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Justice & class consciousness: a theory of political transition

Shelley, Cain (2022) Justice & class consciousness: a theory of political transition. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004487


Many people feel that the stark political and economic divides which characterise contemporary capitalist societies are unjust. Political philosophers have responded to intuitions like these by defending a series of alternative institutional arrangements - social democracy, property-owning democracy, liberal socialism - which they claim could radically reduce these inequalities. What is currently missing from the now voluminous normative literature on alternatives to the political-economic status quo, however, is a theory of political transition: an account which specifies the actions that might play a desirable role, under present political conditions, in making a less starkly divided society of some kind a more realistic future prospect. Justice & Class Consciousness argues that one particularly attractive strategy for realising a fairer economy (and a fairer world) is that of raising class consciousness. This idea is a familiar one in Marxist thought but is seldom invoked in contemporary debates about social justice, with many philosophers fearing that it relies on questionable class-reductionist assumptions or has little relevance in post-industrial economies. This thesis shows how a reframed conception of class consciousness - understood as a complex of robustly action-guiding beliefs and desires about power hierarchies in economic production - can overcome these worries. It also makes a case for why raising this type of class consciousness can be what it calls a “feasibility-enhancing outcome”, increasing the chances of realising radical economic transformations. The final chapters then highlight the valuable role that political practices such as democratic municipalism, organising conversations, and activist-led education can play in effectively and permissibly achieving this raised consciousness. The result is a partial answer to the familiar refrain which often greets proponents of a radically more just society: “but how do we get there?”.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Cain Shelley
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Ypi, Lea

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