Responsibility and global justice: A social connection model

Social Philosophy and Policy 23 (1):102-130 (2006)
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Abstract

The essay theorizes the responsibilities moral agents may be said to have in relation to global structural social processes that have unjust consequences. How ought moral agents, whether individual or institutional, conceptualize their responsibilities in relation to global injustice? I propose a model of responsibility from social connection as an interpretation of obligations of justice arising from structural social processes. I use the example of justice in transnational processes of production, distribution and marketing of clothing to illustrate operations of structural social processes that extend widely across regions of the world. The social connection model of responsibility says that all agents who contribute by their actions to the structural processes that produce injustice have responsibilities to work to remedy these injustices. I distinguish this model from a more standard model of responsibility, which I call a liability model. I specify five features of the social connection model of responsibility that distinguish it from the liability model: it does not isolate perpetrators; it judges background conditions of action; it is more forward looking than backward looking; its responsibility is essentially shared; and it can be discharged only through collective action. The final section of the essay begins to articulate parameters of reasoning that agents can use for thinking about their own action in relation to structural injustice. a Footnotesa Thanks to David Alexander, Daniel Drezner, David Owen, and Ellen Frankel Paul for comments on an earlier version of this essay. Thanks to David Newstone for research assistance.

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