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Political Theory

H07(c) - Justice and Rights

Date: Jun 4 | Time: 03:15pm to 04:45pm | Location: SWING 105

Chair/Président/Présidente : Paul Gray (Brock University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Paul Gray (Brock University)

Session Abstract: This panel presents contributions to contemporary theories of intergenerational justice.

Intergenerational Distributive Justice: Christopher Bennett (University of Waterloo)
Abstract: Intergenerational justice as non-diminishment stands as one of the only normative principles of intergenerational distributive justice that has received significant philosophical attention. It is widely interpreted as requiring that a given generation leave its successor generation (or generations) no worse off than itself. As a principle describing a just pattern of resource distribution across time, it contains both intuitive appeal and deeper normative justification. However, it lacks specification on a number of dimensions. In this paper, I consider two questions about the principle of non-diminishment, answers to which will help reduce its under-specification. First, what is the threshold with which one can determinate that a generation leaves its successor worse off? At first glance, the obvious answer is that each generation should come into the world with access to a range of resources that is equivalent to those that the previous generation enjoyed at its start. This raises problems: for one, it license significant depletion, where an especially productive generation can run down any resources that it generates in excess of the starting-point threshold. Second, what are the limits to the principle of non-diminishment? While it may prove defensible as a principle determining just claims to resources, there are other concerns of justice that a comprehensive theory of intergenerational justice should address, but that lie outside the scope of this principle. I therefore consider complementary principles of intergenerational justice.

Non-Domination and Future Generations: Mira Bachvarova (University of New Brunswick)
Abstract: In this essay I put forward the idea that a truly comprehensive theory of temporal justice needs to be concerned with enduring power relations, so as to better contextualize, but also go above and beyond, the questions of rights and fair shares that currently preoccupy intergenerational justice theorists. More specifically, I propose that we should incorporate the ideal of non-domination into the analysis of the temporal dimension of justice. In the first part of the essay I argue that while the relationship between present and future generations of people could nominally be described as an instance of domination, it is not particularly fruitful to view it this way. This is because such a characterization does not provide the same critical insight, nor does it raise equally pressing moral concerns, as it does when applied to contemporaries. In the second part of the essay I propose an alternative way to incorporate non-domination in the temporal dimension of justice and in the task of identifying what we owe future people. I argue that there is an important two-fold role for the ideal of non-domination in intergenerational justice – a role that is rooted in a concern not with domination between generations but domination across generations. This role is 1) to identify the perpetuation of enduring forms of domination through time as an intergenerational problem, as well as 2) to define an obligation to pass on to future people the social and political conditions that make it possible to inhibit domination.

Citizenship as a Birthright: Michael Sullivan (St. Mary's University)
Abstract: Territorial birthright citizenship or jus soli is the primary legal mechanism that determines how most native-born citizens of Canada, the United States, and many other countries in the Americas obtain citizenship at birth. The practice is controversial. Policymakers argue that this practice encourages birth tourism and irregular migration. Political theorists argue that territorial birthright citizenship is incompatible with consent (Schuck and Smith 1985), or that all inherited forms of citizenship are distributively unjust (Shachar 2009; Stevens 2010). In this paper, I argue that the normatively defensible elements of the practice of territorial birthright citizenship or jus soli relate primarily to considerations of protection and inclusion. The practice of birthright citizenship safeguards the baseline claims to citizenship status of all individuals born under the jurisdiction of a political community. It entrenches the responsibility of states to provide basic life-long protection to all individuals who are born and raised under their jurisdiction. While allowing political majorities to set immigration laws, territorial birthright citizenship prevents their multigenerational application to the children of irregular migrants who should not be held responsible for their parent’s immigration law infractions.