What responsibility do individuals bear for structural injustice? Iris Marion Young has offered the most fully developed account to date, the Social Connections Model. She argues that we all bear responsibility because we each causally contribute to structural processes that produce injustice. My aim in this article is to motivate and defend an alternative account that improves on Young’s model by addressing five fundamental challenges faced by any such theory. The core idea of what I call the “Role-Ideal Model” is (...) that we are each responsible for structural injustice through and in virtue of our social roles, i.e. our roles as parents, colleagues, employers, citizens, etc., because roles are the site where structure meets agency. In short, the Role-Ideal Model explains how individual action contributes to structural change, justifies demands for action from each particular agent, specifies what kinds of acts should be undertaken, moderates between demanding too much and too little of individual agents, and provides an account of the critical responses appropriate for holding individuals accountable for structural injustice. (shrink)
Moral agency is limited, imperfect, and structurally constrained. This is evident in the many ways we all unwittingly participate in widespread injustice through our everyday actions, which I call ‘structural wrongs’. To do justice to these facts, I argue that we should distinguish between summative and formative moral criticism. While summative criticism functions to conclusively assess an agent's performance relative to some benchmark, formative criticism aims only to improve performance in an ongoing way. I show that the negative sanctions associated (...) with summative responses are only justifiably imposed under certain conditions when persons exercise their agency wrongly — conditions that do not always hold for structural wrongs. Yet even in such cases we can still use formative responses, which are warranted whenever agents fall short of moral ideals. Expanding our repertoire of moral criticism to include both summative and formative responses enables us to better appreciate both the powers and limitations of our agency, and the complexity of moral life. (shrink)
Most discussions of racial fetish center on the question of whether it is caused by negative racial stereotypes. In this paper I adopt a different strategy, one that begins with the experiences of those targeted by racial fetish rather than those who possess it; that is, I shift focus away from the origins of racial fetishes to their effects as a social phenomenon in a racially stratified world. I examine the case of preferences for Asian women, also known as ‘yellow (...) fever’, to argue against the claim that racial fetishes are unobjectionable if they are merely based on personal or aesthetic preference rather than racial stereotypes. I contend that even if this were so, yellow fever would still be morally objectionable because of the disproportionate psychological burdens it places on Asian and Asian-American women, along with the role it plays in a pernicious system of racial social meanings. (shrink)
Sally Haslanger has recently argued that philosophical focus on implicit bias is overly individualist, since social inequalities are best explained in terms of social structures rather than the actions and attitudes of individuals. I argue that questions of individual responsibility and implicit bias, properly understood, do constitute an important part of addressing structural injustice, and I propose an alternative conception of social structure according to which implicit biases are themselves best understood as a special type of structure.
What is objectionable about “blacking up” or other comparable acts of imagining involving unethical attitudes? Can such imaginings be wrong, even if there are no harmful consequences and imaginers are not meant to apply these attitudes beyond the fiction? In this article, we argue that blackface—and imagining in general—can be ethically flawed in virtue of being oppressive, in virtue of either its content or what imaginers do with it, where both depend on how the imagined attitudes interact with the imagining’s (...) context. We explain and demonstrate this using speech act theory alongside a detailed case study of blackface. (shrink)
This chapter distinguishes between two concepts of moral responsibility. We are responsible for our actions in the first sense only when those actions reflect our identities as moral agents, i.e. when they are attributable to us. We are responsible in the second sense when it is appropriate for others to enforce certain expectations and demands on those actions, i.e. to hold us accountable for them. This distinction allows for an account of moral responsibility for implicit bias, defended here, on which (...) people may lack attributability for actions caused by implicit bias but are still accountable for them. What this amounts to is leaving aside appraisal-based forms of moral criticism such as blame and punishment in favor of non-appraising forms of accountability. This account not only does more justice to our moral experience and agency, but will also lead to more effective practices for combating the harms of implicit bias. (shrink)
Iris Marion Young’s influential Social Connections Model of responsibility offers a compelling approach to theorizing structural injustice. However, the precise nature of the kind of responsibility modelled by the SCM, along with its relationship to the liability model, has remained unclear. I offer a reading of Young that takes the difference between the liability model and the SCM to be an instance of a more longstanding distinction in the literature on moral responsibility: attributability vs. accountability. I show that interpreting the (...) SCM as a conception of accountability resolves a number of objections, while also highlighting the SCM’s distinctive stance on the relationship between ethics and politics. (shrink)
Feminist philosophers have challenged a wide range of gender injustices in professional philosophy. However, the problem of precarity, that is, the increasing numbers of contingent faculty who cannot find permanent employment, has received scarcely any attention. What explains this oversight? In this article, I argue, first, that academics are held in the grips of an ideology that diverts attention away from the structural conditions of precarity, and second, that the gendered dimensions of such an ideology have been overlooked. To do (...) so, I identify two myths: the myth of meritocracy and the myth of work as its own reward. I demonstrate that these myths—and the two-tier system itself—manifest an unmistakably gendered logic, such that gender and precarity are mutually reinforcing and co-constitutive. I conclude that feminist philosophers have particular reason to organize against the casualization of academic work. (shrink)
I propose a new concept of solidarity, which I call “solidarity from below,” that highlights an aspect of solidarity widely recognized in popular uses of the term, but which has hitherto been neglected in the philosophical literature. Solidarity from below is the collective ability of otherwise powerless people to organize themselves for transformative social change. I situate this concept with respect to four distinct but intertwined questions that have motivated extant theorizing about solidarity. I explain what it means to conceptualize (...) solidarity from below as a form of power, rather than as a feeling, disposition, duty, or scheme of social arrangements. Finally, I suggest that the moral-relational aspects of solidarity emerge secondarily from the process of collective power, and not the other way around. (shrink)
People disagree about the causes of social inequality and how to most effectively intervene in them. These may seem like empirical questions for social scientists, not philosophers. However, causal explanation itself depends on broadly normative commitments. From this it follows that (moral) philosophers have an important role to play in determining those causal explanations. I examine the case of causal explanations of poverty to demonstrate these claims. In short, philosophers who work to reshape our moral expectations also work, on the (...) back end, to restructure acceptable causal explanations—and hence solutions—for social inequality. Empirical and normative inquiry, then, are a two-way street. (shrink)
I raise two worries about the Debunker's and Defeater Dilemmas, respectively, and I argue that moral cognition is inextricable from social cognition, which tends to rationalize deep social inequality. I thus opine that our moral-social capacities fare badly in profoundly unjust social contexts such as our own.
I defend an account of moral responsibility for implicit bias that is sensitive to both normative and pragmatic constraints: an acceptable theory of moral responsibility must not only do justice to our moral experience and agency, but also issue directives that are psychologically effective in bringing about positive changes in judgment and behavior. I begin by offering a conceptual genealogy of two different concepts of moral responsibility that arise from two distinct sources of philosophical concerns. We are morally responsible for (...) our actions in first sense only when those actions reflect our identities as moral agents—that is, when they are attributable to us as manifestations of our character, attitudes, ends, commitments, or values. On the other hand, we are responsible in the second sense when it is appropriate for others to enforce certain demands and expectations on those actions—in other words, to hold us accountable for them. I argue that we may sometimes lack attributability for actions caused by implicit bias, but that even then we are still accountable for them. Next, I expand beyond individual actions at a particular time to patterns of action across time, to consider what we can reasonably be expected to do when it comes to avoiding and eliminating implicit bias in our selves. By thinking of these expectations as grounded in imperfect duties, I show, we can expand our moral repertoire to include non-appraising critical moral responses, in addition to appraisal-based responses such as blame and punishment. Finally, I move beyond the actions of individuals to address the question of responsibility for eliminating the social conditions that breed implicit biases in the first place. I argue that accountability requires us not only to conform to a system of demands and expectations, but also to collectively organize to reform the system itself. By elaborating these multiple dimensions of moral responsibility—attributability versus accountability, particular versus patterns of action, individual versus collective—I demonstrate that the project of developing better practices of moral responsibility is continuous with, and thus contributes to, larger struggles for social equality and justice. (shrink)
David Shoemaker's highly innovative and intricately argued new book brings much of his previous work together with substantial original material to form a detailed and cohesive treatment of responsibility. The book is engaging, crisp, and admirably clear. It is marvelously ambitious in its strategy and framework, engagement with multiple literatures, and decidedly novel approach to Strawsonian theory. Moral philosophers, psychologists, clinicians and practitioners, and anyone who has ever wondered about "marginal agents"—people with dementia, autism, depression, OCD, and psychopathy—will find much (...) to entice them in this thorough and accessible treatise.Shoemaker's starting point—the phenomenon he aims to... (shrink)