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Historical injustice. Points covered: Civil society Historical injustice Corporate historical injustice and its redress. Civil Society. “Civil society” is a sphere of democratic societies distinct from the state and the market economy. Organizations which comprise civil society include:

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historical injustice

Historical injustice

Points covered:

Civil society

Historical injustice

Corporate historical injustice and its redress

civil society
Civil Society

“Civil society” is a sphere of democratic societies distinct from the state and the market economy.

Organizations which comprise civil society include:

NGOs, universities, churches, social movements, consumers’ groups, environmental groups, trades unions.

what happens in civil society
What “happens” in civil society?

The organisations of civil society inform the public about an issue and try to mobilize public opinion and influence the political agenda – locally, nationally and internationally.

It is a sphere of political engagement beyond party politics.

corporations and civil society
Corporations and civil society

Corporations are usually seen not to be a part of civil society as defined above, though they (as well as governments) are often the focus of criticism and opposition by civil society groups.

historical injustice1
Historical injustice?

Historical injustice is a wrong committed by an agent which, when committed, was legal but which is subsequently acknowledged by the perpetrator to be unjust.


Principle of compensation:

  • A victim, V, to whom injustice has been done.
  • A perpetrator, P, of the injustice
  • Compensation, C, which redresses the injustice.

To compensate for the wrong done to V, P pays C to V.

compensation historical injustice
Compensation & historical injustice
  • The perpetrators of the injustice are very often dead.
  • The direct victims are also often dead.

Who is to be compensated, how and by whom?

loyalty and identity
Loyalty and identity

In professing its guilt and offering compensation, a contemporary government or people recognises its identity across time and assumes collective responsibility for the injustice of its predecessors, even if those who perpetrated the injustice are dead.

‘[I]t would at first appear that there is no institution … other than the state that can take on collective responsibility’ (Spiliotis 2007, p. 55).

corporations and historical injustice
Corporations and historical injustice

Corporations, too, perpetrate injustice.

Is it feasible that present owners of a corporation identify with the corporation’s past and collectively assume responsibility for past injustices committed by the corporation?

corporate injustice in nazi germany
Corporate injustice in Nazi Germany

During World War II, corporations, e.g. Volkswagen, IG Farben, made use of forced (slave) labourperformed by inmates of labour or concentration camps.

corporate injustice in nazi germany1
Corporate injustice in Nazi Germany

Not all corporations which committed injustice in Hitler’s Germany were German. Examples:



Opel (GM)

Standard Oil

german business foundation initiative
German Business Foundation Initiative

Why did German companies help set up this initiative in 1999?

Was it:

  • Due to a sense of guilt?
  • A public relations exercise?
  • To bring an end to future lawsuits from Holocaust survivors?
german business foundation initiative1
German Business Foundation Initiative

What was the historical identity that these firms were representing - German business in general?

‘Underlying this line of thinking was the path-breaking concept of private business as a continuous, long-standing and inter-generational association with moral duties’ (Spiliotis 2007, p. 59).

german business foundation initiative2
German Business Foundation Initiative

‘[T]he overwhelming majority of German business … did not take part in the initiative’ (ibid., p. 60).

Some companies which did not exist before World War II did contribute to the fund. Many corporations (e.g. Swiss, Swedish, American) have embarked on no such initiative.

corporations and civil society1
Corporations and civil society

Does the Initiative mark a “venturing out” into “civil society” by corporations and what does this mean?