The structural diversity of historical injustices

Journal of Social Philosophy 37 (3):360–376 (2006)
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Driven by a sharp increase in claims for reparations, reparative justice has become a topic of academic debate. To some extent this debate has been marred by a failure to realize the complexity of reparative justice. In this essay we try to amend this shortcoming. We do this by developing a taxonomy of different kinds of wrongs that can underwrite claims to reparations. We identify four kinds of wrongs: entitlement violations, unjust exclusions from an otherwise acceptable system of entitlements, and two kinds where a social practice systematically fails to embody an acceptable system of entitlements. In deliberation about what is required to repair a historical injustice the weight of backward- and forward-looking considerations is a function of the distinctive features of the injustice in question. Hence, the first step in adjudicating claims for reparation is to identify what kind of wrong the claim arises from. From the taxonomy of wrongs we are thus able to construct what we call the Field of Reparative Justice, which illustrates how the structure of deliberation for reparative justice tracks the distinctive features of different kinds of wrongs.

Author Profiles

David Reidy
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Jeppe von Platz
University of Richmond


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