Reducing Asymmetries in Intergenerational Justice: Descent from Modernity or Space Industrialization?

Rasmus Karlsson

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Normally, contractual conceptions of intergenerational justice regard the responsibility held by each generation as symmetrical. This article argues that the late modern society has created an asymmetry because of its unprecendented instrumental and destructive capacity. Historically unique risks such as thermonuclear destruction, global ecological deprivation, and resource depletion all point at this asymmetry and unequal distribution of responsibility between generations. Extending one contractual device used by John Rawls in line with what Brian Barry has suggested, this article analyzes the roots of the asymmetry and presents two political strategies to end it. The first strategy resembles the traditional deep ecological programme whereas the second holds an imaginative vision of a human future in space. Both strategies seek to reduce the influence present generations exercise on the level of opportunity available to future generations. The key normative argument is that intergenerational justice requires spatial and temporal limits on political action.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-250
JournalOrganization & Environment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Political Science


  • space industrialization
  • sustainable development
  • deep ecology
  • intergenerational justice


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