SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Can vulnerable groups use violent means to resist socio-economic injustice?
(Ethics, English)

Can members of vulnerable groups in democratic countries use uncivil and even violent means to resist socio-economic and political injustice? Liberal democracies, such as France, South Africa, and the UK, have in recent years experienced eruptions of violent resistance as a response to political injustice. Some acts of violent resistance in liberal democracies have enjoyed political success and public sympathy (such as the Fallist movement in South Africa and Gilets Jaunes in France).

Despite the above, analytic theorists have historically limited disobedience to civil means, arguing that uncivil and violent means negates the communicative nature of disobedience, conflicts with our duties to democratic institutions, and breaks the bonds of civic friendship.

My project seeks to reframe the debate about violent resistance, moving away from the framework of civil disobedience, and adopting a view based on reductivist Just War Theory. First, I argue that vulnerable groups in capitalist democracies suffer harms that are equivalent in severity to the harms of violence due to their economic and social precarity. I focus here on what I call defunct democracies: states that are committed to reciprocity and legality, but which are still beset by severe injustice. Second, contra Iris Marion Young, I argue that the members of political and economic elites can bear moral responsibility for these harms. Consequently, I argue that members of elites render themselves liable to violent resistance when their moral responsibility is sufficient to fulfill the Just War Theory criteria of proportionality and necessity. This view, I argue, provides a framework to help discern between permissible and impermissible cases of limited violence in democracies.

This view also overcomes the traditional critiques of uncivil disobedience. These critiques, I argue, are rooted in our respect for the dignity of our fellow members in our political community and the sense of reciprocity we share with them. Since my account concludes that these members are morally responsible for severe injustice and liable to defensive harm, I argue that there are cases in which members of vulnerable groups are not bound to respect reciprocity and dignity.

Time: 14:00-14:30, 20 September 2019 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.004

Markus Trengove 
(University College London, England)

I am a doctoral candidate at University College London. My main interest is in the intersection between violence, social injustice, and civil disobedience. My dissertation concerns the permissible use of violence in political resistance. I am also a former South African student activist.

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