What Structural Injustice Theory Leaves Out

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (5):1161-1175 (2021)
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Alasia Nuti’s recent book Injustice and the Reproduction of History: Structural Inequalities, Gender and Redress puts forward a compelling vision of contemporary duties to redress past wrongdoing, grounded in the idea of “historical-structural-injustice”, constituted by the “structural reproduction of an unjust history over time and through changes”. Such an approach promises to transcend the familiar scholarly divide between “backward-looking” and “forward-looking” models, and allow for a reparative approach that focuses specifically on those past wrongs that impact the present, while retaining a significant focus on the historical. While Nuti’s work is perhaps the most sophisticated treatment of structural injustice to date, this paper argues that an exclusive concentration on historical-structural-injustices neglects some aspects and some acts of wrongdoing that call out for present-day redress. What is needed, therefore, is a pluralist theory that can accept the pressing force in the present of historical-structural-injustices, whilst also making room for past-regarding duties that either do not fit, or are not best conceptualized in terms of, this approach, without being overwhelmed by the sheer scale of historic injustice.

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Daniel Butt
Oxford University


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