Poverty and BlameJeanette Kennett (Macquarie University)
Napier Building, room 102
The Department of Philosophy at the University of Adelaide is pleased to present the 13th Gavin David Young Lecture in Philosophy, to be presented by Professor Jeanette Kennett.
Abstract: In contemporary Western societies, poverty is often framed as a choice, or as the outcome of poor choices, for which the individual may fairly be held accountable and blamed. People dependent on income support may be depicted as lazy, manipulative, weak or impulsive, and as taking advantage of honest taxpayers. Their every spending decision is considered ripe for scrutiny and criticism. Assumptions about poor choice-making and poor character, implicit and explicit, inform policies directed at people living in poverty, including mutual obligation requirements and forced control of expenditure via cashless debit cards. These measures are experienced as punitive and as undermining the agency and autonomy of the individual to whom they are applied.
How can philosophical work on blame, responsibility, and punishment help to analyze and evaluate the moral impacts of poverty and the policies and discourse surrounding it? And how might an understanding of the impact poverty has on the choice-making and capacities of those affected by it force us to re-evaluate those theories?