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Social Connection & Political Responsibility: An Engagement with Iris Marion Young

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Iris Marion Young's final work contains an innovative account of justice and responsibility, with a focus on social-structural processes and borders. In this paper I engage in two lines of criticism. The first concerns Young's account of how we should assume responsibility for global injustice. Her account of responsibility is critical of forms of individualism that deny collective responsibility for structures and processes, and force individuals to act alone. I will argue, however, that Young's own account manifests a similar weakness. I question her account of how collective political responsibility translates into collective agency against injustices. In particular, the role given to institutions and collective action remains voluntary and discretionary in a way that fails to live up to the expectations she elsewhere builds regarding collective agency and responsibility. My second line of criticism illustrates this by arguing that Young is mistaken in seeing the successes of the anti-sweatshop movement as an illustration of her political responsibility model. Instead, I suggest that Young's account of political responsibility needs further development with respect to collective agency for justice.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2014-05-01

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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