Power, Oppression, and Justice

Host Institution
University of Groningen
If individual persons or groups of persons are oppressed by others, this is in almost all cases an injustice. But what exactly do we mean when we say something like this? And why exactly is it an injustice? And are there forms of unequal social power which are morally neutral or even good? This course will focus on three questions: First, what social power is, what role power plays for the constitution of social reality, and how we can distinguish problematic from unproblematic forms. Second, how we should describe empirically existing phenomena of social oppression, such as the oppression of persons in virtue of their economic position, of their gender or of their race, such as to capture what is wrong about such oppression. Third, in what ways contemporary theories of justice help us to understand the wrongness of oppression and to answer the question of who has which obligations to abolish oppressive social relations or to resist oppression. These questions will be analyzed drawing on a variety of philosophical and political traditions.