Organic social change

Distinktion 1 (18):59-81 (2017)
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The distinctness of each person’s life and experience is an important consideration in dominant accounts of how democratic institutions should distribute basic rights and liberties. Drawing on recent social movements, philosophers like Iris Marion Young, Miranda Fricker, and Axel Honneth have nonetheless drawn attention to the distinctive claims and challenges that plurality and difference entrain in democratic societies by analysing how the dominant discourses on rights and justice tend to elide, obscure, or reify the lived experiences of individuals belonging to disadvantaged and oppressed groups. In this essay, I offer an independent justification for why we should take such lived experiences seriously. I show how the lived experiences of disadvantaged and oppressed individuals can be a resource for deep and meaningful social change. I propose a distinctive kind of social change in which the disadvantaged and oppressed themselves drive the process of transformation whereby they change the oppressive frames of difference relating to their race, class, sex, or ability. I call this kind ‘organic social change’. I also show that organic social change is distinctively important in that the disadvantaged and oppressed get to enact an empowering mode of cooperation that harnesses their singularities when they are the ones driving the process of their own and one another’s transformations.

Author's Profile

James Abordo Ong
University of San Diego


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