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OH Iris

OH Iris

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Published by Magda Assanowicz

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Published by: Magda Assanowicz on May 01, 2011
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09/08/2014

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OH, IRIS!- “Justice and the Politics of Difference”
While working on a definition of‘transformation’- assessing the work and goals of Baan Mangkong project we came up with a simple line:Transformation is a process enabling a just + equal (re)distribution and access torights and liberties that should provide well-being.It is clear, that this sentence is based on 2 definitions: Rawlsian ‘ A Theory of Justice”and classical definition of ‘Ethics’ dating Aristotle. It sounded fine to us for fewreasons: a) it was talking about the basic human needs that should be granted in anyconditions (blame it on universalism!) b) it was a combination of social justice andethics- we thought: the ‘essence’. For the rest of our ideas, such as ‘ knowledge-sharing’ process’ we used Mr Foucault, who, thankfully, seems to fit to everything (or almost everything).Our transformation definition was met with some criticism: 1) Rawls does not fitFoucault 2) Rawlsian theory is outdated 3) it does not focus on ‘institutionalization’and in reality we are assessing it is, apparently, crucial. We were told: “Look at IrisMarion Young, she is the one you should work with”.So we did, we got a brightly colored “ Justice and the Politics of Difference” andstarted from the Introduction that was basically sufficient to see what the author istrying to say.Young says explicitly, that she is not constructing a theory of Justice, but wants to point out that all the ‘social justice’ theories (with Rawls marching in the first row)focus on distribution rather than starting from ‘domination and oppression’ as thedefinition of injustice necessary for institution assessment. For Young distributionmeans “ possession of material goods & social positions”, sometimes it goes beyondmaterial goods (self-respect/opportunities/ power etc.) but what Rawls is trying tosay- “ rights as rights & duties”, for Young is completely wrong. We should not think about ‘relationship as things”. Young talks about existence of ‘social groupdifferences’ where some are privileged and some oppressed (5 aspects:exploitation/marginalization/ powerlessness/cultural imperialism/ violence) and‘social justice requires explicitly acknowledging and attending to those groupdifferences in order to undermine oppression’. Great, but what is the version of justicewe should use in our assessment? Young says: libertarianism and communitarianismis inadequate, we should talk about City Life. For developing world it sounds like afair idea, especially that everybody wants to reach the ‘city level’ when it comes to‘Quality of Life’ ( Nussbaum,Sen).It seems, however, that Young is not entirely response to our needs (when in comes toconstructing criteria or any definitions) because she is rather ‘critical’ (one could saythat she uses quite an aggressive language, which can be blames on the feministtradition) and not ‘constructive’. She might be right that Rawlsian theory is notacceptable ( at least fully), but so does Amartya Sen who in some sense is Rawls’

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