Legacies of the Past? Assessing Claims for Reparations

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Major racial wealth disparities continue to plague Western societies. These economic gaps have been established centuries ago through projects of legal theft such as colonialism, slavery, segregation, racist housing policy, and other structural forms of violence. Hence, it is often argued that states and private elites, the former and current perpetrators of such misdeeds, bear the responsibility to right historical wrongs and eradicate contemporary injustices; to address and redress both the maldistribution as well as the misrecognition faced by colonial subjects and their descendants. If and how this problem is to be solved, remains a matter of debate. In my thesis, I shall attempt to map this discussion by analysing the concept of reparations, typically understood as matters of rights for those who have wrongfully been caused harm by a particular group or state. Not only shall I evaluate the legitimacy of such policy, but I will also attempt to show what potential recompense might eventually look like in practice. The validity of claims for reparations is assessed by determining whether or not they withstand philosopher Nancy Fraser's normative standard of participatory parity, which entails that justice requires certain social arrangements that allow all members of society to interact with each other as peers. Juxtaposing her framework with criticisms and adjusting it to make it more generous, I hope to show how the author’s insights can provide a strong theoretical foundation for the topic at hand.
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