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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 45, Issue 2, April 2019

David Atenasio
Pages 149-177

Blameless Participation in Structural Injustice

According to Iris Marion Young, a structural injustice occurs when members participating in one or more scheme(s) of social coordination act blamelessly, but the schemes, in combination with norms and background conditions, systematically prevent some from developing their capacities and fulfilling their rights. Because participants are mostly blameless, Young argues that traditional individualist theories of responsibility inadequately address structural injustices. Young instead proposes a social connection theory of responsibility, whereby participants in a structural injustice acquire forward-looking responsibilities to remediate the injustice by organizing, voting, protesting and pressuring institutions. In this paper, I argue that Young’s theory of structural injustice conflates several different moral failings, and that when we correctly disambiguate structural injustices, we can successfully address them with traditional individualist theories of responsibility, both forward-looking and backward-looking.

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