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Rethinking social justice

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Rethinking social justice in a globalizing world

Nancy Fraser

Globalization appears to be changing the way we argue about social justice. Arguments that used to focus chiefly on the question of what is owed as a matter of justice to community members now turn quickly into disputes about who should count as a member and which is the relevant community. Is the nation-state the only legitimate container of social justice? Or are regional and global frames also pertinent? In an epoch when these are live questions, not only the substance of social justice, but also the frame, is in dispute. The result is a major challenge to our theories of justice, which have so far failed to develop conceptual resources for reflecting on the question of the frame.

The programme aims to redress this lacuna. On the empirical plane, it will seek to clarify if and how experiences of globalization are altering the character of struggles for social justice. On the normative plane, it will seek to clarify whether and how such experiences should alter the ideals of justice that inspire such struggles.

The programme aims to connect conceptual reflection on the “what” and the “who” of social justice to concrete studies of specific aspects of globalization:

  • transnationalized public communication and social justice. Do social movements currently address their claims for justice to transnational or global public opinion? Do solidarities transgress national borders?
  • economic and financial globalization and the understandings of justice. Have movements such as ATTAC and the World Social Forum succeeded in expanding awareness of injustices grounded in the neoliberal governance structures of the global economy? If so, is such expanded awareness likely to survive the current economic crisis?
  • the effects of the transnationalization of “care” on received understandings of social justice, especially gender justice.

Organization “Rethinking Justice in a Globalizing World” is a five-year programme:

  • Year 1 Who Counts? Challenges of Globalization
  • Year 2 Transnationalized Communication and Struggles for Social Justice
  • Year 3 Economic/Financial Globalization and Struggles for Social Justice
  • Year 4 Transnationalized “Care” and Struggles for Social Justice
  • Year 5 Concluding Reflections Rethinking Social Justice: Challenges of Globalization

During this period a sequence of seminars will be organized and are expected to attract a wide range of (European and non-European) participants, including philosophers, sociologists, political scientists, and specialists in gender studies, media studies, and political economy. Two postdoctoral fellows for each of the five years will be selected, through an international competition. The programme will be concluded with a major international conference in the final year and one or more edited volumes will be published with the best papers presented in the seminars and conference.

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