IHR History of Political Ideas seminar "Human rights and socioeconomic inequality – a view from republican theory"

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

Description

Normative political theories about socioeconomic justice tend towards a distributive approach, a relational approach, or a fixed-standards approach. Distributive approaches are concerned with principles for when and why a distribution of resources and opportunities is fair. Inequalities are unfair only if they cannot be justified by one’s favoured distributive principle. Relational approaches focus on socioeconomic conditions or determinants for how people live together. Inequalities are problematic from the point of view of justice only if they are detrimental to social relationships, conceived in some favoured way. Fixed-standards approaches focus on what socioeconomic goods that each person – viewed separately – needs in order to survive or thrive, depending on your level of ambition. Inequalities above some sufficiency or threshold level deemed appropriate do not matter for justice.
In this presentation I will discuss socioeconomic inequality at the intersection between human rights theory and republican political theory. Situating these questions in their historical context, I will approach them as a relational egalitarian with republican sympathies, dismissive of fixed-standards approaches. Human rights theory (and practice) today tend towards such fixed-standards approach (with socioeconomic justice understood as secured access to basic goods) while republican political theory needs – I will assume – a relational approach, conceptualised as non-dominating relationships. Yet, thinking of persons’ status in society in terms of human rights does not only do a useful job for republican theory; it is also a crucial component of republicanism as an intellectual tradition for theorizing about power and its misuse. Bearing this heritage in mind, how should republicans today think about socioeconomic justice, given the commitment to non-domination and the usefulness of human rights as an analytical tool while avoiding levelling socioeconomic justice down to a right to some perceived notion of sufficiency?
Republican commitments lead us, I will suggest, to rethink the human rights logic and concentrate more on vulnerability and exposure and less on action and events.

Lena Halldenius is professor of Human Rights Studies at Lund University in Sweden. Her PhD is in philosophy. Halldenius’ research area is political philosophy, including history of political thought, with emphasis on freedom and rights. Her research on Mary Wollstonecraft is a way of exploring republicanism in relation to feminist thought and philosophy as resistance against oppressive pwer. Her book on Wollstonecraft – Mary Wollstonecraft and Feminist Republicanism – was published by Pickering & Chatto, 2015. In her current project on socioeconomic inequality, she is studying various aspects of socioeconomic vulnerability, for instance how the transition towards a cashless economy affects economically vulnerable groups who are cash dependent.
Period2021 Oct 27
Held atUniversity of London, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational

UKÄ subject classification

  • Philosophy
  • History of Ideas

Free keywords

  • human rights
  • inequality
  • socioeconomic inequality
  • republicanism
  • republican theory