Reparations and Egalitarianism

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (5):1177-1195 (2021)
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Some claim that a commitment to egalitarianism is in tension with support for reparations for historical injustice. This tension appears to arise insofar as egalitarianism is a forward-looking approach to justice: an approach that tells us what kind of world we should aim to build, where that world is not defined in terms of the decisions or actions of previous generations. Some have claimed that egalitarianism thereby renders reparations redundant. One popular option for egalitarians who aim to reject this thesis is to insist that historical injustices demand reparations when they have caused present-day inequality. A promising alternative, skilfully defended by Alasia Nuti in Injustice and the Reproduction of History, is to argue that historical injustices stand in need of repair when they are reproduced into the present-day, such that some past and present injustices are in fact the same injustice. In this paper, I assess these egalitarian responses to the redundancy thesis. I find that Nuti’s account is equipped to reject this thesis, but that the same lines of reply can be adopted by proponents of the causal approach. I suggest that both approaches therefore be viewed as potential ways to conceptualise the relationship between historical injustice and our present normative circumstances; and that in choosing between them, we should understand ourselves to be engaged in an ameliorative project – a project that is guided by, and designed to help us to achieve, our legitimate purposes.



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Megan Blomfield
University of Sheffield

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Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - New York: Basic Books.
Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - Philosophy 52 (199):102-105.
Responsibility for Justice.Iris Marion Young - 2011 - , US: Oxford University Press USA.
A Cautionary Tale: On Limiting Epistemic Oppression.Kristie Dotson - 2012 - Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 33 (1):24-47.

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