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NEW (2018): New podcast from Philosophy 24/7: Should we pay reparations for wrongs committed in the past?
I am a political theorist at the University of Oxford, where I am Associate Professor in Political Theory in the Department of Politics and International Relations, and Fellow and Tutor in Political Theory and Vice-Master (Academic) at Balliol College. I’m a member of the Centre for the Study of Social Justice (CSSJ). This is my Oxford webpage. This is my academia.edu profile.
I started my current job in 2013, and have recently acted as Course Director for the M.Phil. in Political Theory (2013-16), Tutor for Undergraduate Admissions at Balliol (2014-16), and Director of the Centre for the Study of Social Justice (2015-16). From 2009 to 2013, I was Lecturer in Political Theory at the University of Bristol. Before that, I spent five years as Fellow and Tutor in Politics at Oriel College in Oxford, and was a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Social and Political Thought in the Department of Politics and IR. I spent three years as Research Fellow and Tutor in Politics at Keble College, Oxford, and was both a graduate and undergraduate student at Wadham College, Oxford, where I did a D.Phil. and an M.Phil. in Politics, and a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and was President of Wadham College Students’ Union. I was previously an Associate Editor, and am now a member of the Editorial Board, of the journal Contemporary Political Theory, and am a member of the Editorial Board of the Intergenerational Justice Review.
I teach both contemporary political theory and the history of political thought, though much of my research to date has tended to concentrate on modern day questions of rectificatory and distributive justice, particularly with reference to the rectification of past wrongdoing. I am currently working on a range of different projects, including a book on reparations, as well as pieces on the moral implications of benefiting from wrongdoing, the ethics of parenting, and a number of topics in environmental ethics.
I recently appeared on the Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4 talking about luck and inequality: details on how to hear it are here. I also feature in this BBC article by David Edmonds: “How do you decide when a statue must fall?”
My email address is email@example.com.
Rectifying International Injustice: Principles of Compensation and Restitution Between Nations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). The full text is available online here, via Oxford Scholarship Online. It should be accessible on most University networks. It has been reviewed in International Affairs 85, 5 (2009), accessible here, Political Studies Review 8, 2 (2010), accessible here, Global Justice: Theory Practice Rhetoric 3 (2010), accessible here, and Ethical Perspectives 19,1 (2012), accessible here. An abstract and a summary of each chapter of the book are at the bottom of this page.
"Nations, overlapping generations and historic injustice", American Philosophical Quarterly 43 (2006), 357-67 pdf
- Reprinted in Lukas Meyer (ed.) Intergenerational Justice (Ashgate, 2012).
(with Stuart White and Martin O’Neill) “Liberalism and trade unionism”, International Union Rights, 18 (2012)
“Repairing historical wrongs and the end of empire”, Social & Legal Studies 21,2 (2012), 227-242 pdf
“Inheriting rights to reparation: compensatory justice and the passage of time”, Ethical Perspectives 20, 2 (2013), 245-269 pdf
“’A doctrine quite new and altogether untenable’: defending the beneficiary pays principle”, Journal of Applied Philosophy 31,4 (2014), 336-348 pdf
“Restitution post bellum: property, inheritance, and corrective justice”, Journal of Applied Philosophy, forthcoming
“‘Victors’ justice’? Historic injustice and the legitimacy of international law”, in Lukas H. Meyer (ed) Legitimacy, Justice and Public International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 163-185 pdf
“Global equality of opportunity as an institutional standard of distributive justice”, in Chios Carmody, Frank J. Garcia, and John Linarelli (eds.), Global Justice and International Economic Law: Opportunities and Prospects, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 44-67 pdf
“Historic injustice and the inheritance of rights and duties in East Asia”, in Jun-Hyeok Kwak and Melissa Nobles (eds.) Inherited Responsibility and Historical Reconciliation in East Asia (Routledge, 2013) pdf
“Historical justice in postcolonial contexts: repairing historical wrongs and the end of Empire”, in Janna Thompson and Klaus Neumann (eds.) Historical Justice and Memory (University of Wisconsin Press, 2015), pp. 166-184
“Historical emissions: does ignorance matter?”, in Lukas Meyer and Pranay Sanklecha (eds.), Historical Emissions and Climate Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2017) pdf
“Distributive justice in postcolonial studies”, translation to appear in Patrick Savidan, Dictionnaire des inégalités et de la justice sociale (Presses universitaires de France, forthcoming)
REPORTS AND POLICY BRIEFS
The following reports were written for the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society in Oxford, in my previous capacity as Director of their programme on “Courts and the Making of Public Policy”.
Reparations and the End of Empire (November 2013)
Does Inequality Matter? Social Justice and Political Theory (September 2016)
MORE ON RECTIFYING INTERNATIONAL INJUSTICE
Rectifying International Injustice: Principles of Compensation and Restitution Between Nations
The history of international relations is characterized by widespread injustice. What implications does this have for those living in the present? Should contemporary states pay reparations to the descendants of the victims of historic wrongdoing? Many writers have dismissed the moral urgency of rectificatory justice in a domestic context, as a result of their forward-looking accounts of distributive justice. Rectifying International Injustice argues that historical international injustice raises a series of distinct theoretical problems, as a result of the popularity of backward-looking accounts of distributive justice in an international context. It lays out three morally relevant forms of connection with the past, based in ideas of benefit, entitlement and responsibility. Those living in the present may have obligations to pay compensation insofar as they are benefiting, and others are suffering, as a result of the effects of historic injustice. They may be in possession of property which does not rightly belong to them, but to which others have inherited entitlements. Finally, they may be members of political communities which bear collective responsibility for an ongoing failure to rectify historic injustice. Rectifying International Injustice considers each of these three linkages with the past in detail. It examines the complicated relationship between rectificatory justice and distributive justice, assesses the appropriateness of judging the past by contemporary moral standards, and argues that many of those who resist cosmopolitan demands for the global redistribution of resources have failed to appreciate the extent to which past wrongdoing undermines the legitimacy of contemporary resource holdings.
Book keywords: historic injustice, international relations,
reparations, compensation, distributive justice, rectificatory justice, benefit,
entitlement, property, responsibility
Chapter 1: Introduction
This chapter outlines the empirical context of the debate over reparations for historic international injustice, with particular reference to colonialism and the slave trade. It characterises the argument of the book as a specific type of non-ideal theory, and explains the book’s commitment to a particular kind of practicality, whereby its arguments can be employed by real world political actors. It outlines an approach to international justice labelled “international libertarianism”, advocated by writers including John Rawls, David Miller, Michael Walzer and Thomas Nagel, which is analogous to domestic libertarianism in terms of its commitment to respect for sovereignty, self-ownership and the minimal state. This is distinguished from alternative accounts of international justice such as cosmopolitanism and realism. The book’s focus on rectificatory duties, rather than rights, is explained, and the terminological relation between terms such as restitution and compensation, and nation and state, is explicated.
Keywords: colonialism, slave trade, non-ideal theory, practicality, Rawls, Walzer, international libertarianism, sovereignty, self-ownership, minimal state
Chapter 2: Why Worry about Historic Injustice?
This chapter outlines a number of critical responses to the project of seeking to rectify historic injustice, and explains why largely they do not apply to international libertarian accounts of international justice. It distinguishes between backward-looking and forward-looking accounts of distributive justice in both ideal and non-ideal theory, and looks at how both accounts relate to ideas of rectificatory justice. If one advocates a forward-looking account of distributive justice, and so advocates a redistribution of resources with each new generation, then the rectificatory project will seem to be of little importance. However, this nonchalance in the face of historic injustice is unsustainable if one advocates backward-looking principles. Since international libertarians resist cosmopolitan calls for a generational redistribution of resources across political boundaries, they must carefully scrutinize the provenance of modern day distributions.
Keywords: historic injustice, rectification, non-ideal theory, international justice, distributive justice, backward-looking, forward-looking, redistribution, cosmopolitan, generation
Chapter 3: International Libertarianism
This chapter lays out the account of justice between nations – international libertarianism – which the book uses to assess present day obligations arising from historic injustice. The first section outlines international libertarianism as a backward-looking account of international distributive justice, in contrast with forward-looking redistributive cosmopolitanism. The second section differentiates international libertarianism from prescriptive realism, by giving details of the principles of just international interaction which international libertarians believe should govern relations between different communities. These combine a respect for national self-determination with a prohibition on self-interested aggression. The third section considers the propriety of using these principles to judge historic international interaction, in the light of historically different beliefs about morality and the relatively recent development of international law. It concludes by considering the claim that historic departures from the principles might be seen as having been justified by necessity, and considers the duties of compensation which would result from such actions.
Keywords: international libertarianism, distributive justice, backward-looking, forward-looking, realism, self-determination, aggression, international law, necessity, compensation
Chapter 4: Compensation for Historic International Injustice
This chapter examines claims that compensation should be paid as a result of the lasting harm and benefit caused by historic injustice. It argues that present day parties who have benefited from the automatic effects of past wrongdoing may possess compensatory duties if others are still disadvantaged, insofar as the victims and beneficiaries are not in a state of moral equilibrium. It argues that any claims relating to compensation must make reference to some account of counterfactual reasoning in order to assess the degree of harm which has been suffered. The question of identifying the morally relevant counterfactual is something which has been frequently misunderstood, particularly in relation to exploitation. Having considered, and dismissed, objections stemming from the “non-identity problem”, the chapter concludes by putting forward a substantive defence of the claim that benefiting from injustice can give rise to rectificatory duties, even when the receipt of benefit is involuntary.
Keywords: historic injustice, compensation, harm, benefit, moral equilibrium, counterfactual, exploitation, non-identity problem, involuntary, rectificatory
Chapter 5: Restitution and Inheritance
This chapter focuses on the claim that present day parties have inherited entitlements to property which, owing to historic injustice, is currently in the possession of others. Those who advocate restitution as a response to wrongdoing argue that such property should be returned to the heirs of the historical victims. This inheritance-based model has often been rejected at a domestic level by theorists who reject the justifiability of inheritance. This response, however, is not available to international libertarians, who endorse backward-looking accounts of distributive justice. The chapter examines Jeremy Waldron’s claim that property rights lapse in the absence of sustained possession, and holds that this need not be accepted if one sees international libertarianism as based on historical entitlement. The chapter proceeds to challenge Janna Thompson’s claim that the inheritance model is flawed as a result of its indeterminacy, maintaining that it need not rest upon counterfactual reasoning.
Keywords: historic injustice, restitution, property, justifiability, inheritance, international libertarianism, distributive justice, historical entitlement, indeterminacy, counterfactual
Chapter 6: Nations, Overlapping Generations, and Historic Injustice
This chapter considers the question of the responsibility that present day generations bear as a result of the actions of their ancestors. Is it morally significant that we share a national identity with those responsible for the perpetration of historic injustice? The chapter argues that we can be guilty of wrongdoing stemming from past wrongdoing if we are members of nations that are responsible for an ongoing failure to fulfil rectificatory duties. This rests upon three claims: that the failure to fulfil rectificatory duties is unjust; that nations can bear collective responsibility for the actions of their leaders; and that nations are comprised of overlapping generations rather than successive generations. The claim that present day parties should apologise for historic injustice is then considered, and it is argued that such an apology is best understood in relation to an ongoing failure to fulfil rectificatory duties.
Keywords: historic injustice, ancestors, responsibility, nations, national identity, collective responsibility, leaders, overlapping generations, successive generations, apology
The conclusion of the book reviews the three forms of morally relevant forms of connection with historic injustice, based on benefit, on the inheritance of entitlement, and on an ongoing failure to fulfil rectificatory duties. These are presented as complementary but distinct bases for modern day rectificatory duties. It is claimed that taken together, these mean that those who advocate international libertarianism may have to accept the existence of demanding rectificatory duties, which may, in the short run, coincide with the demands of redistributive cosmopolitanism. Though present day individuals and groups may dislike the idea that they can acquire rectificatory duties in an involuntary fashion, without bearing moral responsibility for the original wrongdoing, they nonetheless act wrongly if they do not seek to rectify historic international injustice.
Keywords: historic injustice, benefit, inheritance, entitlement, international libertarianism, cosmopolitanism, involuntary, moral responsibility, international injustice
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