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By any means necessary? A liberal theory of social justice activism

Ogunye, Temitayo (2021) By any means necessary? A liberal theory of social justice activism. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004333


Political philosophers have produced a wide variety of competing theories of the perfectly just society, but they have paid less attention to the question of how perfect social justice is to be achieved or worked towards. This is especially odd because most, perhaps all, societies are unjust by any plausible yardstick. Let us call any attempt to advance social justice or remedy social injustice social justice activism. My aim in this dissertation is to develop a theory of social justice activism. I make three contributions in particular. First, I seek to establish the grounds of the duty to remedy social injustice. I argue that we should appeal to multiple principles to ground remedial duties. Second, I argue that, in order to understand how to remedy social injustice, we must first understand the different kinds of social phenomena that can underpin social injustice. I identify three such phenomena: laws, social norms, and stereotypes. Third, I consider how activism that aims to remedy social injustice underpinned by these three mechanisms should be practised, devoting a chapter to each one. Regarding law, I explore the ethics of activism that seeks to change the law via means that are either illegal or violent, and I argue that the practice of such activism is more morally constrained than is standardly assumed. Regarding social norms, I argue that law and policy will not always be sufficient to remedy injustice caused by social norms, and so ordinary citizens will sometimes need to intervene to change unjust social norms in ways that are not mediated by the state. Finally, because the operation of stereotypes is rather subtle and mysterious, I seek to better understand exactly how it is they generate social injustice. I then draw out some implications of this investigation for the practice of social justice activism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2021 Temitayo Ogunye
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Valentini, Laura

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