JUST 223 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Ann Bell, Cultural Imperialism, Iris Marion Young

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10 Apr 2018
Basic Concepts in Social Justice
Social justice (one definition, Lee Ann Bell): “full and equal participation of all groups in a
society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. It includes a vision of society in which
the distribution of resources is equitable (fair, impartial, just) and all members are physically
and psychologically safe and secure. It involves actors who have a sense of their own agency
(ability to act, ability to exert influence of power, awareness that their actions matter) as well
as a sense of social responsibility towards and with others, their society, and the broader
world in which we live.”
Oppression when one group reduces the potential for another group or groups to be fully
human, and which usually takes the form of several or all of the “faces” of oppression below:
Five faces of oppression (Iris Marion Young):
o Exploitation when a person or group misuses or abuses their power in ways that
benefit them and at the expense of another (less powerful or more vulnerable) person
or group. Common forms of exploitation include: abusing others’ labors (works) in
ways that do not fairly compensate them; taking others’ assets (material things,
including money) in ways that benefit the powerful at the expense of the less
o Violence when individuals or groups misuse their power, authority, or force in ways
that violate (fail to respect) the full humanity of others, whether physically,
emotionally, or spiritually, and which may result in harm, damage, or destruction to a
more vulnerable or less powerful person or group, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Violence may be perpetrated directly and indirectly (through systems culture and
structure), as well as intentionally and unintentionally.
o Marginalization when one group has the power to treat another group as
insignificant or peripheral, and which often results in suppressing or preventing their
ability to develop their capacities, denying their rights and/or freedoms, and
excluding or limiting their participation in any aspect of society.
o Cultural imperialism (or cultural domination) when groups misuse their power
and/or authority to maintain their own set of ideas, values, norms, and traditions and
reduce the potential for others to be fully human; forcing others to abide by powerful
group’s ideas, values, norms, and traditions, which the powerful define as superior to
all others.
o Powerlessness the condition of domination and subordination itself. Some of the
injustices that commonly occur with powerlessness are the inability to have decision-
making power, exposure to disrespectful treatment, and vulnerability to all of the
other “faces” of oppression.
Adaptation: responds to immediate needs, is directed primarily at the effects of consequences
of injustice(s) (symptoms), and treats or cares for those who have been harmed.
Mitigation: responds to long-term needs, is directed at the root causes of injustice(s), and
addresses the underlying structures to prevent harms.
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