Volume 21, Issue 1/2, January/July 2020
Activism and Philosophy
R. A. Main
Making Room for Activist Voices in a Philosophically Sound Theory of Disability
The Solidarity Thesis Versus the Welfarist Approach
Against the medical and social models of disability are two newer proposals. Elizabeth Barnes’ Minority Body proposes that it is the bodies which are advocated for and included in the disability rights movement which are rightfully called “disabled.” Savulescu and Kahane’s Welfarist approach proposes that disability is intrinsically tied to the effects of bodily states on welfare. They put the need for a consistent and relatively simple normative theory above accounting for standard case judgements about who is and is not disabled or looking at all to membership of the disabled community. I argue that Barnes’ theory offers the best response to issues with the dominant models of disability. Further, I argue that the Welfarist theory operates in a space removed from the wishes and lived experiences of disabled people – separating ‘disability’ from activism entirely – to its detriment. Doing so compromises its explanatory power, over-generalizes the concept and prevents the insertion of meaningful boundaries. Barnes’ ‘solidarity thesis’ soundly conceptualizes disability whilst making room for activist voices. The centering of activist projects makes it stronger.