MANCEPT Workshops - CFP: Generations in Conflict? Population Ageing and Intergenerational Justice

September 11, 2023 - September 13, 2023
MANCEPT, University of Manchester

United Kingdom

This event is available both online and in-person

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Call for Papers:

Generations in Conflict? Population Ageing and Intergenerational Justice

Conveners: Davide Pala; Laura Santi Amantini; Gloria Zuccarelli 

Confirmed Speakers: Devon Cass; Malte Jauch; Nancy S. Jecker; Anja Karnein; Manuel Sà Valente 

The size and proportion of individuals aged 65 and over is growing in every country in the world. For instance, in 2021 19% of the population was over 60 years old in the UK, and this percentage reached 24% in Italy (OECD Elderly Population Indicator 2023). According to the World Health Organisation, in Japan the elderly are already 30% of the population. Globally, they are expected to double by 2050 (2.1 billion), with the number of persons aged 80+ years approximating 426 million (WHO Fact Sheet on Ageing 2022). Call this phenomenon: “population ageing”.

Population ageing raises a number of questions of distributive justice between individuals of different birth cohorts — say, between“Baby Boomers” and “Millennials” — , and of different age groups — i.e., between the old and the young (individuals younger than 35 years old). To illustrate, consider health. The demographic shift to an older population makes it the case that an ever-increasing share of medical services are used by the elderly — e.g., in the UK, over half of the National Health Services ’annual budget is spent on those over 65 years old. Yet, in contexts characterised by rising costs and tightened public budgets, this has an impact on the young, for it might involve cutting or reducing medical services for this age group (e.g., preventive measures such as nutritional programs might not anymore be available). Take then pensions. For one thing, in ageing societies the ratio between contributors and beneficiaries is unbalanced in favour of the latter, and so pension schemes might overburden the young. For another, however, it seems fair that each cohort gets back what it has put into the system through contributions. Another example concerns the hardship that younger generations have to face when it comes to finding a decent job and housing, notably when contrasted with the greater opportunities of previous generations. Finally, think of climate change: undeniably, younger generations will have to pay disproportionate costs to mitigate the effects of climate change, and to adapt.

Population ageing raises questions for democratic theory as well. The younger cohorts of electors are increasingly outnumbered by mature and elderly cohorts, and the young typically show a lower turnout. The decreasing electoral relevance of young electors reduces their power to shape the political agenda. This may go against the implementation of policies targeting younger generations and future-oriented, long-term policies (e.g., policies tackling climate change).

Politicians, journalists, commentators, and the public at large have been discussing questions such as those just mentioned. The common perception is that we are witnessing a generational conflict proper. We would then expect normative political theory to do the same: we want to know what inequalities, if any, are wrong; according to what principles they are wrong; and how we should address them. Yet, these questions have remained largely undertheorised among political theorists and philosophers (see however Temkin 1993; Daniels 1998; Dennis 2013; Gosseries 2014; Bidadanure 2021). This workshop intends to start remedying this deficiency by bringing together normative theorists whose research covers questions of justice between adjacent generations, or, for short, between the elderly and the young. We are particularly interested in papers addressing what generational inequalities consist of, why they are normatively salient, how they should be addressed, and whether we can properly speak of generational conflict. Our workshop focuses on justice between coexisting generations, yet we will also consider applications whose focus is on justice between current and future generations. 

If you would like to present a paper at this workshop, please send an abstract of no more than 400 words to [email protected] by the 15th of May 2023. Underrepresented groups are particularly invited to apply. The abstract should be prepared for blind review, but please include your name and affiliation in the email. Speakers will have 50 minutes each (20 minutes for presentation, 30 minutes for discussion). The workshop will be in person at The University of Manchester, but we welcome submissions from individuals broadcasting in. If you would like to attend in this capacity, please inform us on application.

Fees for in-person attendance will amount to £135 for postgraduate students and £230 for academics. Participation in the social dinner involves an extra £30. For online attendance, fees will be £20 for postgraduate students and £45 for academics. Some fee-waiver bursaries will be available, so please specify in your submission whether you need one.

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