Justice Everywhere

a blog about justice in public affairs

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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.

For an excellent example, see Lisa Herzog’s recent post on the blog. But I wish here to briefly present an analysis of my own on the reasons for concern with political inequality (“What is Our Real Concern with Real Inequality?”, Policy Studies Journal).

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Recent Vacancies in Political Theory/Philosophy/Ethics

Associate Professorship of Political Theory, University of Oxford (closing 7/12/17)

Assistant Professor in Political Theory, Carleton University (closing 1/12/17)

Lecturer in Philosophy (30 months fixed term), University of Birmingham (closing 29/11/17)

Tenure-track position in Business Ethics, KU Leuven (closing 31/01/18)

Doctoral Scholarships (open to political theory/philosophy/ethics applicants), Central European University (closing 01/02/18)

Durkheim on social justice (or: why political theorists should read sociology)

As part of my long-term project to convince political theorists that they can benefit from cooperating with empirical social scientists (see also here), I’ve recently written a paper on an intriguing argument about social justice that I found in the writings of Émile Durkheim, who is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of sociology. I here present a short summary; the full paper can be found here.

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Should ‘We’ Take Seriously the Worries of Voters of the Alternative For Germany?

September’s general elections have brought Germany its own Brexit/Trump moment. For the first time since 1945 a far right nationalist party is part of the German national parliament. The Alternative for Germany, AfD, gained 12,6 % of German votes. Given the AfD’s increasing popularity in the polls and the resurging nationalism over the last years this wasn’t a shock moment in the way that Brexit or Trump’s election was. Yet, there is something particularly troubling about seeing Nazis back in the German parliament. One common response is that ‘we need to take the worries of the AfD voters more seriously’. They have been overlooked and here we are. But: What does it mean ‘to take seriously’? And who is this ‘we’ that is supposed to take seriously?

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Climate Justice in Global Perspective

I recently wrote a review for an introductory philosophy text on climate justice. I thought it was a good book. The only criticism of it that I raised felt somewhat unfair, and hypocritical, since it is really a criticism that applies to the book’s field rather than the book itself – and to myself as somebody who works within this field. Namely, that discussions of climate justice in analytic philosophy (of the kind that I was schooled in, at least) have a tendency to be problematically insular, or even exclusionary. My worry is that a lot of the literature I read on climate justice is written by people like me, and (implicitly or explicitly) addressed to people like me. Roughly speaking: academics working in the tradition of analytic ethics and political philosophy; writing in English; located in Europe, North America, or Australia; and relatively privileged in terms of their resources, opportunities for consumption, and low vulnerability to climate change.

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