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The institutional subject of justice and the duties of private agents

Cordelli, C.; (2011) The institutional subject of justice and the duties of private agents. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This thesis poses two challenges to the division of normative labour (DNL) between political institutions and private agents, in relation to social justice -- an important feature of political liberalism. By DNL I mean the idea that the principles and kind of responsibilities of social justice that apply to the basic institutions of a state do not directly apply to the individuals and secondary associations acting within it. Whereas state institutions have a primary duty to directly fulfill the background conditions of justice, private agents have a limited secondary duty to support and comply with just institutions. In line with liberals, I defend DNL against scholars, most notably G.A. Cohen and Liam Murphy, who advocate for the extension of the same principles of justice that apply to institutions directly to the conduct of private agents. However, I then subject the liberal account of DNL to two challenges. Firstly, I argue that the way in which liberals define private agents’ duty to support just institutions is too narrow and insufficient to provide institutions with the support they need to maintain background conditions. I call this the support challenge. I thus advocate for enlarging private agents’ secondary duties of support, without extending primary duties of fulfillment directly to them. Secondly, I argue that the liberal DNL is further challenged by the phenomenon of privatisation, properly understood as the state dischargement of public responsibilities through private actors. I call this the privatisation challenge. I argue that, by blurring the division of institutional labour and social roles between institutions and private agents, in particular associations, privatisation blurs the division of normative labour between the two. I thus clarify the circumstances of privatisation in which private action becomes state action and private associations acquire primary duties to directly fulfill the conditions of justice.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:The institutional subject of justice and the duties of private agents
Language:English
Additional information:Permission for digitisation not received
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Political Science

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