Why Group Membership Matters; A Critical Typology

Ethnicities (forthcoming)
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The question of why group-differentiated rights might be a requirement of justice has been a central focus of identity politics in recent decades. I attempt to bring some clarity to this discussion by proposing a typology to track the various ways in which individuals can be harmed or benefited as a consequence of their membership in social groups. It is the well-being of individuals that group-differentiated rights should be understood as protecting, and so clarity on the relationship between group membership and well-being is vital. One of the problems with the way in which such justifications have often been formulated in the past has been that they inadvertently position the group as a handicap to be overcome, rather than a value to be protected. I seek to overcome this limitation by clearly specifying the circumstances under which group membership is a liability, and the circumstances under which it has value. While this distinction is important, in both cases there is a relevant interest at stake, and thus the groundwork can be laid for a defence of group-differentiated rights.
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Archival date: 2011-07-12
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