Date of this Version
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice (2018) 21: 869–885. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10677-018-9892-8.
What responsibility do individuals bear for structural injustice? Iris Marion Young has offered the most fully developed account to date, the Social Connections Model. She argues that we all bear responsibility because we each causally contribute to structural processes that produce injustice. My aim in this article is to motivate and defend an alternative account that improves on Young’s model by addressing five fundamental challenges faced by any such theory. The core idea of what I call the Role-Ideal Model is that we are each responsible for structural injustice through and in virtue of our social roles, i.e. our roles as parents, colleagues, employers, citizens, etc., because roles are the site where structure meets agency. In short, the Role-Ideal Model (1) explains how individual action contributes to structural change, (2) justifies demands for action from each particular agent, (3) specifies what kinds of acts should be undertaken, (4) moderates between demanding too much and too little of individual agents, and (5) provides an account of the critical responses appropriate for holding individuals accountable for structural injustice.
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