourself a political philosopher, it seems that you must be doing political philosophy. What does this political constraint imply? To me, it does certainly not imply that you are not allowed to used farfetched hypothetical thought-experiments, or that you take a specific stand on ideal contra non-ideal theory. Nor does it imply that it is morally impermissible for us to raise certain philosophical questions, if we foresee a reasonable chance that answering these questions could make the world worse or more unjust, as some activists claim. What it implies is that you should acknowledge the political relevance of your philosophical work, and that you have a commitment to make this relevance explicit.

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