CFP: Journal of Applied Philosophy, Special Issue: Collective Agents and Global Structural Injustice

Submission deadline: January 18, 2019

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CFP: Collective Agents and Global Structural Injustice

Journal of Applied Philosophy, Special Issue

Guest Editors: Christina Friedlaender (Memphis) and Leonie Smith (Manchester)

Deadline for submissions: January 18, 2018

Problems of practical global justice frequently involve cases of structural injustice.  More than mere ‘bad luck’, cases of general structural injustice take place when an individual experiences harm or disadvantage, which is broadly:

(i) Due in some way to features of her social position or identity;

(ii) something which in some way, she ought not to have suffered; and

(iii) not obviously, or necessarily, traceable only to the malicious intent and / or actions of an individual agent(s).

For this special issue of the Journal of Applied Philosophy, we focus on this third condition. The production of structural injustices in the absence of clear individual causal or moral responsibility suggests a role for collective agents. Our goal for this special issue is to find papers that consider theoretical questions of collective agency, under the non-ideal conditions of global structural injustices.

Broadly speaking, collective agency occurs when people act together in a minimally coordinated manner to produce a particular outcome or achieve a goal. Collective agents may be formally structured, or not.  They may supervene on the base of their individual members or be emergent in some other capacity.  A large body of primarily theoretical literature on collective agency exists. Theorists are focused on finding the conditions for the existence of collective agents, capacities of collective agents, and the extent to which these collective agents might be held legally and morally responsible.  Our aim however is to encourage contributors to actively bring this theoretical work on collective agency to bear on matters of substantive global structural injustice, following in the footsteps of those who have begun to investigate the crossovers.

Global structural injustices paradigmatically range from the conditions produced by increasing wealth inequality, through the negative effects of climate change on globally vulnerable populations, to the current Syrian refugee crisis. In each of these cases, collective agents arguably play a role in producing and sustaining structural injustice.  The role of collective agents in structural injustice is well-demonstrated in Iris Marion Young’s analysis of the case of global sweatshop labour; arguably, an individualist account of structural injustices fails to incorporate many other apparently (or even uniquely) responsible collective agents.  However, it might also be the case that the aggregative harms of multiple individual moral agents in itself brings about – either normatively or descriptively – a form of causal and/or morally responsible collective agency, even where no identifiable formally-structured collective agent exists.  We encourage contributors to consider these, and any and all other cases.  Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:


  • What is the role of collective agents in producing and rectifying specific cases of global structural injustice?
  • Is there a moral and/or practical discontinuity in the way in which collective agents, distinct from individual actors, are responsible for specific global structural injustices? Is this different from the way in which individual actors are responsible for non-structural injustices?
  • Is collective agent responsibility backwards looking, forward looking, or both? How does this manifest in cases of global structural injustices?

Creation and Existence:

  • What is the relationship between cases of global structural injustice and the emergence/creation/ existence of collective agency? Where can this be seen in specific instances?
  • Do individuals have a normative duty to form collective agents in order to address particular instances of global structural injustice? Which individuals? In what positions, under what circumstances?
  • What impact do cases of global structural injustice have on the capacity of individuals to form collective agents to address these problems? Does global structural enable or suppress the formation of particular sorts of collective agents? How does that impact questions of responsibility?

The deadline for submissions is January 18th 2018. Articles should be no more than 8000 words including endnotes.

See Author Guidelines for further details regarding style:

Please send submissions directly to: Christina Friedlaender ([email protected]) and Leonie Smith ([email protected]).

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