Social and political philosophy
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Social and Political Philosophy. Justice. Opening Discussion. What is justice? How do we enforce justice? How do we evaluate “ equality ” as a component of justice? How far should the just state go (or not) in promoting equality in society?. Video. It’s not just about the chicken….

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Social and Political Philosophy

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Social and political philosophy

Social and Political Philosophy


Opening discussion

Opening Discussion

  • What is justice?

  • How do we enforce justice?

  • How do we evaluate “equality” as a component of justice? How far should the just state go (or not) in promoting equality in society?



  • It’s not just about the chicken….

Individualism vs collectivism

Individualism vs. Collectivism

  • Individualism – emphasizes the importance of individual rights. Similar to liberalism

  • Communitarianism – rights of communities and societies are sometimes more important than individual rights

How do governments ensure justice

How do governments ensure justice?

  • Concept of justice difficult to define

  • Law

    • Naturalists – law is devised from universal command to do right over wrong

    • Legal Positivists – law is only identified by reference to factual information, legal precedents and legislation

  • Concept of justice goes beyond extent of the law



  • Penny game

  • 4 volunteers

Distributive justice

Distributive Justice

Distributive justice1

Distributive Justice

  • How does a just state distribute both its burdens and its benefits across society

  • Are the annual salaries of the following is an arrangement of a just society:

    • Peyton Manning ($14.17 million, or just under $900,000 per game).

    • A line cook in Mississippi making minimum wage ($13,624).

  • John Rawls and Robert Nozick offer two very different but compelling answers to these questions of distribute justice.

John rawls 1921 2002

John Rawls (1921-2002)

  • What is justice, how do we arrive at it, and how do we structure our society in a just way?

  • How do we decide between which inequalities are acceptable and which are unacceptable.

Rawls and distributive justice

Rawls and Distributive Justice

  • Dilemma - citizens operate from a biased position given their different backgrounds, worldviews, and self-interest based on their (known) position in society.,

  • Agreements in the form of a mutual “social contract” are difficult to arrive at.

  • Even if such agreements can be made, the process may not be a fair one because it is difficult to avoid one group dominating others.

Rawls and distributive justice1

Rawls and Distributive Justice

  • This is Rawls’ argument for justice as fairness: not that justice IS fairness, per se, but the process through which we collectively arrive at our conception of justice is fair because we all operate from the original position of equality, and our ignorance to our respective positions provides a fair playing field from which we can come to a mutual conception of a justly arranged society.

Reading the veil of ignorance

Reading – The veil of ignorance

  • Getting our fair share of the pie

Rawls and distributive justice2

Rawls and Distributive Justice

  • From the original position, members of a society can develop an “overlapping consensus,” through which they can agree on a shared political and societal structure.

  • Two essential principles of justice:

    • 1.) Everyone in society receives fundamental and equal political rights and liberties.

    • 2.) Inequalities in society are acceptable, but must be open to all to overcome (mobility and opportunity) and be structured in a way that is of the greatest benefit to the least advantaged (the maximin principle.)

Robert nozick 1938 2002

Robert Nozick (1938-2002)

  • Nozick’s concept of justice goes to the purpose of the state (why we grant our tacit agreement with the social contract in the first place), which is to protect our rights.

  • Therefore, the state is unjust when it violates our rights. What, then, are our rights?

Nozick and distributive justice

Nozick and Distributive Justice

  • View of wealth is important to his concept of distributive justice

  • Wealth isn’t unattached, waiting to be distributed.

  • Rather, wealth has attachment to individuals, who have just claims to their wealth. Wealth is (naturally) redistributed in society but redistributionis based on liberty

Nozick and wilt chamberlain

Nozick and Wilt Chamberlain

  • Thought experiment: Imagine that all wealth in society is distributed according to our ideal pattern, possibly where all are given an equal share.

  • Wilt Chamberlain is signed to a contract where he is paid 25 cents for each ticket bought; and fans (who know about this arrangement) drop an extra 25 cents into a separate “Wilt bucket” upon admission to see him play. At the end of the season, he has made $250,000, upsetting the original pattern of equality.

  • Is this just? Because the starting point was just, and all later steps were voluntarily made, how is this unjust?

Liberty vs patterns of wealth

Liberty vs. Patterns of wealth

  • For Nozick, then, the question of distributive justice boils down to a value choice between liberty and patterns. If we accept his overarching (classical liberalism) view of the state—that it exists to protect our rights and liberties—then we must put aside desired patterns of redistribution in favor of the first duty of the state to protect our rights.

Nozick and taxes

Nozick and taxes

  • Taxation for redistributive purposes is akin to forced labor, as time is money, and we should think of the government taking x amount of our income means they we are also working x amount of hours per week for the sole benefit of others

  • Such a system makes the state a “part-time” owner of its citizens

  • Advocated for minimal state – only purpose is to equally protect rights of its citizens… anything beyond this begins to violate rather than protect rights

Nozick and distributive justice1

Nozick and Distributive Justice

  • The consequences of such a redistributive system are not just an infringement of our rights, but also a loss of our ability to freely pursue our place in society.

  • The redistributive state treats us not as “inviolate individuals,” but instead uses us “in certain ways by others as means or tools instruments our resources,”

  • The minimal state, “by respecting our rights… allows us, individually or with whom we choose, to choose our life and to realize our ends and our conception of ourselves… How dare any state or group of individuals do more. Or less” (Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, 333-334.)

Justice as representation and recognition

Justice as representation and recognition

Politics of representation

Politics of representation

  • Political representation is the activity of making citizens' voices, opinions, and perspectives “present” in the public policy making processes. Political representation occurs when political actors speak, advocate, symbolize, and act on the behalf of others in the political arena

  • Eg. Voting

  • John Courtney – political scientist found BC, Alberta and Ontario have fastest growing populations and are underrepresented in House of Commons. Is this fair? Do we apply a utilitarian response?

Race and representation in media

Race and Representation in media

  • Politics of Representation:

    • When minorities struggle for recognition/rights/sharing of power in political, cultural and media institutions

  • Discloses fundamental human need: drive for identity: to escape the“psychic prison”of a world view that excludes or denies (Fleras:307)

  • Media forms an important function in:

    • Framing

    • Recognizing

    • Representing Cultural/ethnographic groups

Issues and problems

Issues and Problems

  • In media:

    • Analysis of ownership & control

    • Analysis of workers/work routines in news manufacture

    • Analysis media contents/reception ( latter scarce)

  • In society

    • Socio economic studies

    • Social dysfunctions ( conflict, threats to social cohesion)

    • Anti social behaviors: stereotyping/hate/social exclusiveness

Allegations against media

Allegations Against Media

  • Aboriginals, people of colour, immigrants and refugees tend to be underrepresented

    • Invisible

    • Irrelevant

    • Victimized

    • Trivialized

  • Or misrepresented

    • Race-Role Stereotyped ( Fleras: 286)

    • Demonized

    • Scapegoated

    • Whitewashed/Tokenized

What social responsibility

What Social Responsibility?

  • Charter of Rights and Freedoms

    • S. 15 (1)

      • No one is to be discriminated against, regardless of race or ethnicity

      • In Broadcasting Act (1991):

        • Serve the needs and interests and reflect the circumstances and aspirations of Canadian men, women and children, including equal rights, … and the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canadian society and the special place of aboriginal people in that society

      • In 1985 CRTC introduces Ethnic Broadcasting Policy: allows entry of private sector stations catering to other language groups( but access to fewer public subsidies )



  • A subjective sense of belonging

    • Self Identity

    • Social Identity

    • Political Identity

Self identity

Self Identity

  • Your life history

  • Explains why you do something, who you want to be, and what to do about advancing your interests

  • May be personal style, personal peer and family identity ( notion of primary group)

Social identity theory

Social Identity Theory

  • Importance of a person’s social identity in forming self-concept

  • Group based aspects of an individual’s self-definition, derived from membership in and identification with social groups

  • ( black pride movement: hip hop subculture etc.)

Social identity

Social Identity

  • Associated with the rights, obligations and sanctions you enjoy in your social roles

  • Usual markers are age, sex, race ( immutable social markers)

  • Primordial realms: immediate community of work or living

  • Increasingly involving social causes/missions

  • Media are resources in finding social identities: role assimilation

New ideas about identity

New Ideas about Identity

  • Refute notion of identity as fixed, universal or essential

  • Sees media as a major resource for the construction of cultural identities within the lived experience of everyday life

  • Accessible to virtually everybodySite of popular knowledge

  • Identity in continual contest and construction



  • From the Greek: stereos (solid) and typos ( mark)

  • What Walter Lipmann calls fixed pictures in the head

  • A form of mental shorthand of associations with social beings/ as sorted into social categories/ by traits real or imagined

  • Minority critics often argue they are false or generalized, without regard for individual differences

  • Generally carry embedded grains of social truth

    • “blondes” etc.

    • “ white men can’t jump”

  • Media Stereotypes have greater effects if not countered by lived experience ( Hartman and Husband)

Questions about the global village

Questions about the Global Village

  • Never more of a crisis than today

  • Liberals fear September 11 2001 has set back international understanding: led to a new ‘cold war’ among Muslim and other countries

  • Jihad or McWorld?

  • Are we growing together or apart? Do we respect other cultures or fear them?

  • Is cultural identity nostalgic– to be kept ‘pure’-- or adaptive: enlarged and enriched through intermixture?

New theories of identity

New Theories of Identity

  • Multiple ( as citizen, buyer, as Chinese, as Canadian, as university student, as worker)

  • Hybrid ( fusion of generational identity of immigrants) ( not simple assimilation)

  • Rationalized in a coherent whole

Dimensions of cohesive identity

Dimensions of Cohesive Identity

  • Sense of belongingness-isolation

  • Inclusiveness-exclusiveness

  • Participation-non-participation

  • Recognition-rejection

  • Legitimacy-illegitimacy

Social justice recognition and redistribution

Social justice, recognition and redistribution

  • Social inclusion and social justice – a multi-dimensional approach

    • It’s about income, but about more …’ (Blair, 1997)

    • ‘National economic and social policies will no longer be working at cross purposes’ (Gillard, 2008)

  • Fraser articulated a vision of how economic and cultural factors create injustice together, and how social justice requires both redistribution and recognition

    • ‘Justice today requires both redistribution and recognition’ (Fraser, 2003, p.9)

    • Eg economic and cultural aspects of sexism , racism and poverty

Social inclusion and difference

Social inclusion and difference

Perhaps social inclusion’s limited ability to accommodate difference is not surprising

Social inclusion is not just a suite of policies or a new way of doing governance - it is also a vision, set of values and way of seeing the world that is necessarily normative



For a stronger philosophical under-pinning to social inclusion thinking, and better social inclusion policy, we need a greater recognition of recognition issues.

If we are to better encompass diversity and difference within the conceptualization of social inclusion, and its policies, social inclusion as a normative concept will need to be challenged, stretched, and re-invented.

At its best, the concept of social inclusion will grow to take more diverse perspectives into account, and better reflect the multi-dimensional nature it aspires to.

Politics of recognition

Politics of Recognition

  • Charles Taylor reading and questions

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