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Global Rectificatory Justice: Repairing for Colonialism and Ending World Poverty
Linköping University, Department of Culture and Communication, Centre for Applied Ethics.
2006 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Magister), 10 points / 15 hpStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The current state of the global distribution of income, wealth, and well-being is in many respects the product of historical acts and processes. Of these, some have been just, others not. In philosophical discourse, processes of the latter kind are referred to as historical injustices. Of these historical injustices, the most protracted, extensive, and (presumably) the most devastating, is colonialism. For centuries, innocent people – in fact whole continents – were subjected to plunder, despoilment, land-displacement, exploitation, slavery, oppressive rule, cultural rape, and genocide. The extent and persistence of the consequences of this particular historical injustice are, however, contested territory. With regards to the exact causes of global poverty and destitution, measuring the effects of colonialism vis-à-vis other determining factors is an empirical impossibility. Nonetheless, it is beyond dispute that during colonial times vast amounts of riches were illicitly transferred from the colonies to their (mainly European) masters. It therefore seems reasonable to assume that this massive and prolonged one-directional transfer (from South to North) of wealth and resources necessary for nation-building, i.e. self-sustained and successful eco¬nomic development, has contributed, to a morally significant degree, to the unequal economic status of societies – resulting, ultimately, in the present unjust division of countries into developed, industrialized ones on the one hand, and under-developed (in many cases, extremely poor) ones, on the other. If this assumption is correct, then this is a problem of fantastic moral proportions.

The aim of this essay is to consider the moral implications of the consequences of colonialism in light of the problem of global poverty and against emergent, compelling theories of global justice. It is argued that the former colonies are justified in making reparative demands on their former colonial powers as a matter of rectificatory justice. The demands discussed here are aimed at property restoration and economic compensation. The salience of these demands is established by way of arguments for collective moral responsibility and historical (trans-generational) obligations. It is further argued that such reparations would constitute a great leap towards eradicating global poverty on the grounds that many presently poor countries were the victims of colonial atrocities. Such a leap would also take us closer to a just world.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Centrum för tillämpad etik , 2006. , 61 p.
Keyword [en]
Global justice, rectificatory justice, historical injustice, historical obligations, collective obligations, colonialism, poverty, reparation.
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-6598ISRN: LIU-CTE-AE-EX--06/13--SEOAI: diva2:21893
2006-06-01, CTE- Seminar room, Key, LiU, Linköping, 13:30
Available from: 2006-06-09 Created: 2006-06-09

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