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Rectifying wrongs: the problem of historical injustice

Vaca Paniagua, M; (2012) Rectifying wrongs: the problem of historical injustice. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis is concerned with the problem of rectification in the theory of justice. We are faced with examples of great historical injustice over the last few centuries. A proper regard for the demands of rectification seems required of us in the face of the overwhelming importance that victims place on it; without it, no society can hope to sustain mutual respect among its citizens, the non-victims and the victims, nor probably foster the self-respect of the victims. I argue that the problem of rectification poses a distinctive and fundamental problem for classical theories of justice and specifically for John Rawls’s account of justice-as-fairness. Defenders of Rawls might claim, first, that rectification falls outside the scope of his theory of justice, since that is intended as ideal theory, and thus formulated against the fictional assumption that no historical wrongs have taken place. In this view, rectification is a concern of real political theory but not of ideal theory of justice. I argue that this defence is mistaken. Secondly, defenders of Rawls who concede that rectification is a proper part of the ideal theory of justice might claim that the principles of justice-as-fairness provide a basis for determining the extent to which justice requires rectification of wrongs. This too, I argue, is mistaken. In light of the demands that rectification places on us, I propose an alternative picture of equality as conceived of within the liberal tradition.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Rectifying wrongs: the problem of historical injustice
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Keywords:Historical injustice, John Rawls, Ideal/non-ideal theory
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Philosophy

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