Name any valued human trait—intelligence, wit, charm, grace, strength—and you will find an inexhaustible variety and complexity in its expression among individuals. Yet we insist that such diversity does not provide grounds for differential treatment at the most basic level. Whatever merit, blame, praise, love, or hate we receive as beings with a particular past and a particular constitution, we are always and everywhere due equal respect merely as persons. -/- But why? Most who attempt to answer this question appeal (...) to the idea that all human beings possess an intrinsic dignity and worth—grounded in our capacities, for example, to reason, reflect, or love—that raises us up in the order of nature. Andrea Sangiovanni rejects this predominant view and offers a radical alternative. -/- To understand our commitment to basic equality, Humanity without Dignity argues that we must begin with a consideration not of equality but of inequality. Rather than search for a chimerical value-bestowing capacity possessed to an equal extent by each one of us, we ought to ask: Why and when is it wrong to treat others as inferior? Sangiovanni comes to the conclusion that our commitment to moral equality is best explained by a rejection of cruelty rather than a celebration of rational capacity. He traces the impact of this fundamental shift for our understanding of human rights and the norms of anti-discrimination that underlie it. (shrink)
The demand for social justice, especially in the context of the welfare state, is often framed as a demand of solidarity. But it is not clear why: in what sense, if any, is social justice best understood as a demand of solidarity? This article explores that question. There are two reasons to do so. First, very little has been written on the concept of solidarity, and almost nothing on why and how solidarity can both give rise to and be the (...) target of a moral obligation. The first aim of the article is to fill this gap. The second aim of the article is to explore the normative implications of this account of solidarity for the commitment to social justice at the heart of the welfare state, and in so doing, to put into question the idea that shared experience or shared identity are either necessary or sufficient bases for social justice qua solidarity. (shrink)
Political theorists aiming to articulate normative standards for the EU have almost entirely focused on whether or not the EU suffers from a ‘democratic deficit'. Almost nothing has been written, by contrast, on one of the central values underpinning European integration since at least the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), namely solidarity. What kinds of principles, policies, and ideals should an affirmation of solidarity commit us to? Put another way: what norms of socioeconomic justice ought to apply to the (...) EU? This is not an empirical or narrowly legal question. We are not trying to gauge the degree of attachment there currently is in the EU by, for example, citing the latest Eurobarometer poll. We are also not attempting to state the implicit rationale followed by the Court of Justice in its recent ‘solidarity’ jurisprudence, let alone trying to fix what the Commission might mean by it. In this article, I ask the more fundamental question underlying both the legal and the empirical questions: What principles of social solidarity ought to apply between states and citizens of the emerging European polity? This question has rarely been asked or answered by political theorists in an EU context, so we are entering largely uncharted territory. The article develops a tripartite model of EU solidarity in Section 2, and then applies it to the case of free movement of persons in Section 3. (shrink)
The state regulates the way in which social power is exercised. It sometimes permits, enables, constrains, forbids how we may touch others, make offers, draw up contracts, use, alter, possess and destroy things that matter to people, manipulate, induce weakness of the will, coerce, engage in physical force, persuade, selectively divulge information, lie, enchant, coax, convince, … In each of these cases, we (sometimes unintentionally) get others to act in ways that serve our interests. Which such exercises of power should (...) the state forbid? Which should it permit? An intuitively appealing way to answer this question is, with Ripstein and Kant, to point to the role of freedom: exercises of social power can be legitimately prohibited when (and only when) they restrict people's freedom. But this raises a further question: How do we identify when such exercises of power make people unfree in the relevant sense? Ripstein, in defending Kant, draws a crucial distinction between actions that subject others’ wills to our choices (and which it would therefore be presumptively legitimate for the state to forbid) and actions that merely affect the contexts in which others act (and which it would therefore be presumptively illegitimate for the state to forbid). I query that distinction, and argue that the idea of independence cannot bear, on its own, the weight it is expected to bear within the Kantian framework. (shrink)
This article discusses Luigi Caranti’s Kant’s Political Legacy, which argues, among other things, that a Kantian reconstruction of dignity can provide a foundation for human rights. Caranti’s book is one of the most powerful recent reconstructions of Kant’s political philosophy. Four main points are argued in response. First, to what extent can dignity understood as a value ground the essentially relational character of human rights claims? Second, does Caranti explain why our mere rational capacity to set moral ends has dignity (...) rather than the realization of that capacity in a morally righteous will? Third, how can the argument provided avoid the conclusion that, because people’s capacities vary, their dignity varies too? Fourth, is Kant’s political philosophy incompatible with our modern understanding of human rights and, in particular, their function in international law and practice? (shrink)
In his rich and stimulating book, Blake argues that comprehensive coercion triggers egalitarian obligations of distributive justice. I argue that coercion is not a necessary condition for egalitarian justice to apply; Blake’s use of a moralised conception of coercion is a mistake; coercion is a redundant member of any set of sufficient conditions that might explain why distributive justice applies; Blake’s emphasis on providing conditions for the exercise of autonomy might support a much more cosmopolitan theory of distributive justice.
The Cameron government has recently negotiated a deal with the EU which permits the UK to restrict access to in-work benefits for recent EU migrants in the first four years of residence. Withdrawing access to in-work benefits will lead to significant inequalities in pay between British workers and their EU equivalents working at the same job, in the same general situation. The proposal has been widely decried as discriminatory. Is it? I do not, in this article, ask the legal question: (...) Does it violate anti-discrimination norms implicit in the treaties? Rather, I will ask the moral question underlying the legal one: Would, say, Polish citizens denied in-work benefits that British citizens receive be victims of wrongful discrimination? This question deserves consideration not simply because it will help us to evaluate some of the central concerns at stake in the Brexit debates but also because it will allow us to explore the role of norms against discrimination according to nationality within the EU, to address the nature of the European commitment to freedom of movement, and, in the reverse direction, to better understand our own moral commitment to anti-discrimination norms. (shrink)
Gillian Brock’s compelling and richly textured new book aims to set out a human-rights-based framework for thinking about justice in migration. There is much to celebrate in these chapters, not least Brock’s masterful effort at weaving together her basic justificatory framework with real-world political concerns. In this article, I query the focus she places on self-determination in setting out the basic normative argument elaborated in Chapters 2, 3, and 9. In particular, I will wonder whether she gives the collective self-determination (...) of a people anything more than instrumental value, and so whether she is able to distance herself from so-called proponents of “open borders”. (shrink)