CFP: Structural Injustice, Responsibility and the Passage of Time - MANCEPT Workshops 2022

Submission deadline: June 5, 2022

Conference date(s):
September 7, 2022 - September 9, 2022

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Conference Venue:

Manchester Centre for Political Theory (MANCEPT), University of Manchester
Manchester, United Kingdom

Topic areas


Convenors: Joseph Conrad (University of Edinburgh), Éliot Litalien (CRÉ/Université de Montréal), Rebecca Richards (University of Edinburgh), Jules Salomone-Sehr (CRÉ/McGill University), Hanna Schübel (Université de Fribourg), Lukas Sparenborg (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main)

Structural injustices describe large-scale injustices whose roots have less to do with individual malice than with unfair social structures. Put on the philosophical agenda by Iris Marion Young, this notion is meant to capture the fact that sweeping harms (e.g., homelessness, exploitative labor practices, etc.) often do not result from the vicious attitudes of particular individuals but, rather, from the ordinary activities of decent people whose behaviors and decision-making are constrained by a network of institutional structures. Since Young’s work, this notion has been widely used in political philosophy and has generated an important literature. Yet, many central questions about the nature of structural injustices and how they are tied to the conduct of agents (whether individual or collective) remain unanswered. 

One cluster of such central questions bear on our responsibility for bringing about structural injustices, as well as our responsibility for repairing or ending them. In particular, it seems crucial to investigate the sort of responsibility that we should attribute and to which agents, and the factors that should inform our attributions of responsibility. Structural injustices trace back, by and large, to unfair social structures rather than to the discreet actions of specific agents. We thus need to examine what it is that we can hold agents responsible for. We might think, for instance, that we should hold agents responsible for their past contributions to structures of injustice (backward-looking responsibility). Or, we might rather think that what present agents are responsible for is to put an end to structural injustices and stop them recurring in the future (forward-looking responsibility). In other words, we need to determine what model(s) of responsibility best elucidate(s) the moral intricacies of structural injustices.

Moreover, while structural injustices affect the lives of people today, understanding and overcoming such injustices requires us to look beyond the confines of the present. To adequately theorise structural injustices and assign responsibility for ameliorating them, we need to look at the agents contemporarily involved and assess the moral quality of their actions. At the same time, we need to question how socio-structural processes arose historically, and how historical agents, such as colonial states, caused historical injustices and perpetuated them. Additionally, we need to explicate how current and future social groups might be affected by these unjust structures. This, then, can serve as a basis to theorise specific future-oriented responsibilities and necessary overhauls to the global system to overcome structural injustices.

In this workshop, we invite contributions that investigate structural injustice(s) and their connection with political and moral responsibility. While we welcome any contributions that explore the question of responsibility for structural injustice, we are particularly interested in papers that focus on how the passage of time alters structural injustices and justice claims. We invite contributions that, for example, explore the role of history in understanding present structural injustices, or that explore issues of justice that arise in the future as a result of present structural processes. Moreover, we are interested in contributions that answer questions about both individual and collective responsibility in the face of structural injustices perpetuated over time. Questions to be addressed may include:

  • When examining and allocating responsibility for structural injustice, is the concept of backward-looking responsibility relevant, or is the use of forward-looking responsibility more appropriate?
  • Does the liability model provide fruitful concepts (such as the concept of complicity) and principles (such as the beneficiary pays principle) that illuminate how structural injustices affect our shared normative landscape?
  • Is there a distinctively explanatory or normative role that history plays in shaping responsibility for structural injustice?
  • To what extent is redress for historic injustices morally required in order to fully ameliorate contemporary structural injustices?
  • What does structural injustice imply about our obligations to future generations in cases such as climate change and population ethics?
  • How can we account for the responsibility of changing structural injustices in policy-making?

Abstract Submission Deadline and Details
We would appreciate it if interested parties could send us abstracts (maximum 750 words), prepared for anonymous review, to [email protected] by 5 June 2022. Selected participants will be asked to submit a draft paper prior to the 7 – 9 September event. We envision a hybrid setting, with sessions to be split into hour-long discussions of contributions, divided between 10-20 minutes author presentations, 5-10 minute reply from allocated respondent, and subsequent open discussions.

This is part of the MANCEPT Workshops in Political Theory. Registration for the workshops will open in May. The anticipated fees are as follows:

Academics: £ 230.00
PG: £ 135.00
Dinner: £ 30

Online attendance
Academics: £45.00
PG: £20
Non-speaker: £15

MANCEPT will offer a small number of fee waiver bursaries. The deadline for bursary applications (available to current graduate students only) will be 27 June 2022. Successful applicants will be informed by 11 July 2022. We will send further details if your piece is accepted. We will provide decision notices in time for people to complete bursary applications.

For more information about the MANCEPT Workshops, please visit their webpage:

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