Abstract ‘Racial justice’ is a term widely used in everyday discourse, but little explored in philosophy. In this essay, I look at racial justice as a concept, trying to bring out its complexities, and urging a greater engagement by mainstream political philosophers with the issues that it raises. After comparing it to other varieties of group justice and injustice, I periodize racial injustice, relate it to European expansionism and argue that a modified Rawlsianism relying on a different version of the thought experiment could come up with suitable principles of corrective racial justice. Racial justice is one of those terms widely used in everyday discourse, with a seemingly transparent reference, that has been little explored in philosophy. Particularly in the United States, where I have been living and working for the last three decades, the result has been a striking discrepancy between the everyday invocation of the term in response to ongoing incidents of police killings of unarmed black men and women, racial profiling of blacks, Latinx, and Muslims, vastly differential black and Latinx incarceration rates, enduring poverty, employment discrimination, environmental racism, continuing residential and educational segregation, and so forth, and its theoretical marginalization in the very literature that is by its calling supposed to be providing us with the technical and reflective investigation of its significance. In this essay, accordingly, I want to look at racial justice as a concept, trying to bring out its hidden complexities and tensions and urging a greater engagement by mainstream political philosophers with the issues that it raises. My treatment will be oriented by what has recently come to be denominated ‘critical philosophy of race’ (Mills 2016), which, as the adjective signifies, is a body of theory examining matters of race from an anti-racist perspective, and as such distinguishable from what could be thought of as earlier uncritical (that is, racist) philosophy of race. I G-Justice and T-Justice. The obvious place to begin is with the relation of group justice (of whatever kind) to justice more generally. Let G-justice in general represent justice for a particular group, G, and T-justice stand for different theories of justice (for example, Rawlsian, libertarian, utilitarian, communitarian). G, we suppose, has been in the past, and is currently, and is likely to be in the future, the victim of injustice by some set of norms, with G-justice then being targeted at addressing their situation, whether remedially, currently, or pre-emptively. Limiting ourselves to this planet, G could be a subset of the human population, or, more sweepingly, the class of all entities deserving justice, human or not. So for animal rights activists, G could refer to non-human animals. But let us focus just on the human population. The point of singling out group G for special mention will then usually be that they have been ignored altogether, or at least not adequately taken account of, in the seemingly broader and all-encompassing category of ‘social justice’ as determined by T-justice. So in theory G-justice should not be in opposition to social justice, but a part of it. However, the idea is that—whether because of the very same prejudices that victimized the group in the first place or because of conceptual and theoretical inadequacy in the normative T apparatus being deployed even in the later good-faith attempts made to accommodate them—a G-focused normative treatment of their situation is called for. ‘Groups’ in socio-political philosophy are usually divided into voluntary organizations (Gilbert 2014) that one chooses to join or not (for example, religions, political parties, social clubs), and what Cudd (2006) calls ‘non-voluntary social groups’, for example, classes, genders, races, people of particular sexual orientations, where membership is in general out of one’s hands (except for borderline cases of ‘passing’, and so forth). Members of voluntary groups can of course be denied equitable treatment on those grounds also, for example, the persecution of adherents of non-favoured religions in theocratic states. But it will usually be the fate of the disadvantaged members of non-voluntary social groups in oppressive societies that will be most pressing from a moral point of view. Hence the familiar demands for G-justice for the less privileged classes (here often under the generic category ‘social justice’), and for gender, racial and gay justice. I suggest there are at least two possible ways in which G-justice can be deemed to be related to T-justice. The first, more restricted way, is when the norms, assumptions and frameworks of T-justice are not themselves being fundamentally challenged, but are claimed to have not been extended equally or inclusively to the Gs, whether overtly or subtly. So T-justice is not being rejected in principle, but modified to accommodate G. The classic and obvious example here is feminist liberalism. The second, more radical way purports to expose a deeper problematic connection between G and T, such that equitable treatment of the Gs would in fact put into question in a fundamental way the norms, assumptions and frameworks of T. So here it is not just a matter of incorporating the Gs into a basically satisfactory normative apparatus, but of raising questions about that apparatus itself. The claim can be seen as a variety of standpoint normative theory, that the perspective of the Gs shows we need to reject T-justice outright, or (even more dramatically) justice itself. Think, for example, of those varieties of ‘radical’ feminism that repudiate ‘malestream’ thought in principle, or Marxism’s scorn of the language of ‘rights’ and ‘justice’ as itself part of the bourgeois order that needs to be overthrown, or the difference between ‘gay liberation’ and ‘queer theory’, where the latter’s contention is that once categories of sex, gender and sexuality are appropriately problematized, our entire conventional conceptual framework is thereby challenged. What would the equivalent contrast be for race? An obvious example of the first (boringly reformist) category would be liberal defences of affirmative action to correct for previous racial injustice. A possible candidate for the second (excitingly revolutionary) category would be using ‘race’ as a metonym or signifier for an anti-colonial or decolonial ‘Global South’ perspective on the West (the North?) as a whole, rejecting its normative systems in toto, and appealing, say, to pre-colonial, non-Western or non-Northern axiologies, for example in Africa or Asia or Native America. In this essay, however, I am afraid I will be performing the lamentably reformist (but perhaps not that boring) first exercise, leaving to some other day the more revolutionary alternative. So the plan is to look at racial justice as potentially accommodatable within at least some subset of Western T-justice—and to show that this might turn out to be more revolutionary in its implications than one might anticipate. II Race and Racism. Among the G-justice candidates, race is peculiar in its existential status in being more subject to metaphysical challenge than the others. Admittedly, in conservative socio-political theory modern capitalist societies are sometimes represented as ‘classless’, in so far as ‘class’ is identified with closed castes (like pre-modern ‘estates’). Or recall the notorious judgement of late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that society does not even exist in the first place (and so neither, presumably, social groups). But even such commentators cannot deny the differences between rich and poor, which is usually all left-wing theorists and activists need to make their case. Opposition to gender justice does not take the form of refusing to recognize the differences between the traditional sexes, but of refusing to recognize that women—as the half of the human race supposedly carrying out their appropriate ‘complementary’ roles in the household—are the victims of injustice in the first place. (In non-Western systems, there might be additional disputes about how many genders there are, and which of them can truly claim to be oppressed.) And when and where homosexuality has been acknowledged in the West, and gays have been persecuted accordingly, their identity as homosexuals has not been contested, but rather emphasized and indicted as a category of the morally unworthy. So in this respect race is interestingly different, in that many theorists of recent decades have come to deny its very existence. Classic ‘uncritical’ modern race theory (aka ‘racism’) took races to be biologically demarcated subsections of the human race, linked to different geographical origins, colour-coded, and naturally divergent in intellectual capabilities, moral character, aesthetic worth, spiritual propensities and physical abilities (Bernasconi and Lott 2000; Monist 2010). Although most experts, and lay opinion, identified just three to five basic races, continentally grouped (whites, blacks, yellows, reds, browns), others distinguished dozens—a reflection, in part, of the traditional debate between ‘lumpers’ and ‘splitters’. The races, R, were hierarchically ordered, with a general R1 (white) superiority across the board on all or most crucial traits, though sometimes races ranked lower on cognitive metrics could score higher on spiritual or physical ones. With the discrediting of ‘scientific’ racism in the wake of Nazism and the Holocaust, and the global triumph of the anti-colonial movement, the post-war consensus became that races in this sense did not exist. But were there other senses in which they did? And was the biological consensus itself premature and mistaken, as some argued all along (a position recently attracting new supporters), in that one could still affirm population differences that roughly corresponded to ‘races’ in the old-fashioned sense without tying such claims to a cognitive, or characterological, or spiritual racial hierarchy? For critical philosophy of race as it has developed in the last few decades, this question—the ‘metaphysics’ of race—has been one of the central issues. The five most important positions are eliminativism or error theory (races exist in no sense, neither biologically nor socially), anti-eliminativist constructionism (races exist, though not as biological entities but social constructs), biologism or realism or naturalism (races do exist biologically after all, but not in the hierarchies presumed by racist thought), hybrid social-naturalism (races exist in a unitary way both as biological entities and social constructs), and a bifurcated ontological view, different from the last, in which races exist as both natural races and social races, not necessarily coincident with each other. The crucial issue then becomes: is ‘race’ tracking something that always makes sense of the concept racial justice or injustice, or does this depend on which metaphysics turns out to be correct? I would claim that despite initial appearances, the ontology matters less than one might think for the moral issue. The easiest cases are biologism, constructionism and hybrid social-naturalism. If people have been racially demarcated in these varying ways, and subjected to invidious discriminatory treatment accordingly, then racial wrongs have been done to existing entities that are indeed races. Eliminativism might seem to be the hardest case, since the claim here is that race exists neither biologically nor socially. However, an appropriate reference can still be recovered by focusing on what is believed to be so. In other words, even if, for the eliminativist, these existential and hierarchically evaluative beliefs do not actually refer to races and their traits, they still refer to groups wrongly believed to be races, historically subject to discrimination on that basis and recognizable as such. (Blum 2010, for example, declares that races do not exist while conceding that racialized social groups do.) So ‘race’ and ‘racial’ justice and injustice would then function as shorthand for more cumbersome locutions that would still be tracking recognizable and uncontroversially real social entities: social groups mistakenly believed to be races. Semantic sticklers might want to insist that this concession proves that it is not really racial justice that is involved. But in so far as everyday discourse and corrective public policy are concerned, this pedantic point would have little substantive implication. Finally, the bifurcated view would involve complications if it turned out that there were different patterns of discrimination for the respective races. But historically, whatever the deeper naturalist metaphysics, it is ‘social’ race—real or believed—that has been singled out as relevant. In the United States, for example, ‘blackness’ over the last century has famously been determined by the ‘one-drop rule’ (any black ancestry makes you black) (Davis 1991). So Americans with, say, seven white great-grandparents and one black one socially count as black: this is their ‘social race’, even if by the naturalist criterion they are largely white. Finally, racism itself is a contested concept, both in its definition and its explanation. Bracketing the second, which would take us too far afield, the most important divide on the first question, in my opinion, is (for the individual) that between a cognitivist or doxastic account (racism as a set of beliefs about racial hierarchy) (Shelby 2002, 2003) and a volitional or non-doxastic account (racism as ill will, whether most strongly, as racial hatred, or, more weakly, as moral disregard on the grounds of race) (Garcia 1996). Racism in the social sense—actions, practices, institutions—can then be given rival characterizations depending on one’s preferred conceptual account of racism in the ideational or volitional sense. III Periodizing Racism and Racial Injustice. The temporality, the periodization, of racial injustice is thus fuzzier than gender or class injustice. Gender presumably goes back to the origin of the species, though there may be controversy over whether the sexual division of labour in hunter-gatherer societies is inequitable. Class, class societies and class categories date back only a few thousand years by comparison, but are presumably objectively unmistakable in their shaping of social structure and social cognition once they do emerge. But ‘race’ (as recognized) is far more ambiguous, with respect to its origins, its scope, and its demarcation from neighbouring categories. To begin with, controversy exists among theorists of race and racism as to when they originate in the world in general, and the West in particular. Proponents of a short periodization, such as Fredrickson (2015), date the concept of race to early modernity, or at the earliest, late feudalism. Proponents of a long periodization, such as Isaac (2004), date it all the way back to antiquity, to the Athens of the fifth century bce. So if Fredrickson et al. are correct, racial injustice could not have existed in pre-modernity, since race—a prerequisite—did not exist at the time. Since both gender (from the beginning) and class (once it emerges) are constituted by and embedded in socio-institutional structures that objectively enable and limit possibilities for different subsets of humans, whatever they believe, their material incarnation suffices to make them socially real. But race is different. Even if biologism, or the bifurcated ontology view, gets the ontology right, we would still need the intersubjective recognition of race or social race for people to be racist and to commit racist wrongs. By hypothesis, there is no ‘objective’ non-social racial hierarchy here. So the mere existence of races, R1s and R2s, as phenotypically demarcated populations in a society would not on its own (unlike class and gender) delimit social possibilities. What is required is the intersubjective recognition of race, and the (possible) concomitant development of racial views, attitudes and dispositions. But in the second place, note that even if the long periodization is the right one, and race and racism do exist in pre-modernity as categories, social realities, and belief systems or antipathies, this would still not be sufficient for racial injustice, at least in the post-Rawlsian sense of the term. In everyday parlance, ‘injustice’ is used broadly to cover wrongs of all kinds, from ‘He’s always been very unjust to her’ to ‘The American criminal justice system is itself unjust’. But within the political philosophical universe of discourse, the convention is to restrict ‘justice’ or ‘injustice’ to institutions, part of Rawls’s (1999) ‘basic structure’. So in the normative taxonomy, we have the larger category of, shall we say, racial wrongs, which would then be subdivided into individual transactions—the bailiwick of ethical regulation—and social-structural matters—to be regulated by justice. The prevalence of pre-modern varieties of racism and racial animus would not then suffice to establish significant patterns of pre-modern racial injustice, since it could be that no major institutions in the period—whether in ancient Greece and Rome, or medieval Europe—were structured around racial privileging and exclusion. Racial injustice would still then be distinctively modern, even if individual racial wrongs were committed in pre-modernity. IV The Challenge of Ethnicity. And here a further complication arises that again makes ‘race’ peculiarly problematic in a way that ‘gender’ and ‘class’ are not: the existence of a neighbouring category separated not by a ‘bright line’ boundary but a fuzzy and ambiguous one—ethnicity. Unlike the controversy about the temporality of race, the standard judgement on ethnicity is that it is virtually coextensive with human history, in the sense that as soon as early human communities (or maybe, more generally, hominins) self-identify in a group way in opposition to other humans (hominins), ethnic self- and other-categorization begins: our tribe versus yours, Us v. Them. The supposed contrast with race is that ethnicity highlights custom, tradition, culture, language, mores, and so forth, as against the presumed biological demarcations of race. So, in so far as others can join the tribe by learning their customs, adopting their traditions, practising their culture, speaking their language, following their mores, outsiders can gain an access that is denied in the case of race, where the prerequisites, being biological or ancestral, are not within the human capacity to change. However, in actuality, many ethnic groups have also operated with tacitly naturalistic membership rules, whether as auxiliary norms or meta-norms about what counts as successful assimilation. Hence the race theorist David Theo Goldberg’s coinage of the term ethnorace to signify this frequent blurring of the categories. But suppose we set this additional problem aside. The real challenge we need to look at is this. If the metaphysics of ethnic groups as social entities is far less controversial and contested than that of races, and if ethnic exclusion and ethnic injustice have been central to human history, as they undoubtedly have, then why not just work with that category instead, especially if through the ‘ethnoracial’ neologism it can be made even more inclusive? What is so special about race that we should single out race and racial injustice in the first place? (From the eliminativist point of view, of course, most or all cases of supposed racial injustice are really cases of ethnic injustice.) After all, if race only comes into existence in modernity, then for tens of thousands of years it would have been ethnic group privileging that would have been the dominant form of exclusion in human history, justifying conquests and genocides, and rationalizing the creation of ethno-polities. So what would the rationale be for separating out and focusing on racial justice, as against just subsuming it under a larger genus? Perhaps, contra my initial declaration, the real philosophical mission here—in so far as such investigations have prescriptive as well as descriptive aspects—should be to recommend such subsumption, and to advocate for linguistic reform via adoption of the broader category, rejecting rather than endorsing the demotic usage. So what would the counter-argument be? I think the claim would have to be that the differential significance of race in modernity (whether as emergent for the first time or at least as vastly more influential than in pre-modern incarnations) warrants separating out the category for this time period at least. It is not that ethnicity ceases to exist, or does not continue to have causal and normative significance in many situations, but that with the European expansionism that is distinctive to the modern epoch, it is eventually swamped by ‘race’ as a literally world-historical category. Different European ethnic groups, tribes and nations eventually become ‘racially’ subsumed into a pan-European ‘whiteness’, and this identity becomes crucially determinant for the world-shaping projects of imperialism, colonialism, Atlantic slavery, white settlement, and the displacement and genocide of indigenous populations. Correspondingly, Native Americans, Africans and Australians from thousands of different cultures and civilizations and traditions become respectively ‘Indians’, ‘Negroes’/‘blacks’ and ‘blacks’/‘aborigines’, positioned as subordinate to ‘whites’. Unprecedented in its global reach, in the power differentials between conquerors and conquered, and the thoroughness of the discursive creation and inculcation of a planetary norm of superiors and inferiors, the transnational Euro-polity turns ‘race’ into the centrally structuring intersubjective category of the modern world order. Intra-European conflicts and wars continue, of course. Srdjan Vucetic’s The Anglosphere (2011), for example, demarcates the Anglo-American empire as the most important of all the European empires, seeking to establish and maintain hegemony over its rivals. So there is both ‘racial’ domination of Europe over non-Europe, and ethno-national and inter-imperial conflict within the racialized category of Europeans (sometimes themselves internally racially demarcated: Nordics, Alpines, Mediterraneans). But in these disputes and wars, the inferiority of the non-European is generally taken for granted, a common premiss that can be shared by all sides. The case for the importance of demarcating and separating out racial injustice would then be that, quite simply, racial injustice shapes the modern world in a way that ‘ethnic’ injustice does not, in so far as ‘race’ becomes the visible marker of the superiority and inferiority, biological or cultural, that justifies European rule. Moreover—a further point of differentiation from pre-modern ethnicity—it is, of course, precisely in modernity that normative equality emerges in the West as a supposed overarching principle. Fredrickson (2015, pp. 11–12) has pointed out that in the pre-modern period, the social order was characterized by multiple structures of inequality and ascriptive hierarchy. So even if race existed then (which Fredrickson, an exponent of the short periodization, denies), it would not have been sharply distinguished from—indeed would have overlapped and fused with some of—the others. But in so far as the pretensions of Western modernity are to normative equalization and the elimination of ascriptive hierarchy, the emergence of equal ‘men’, then the parallel (for Fredrickson and other ‘short periodization’ exponents) emergence of race makes racial inequality particularly salient, since it then seems that the R2s ‘possess some extraordinary deficiency that makes them less than fully human’. In the famous words of Sartre (1963, p. 7), in the opening paragraph of his preface to Frantz Fanon’s 1961 The Wretched of the Earth, ‘Not so long ago the Earth numbered two thousand million inhabitants: five hundred million men, and one thousand five hundred million natives. The former had the Word; the others had the use of it.’ V The Implications for Political Philosophy. What we have, then, is a normative dichotomization in the population of the planet that demarcates full persons from those deemed less than full persons, what I have elsewhere called ‘sub-persons’ (Mills 1997), a dichotomization not merely moral but shaping the juridical and the political. Indeed, it is, so to speak, formally ratified in a historical episode that needs to be far better known than it is: the 1919 Versailles post-First World War conference vetoing by the six ‘Anglo-Saxon nations’ (Britain, the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand) of the Japanese delegation’s proposal to incorporate a ‘racial equality’ clause into the League of Nations Covenant (Lake and Reynolds 2008, ch. 12). This history, with its dramatic implications for how we should think of intersubjectively recognized ‘personhood’ on a global scale, and the modern political ideologies, above all liberalism, for which ‘personhood’ is normatively foundational, is now hardly controversial, even if it was arguably suppressed in the post-war period. A large and growing body of work across numerous disciplines has for some decades now been exploring and documenting these realities: post-colonial theory, obviously, but also the ‘new’ imperial history (‘new’ in the sense of being anti- rather than pro-imperialist); the economic studies tracing the links between the birth and development of capitalism and the processes of colonial exploitation and African slavery; political theory’s ‘imperial turn’ (looking at liberalism in its imperial and not just domestic European context); and ‘critical’ international relations theory (excavating and tracking the role of race, both in international relations itself and in the evolution and development of international relations as a discipline) (Mehta 1999; Pitts 2005; Lake and Reynolds 2008; Vucetic 2011; Hobson 2012; Beckert 2014; Anievas, Manchanda and Shilliam 2015; Vitalis 2015). So both first-order issues (the realities studied and theorized by the respective disciplines) and second-order issues (the critical self-conscious disciplinary reflection on the problematic past framings of this study and theorization) are involved. Yet, as I have argued elsewhere (Mills 2015), Western political philosophy is a mysterious outlier. The sub-discipline whose mission it is to theorize from a normative perspective about personhood and politics, the state and social justice, has made little to no effort to decolonize itself, to reflect upon and rethink its past and present in the light of what are now well-established and uncontroversial facts. But if personhood has in modernity been racially normed, if the political realm has been predicated on maintaining non-white subordination, if the modern state has in this respect been a racial state (Goldberg 2002), then surely racial justice needs to be thematically central to any serious theorization of social justice? And if the ignoring of racial injustice has so profoundly shaped Western political philosophy, would it not then mean that self-consciously taking it into account would indeed—and this is the possible pay-off on my earlier promissory note—require its radical rethinking, even in conventional T frameworks? VI Theorizing Racial Justice: Right Liberalism. As Okin (1989) concluded with respect to gender in her classic comparative evaluation of ‘male’ justice theories, I think it is the liberal rather than communitarian tradition that offers us the best prospects for adequately theorizing racial justice, contractarian deontological liberalism rather than consequentialist utilitarian liberalism, and left-Rawlsian contractarianism rather than right-Nozickian contractarianism. Consequentialist utilitarian liberalism has traditionally been charged with permitting the rights violations of an unpopular minority, say the R2s, if it would increase social welfare for an R1 majority who will be largely undisturbed by R2 suffering. Since this is exactly the situation that has historically prevailed in R1-majority societies like the United States, a corrective consequentialist theorization of racial justice will obviously face considerable barriers from the start. Moreover, in so far as racial injustice has involved the denial of personhood, a T-justice that centralizes personhood and its importance would in general seem to be better axiologically positioned to deal with the peculiar problems of corrective racial justice than one famously accused of not taking seriously the difference between persons (Rawls 1999). Contractarian deontological liberalism, whether right or left, thus has the best claim to be respecting Kantian norms of personhood, as against consequentialist liberalism, and in theory to be least vulnerable—the contract being merely ‘an idea of reason’—to the dangers of an uncritical communitarian valorization of an actual historical past. Hence the promise of an Archimedean standpoint on, a cognitive and moral distancing from, racial Sittlichkeit. But unfortunately in both cases, on the right and on the left, the actual R1-dominant past continues to undermine this critical potential, manifest in a discourse still tacitly recapitulating the Euro-experience, the lifeworld of the privileged R1s. At opposite ends of the liberal contractarian spectrum, neither Nozick nor Rawls faces up to the history of R1-domination, white supremacy, and its implications for social justice. Consider first libertarianism, far-right liberalism. In so far as the most famous version, that of Robert Nozick (‘entitlement theory’) (2013, p. xix, ch. 7, pp. 150–3), makes a dramatic opening declaration of its commitment to individual rights, represents itself as a historical rather than ‘end-result’ theory of justice, and explicitly demarcates rectificatory justice as the third principle of entitlement theory, it should in principle be open to the remediation of racial injustice. For here it is not a matter, as in left-liberal Rawlsianism, of requiring a controversial pre-existent commitment to material equality and corresponding ‘positive’ rights, but simply of correcting the inequalities deriving from the violation of Lockean ‘negative’ rights to life, liberty and property. And if ‘liberty’ is supposed to be its central overriding value, giving its very name to the theory, then how can such correction not be demanded by the most massive, systematic and clear-cut violation of this value in U.S. or indeed modern world history, in the form of racial chattel slavery? Yet far from being in the vanguard of the struggle for racial justice, Lockean liberals and libertarians have usually been on the other side of the barricades. Such entries in the literature as Boxill’s (2003) argument that Locke, to be true to his own principles, should support reparations for the African slavery in which he was an investor, or Valls’s (1999) reconstruction of a libertarian theory of corrective racial justice, have been lonely outliers indeed. (And it is noteworthy that neither writer is actually a libertarian.) Far more typical is the Cambridge Companion to Nozick’s book (Bader and Meadowcroft 2011), which does not even have any index entries for ‘race’, ‘racism’, ‘affirmative action’, or ‘reparations’, despite Nozick’s (2013, pp. 152, 344 n.2) own brief but sympathetic discussion of the last. (For a similar marginalization of race, see The Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism: Brennan, van der Vossen and Schmidtz 2018.) Whether through avoidance of the actual white-supremacist history of the origins of the state, as in Nozick himself (2013, chs. 1–2) (a counterfactual, indeed, ‘fact-defective’ account serenely indifferent to the imperative—given his own principles—of reconstructing a complementary real-life account), the emphasis on epistemological obstacles that would allegedly preclude even an approximate determination of where blacks would have ended up absent the discriminatory history, the citing of supposed metaphysical problems (the non-identity of black Americans and people who would still be in Africa today were it not for the Atlantic slave trade), the claim that people as individuals do indeed have the right to discriminate when their own property is involved, leaving only state discrimination as culpable, or the kind of quasi-metaphysical libertarianism logically distinct from, but often allied with, political libertarianism (the supposed ability we all have, regardless of the severity of the handicapping involved, to overcome empirical causality in the form of social-structural barriers), this strain of liberalism (if it is) has proven resolutely hostile in principle to any such appropriation. So even if rebutting these objections would be a worthwhile exercise as a philosophical challenge, it would be pointless as an attempt to actually win over this constituency to a racial justice agenda, considering how clear they have made their opposition to it. VII Theorizing Racial Justice: Left Liberalism. It is left-liberalism, then, Rawlsianism and its neighbouring variants, that offers the most promise for the project, given its overt acknowledgment of how deeply people’s life chances are shaped by inequalities in their initial starting point in the ‘basic structure’. But here we find a weird convergence with libertarianism in a similar, if not quite as extreme, exclusion from the literature of the distinctive problems posed by race, both in Rawls himself and in Rawlsianism. The latest illustration is the recently published Blackwell Companion to Rawls, edited by Mandle and Reidy (2014), a hefty volume of nearly 600 pages in which race gets about one and a half pages (and not a theorization, but a simple listing of negative racial indicators), while an index search for ‘affirmative action’ turns up a single endnote sentence (p. 182 n.13). Shelby (2016) is one of the few philosophers to have explicitly adopted a Rawlsian framework for theorizing racial justice, and my claim (Mills 2017, ch. 9) would be that he has only been able to do this by violating Rawls’s own stipulations. The problem is this. Rawls (1999) famously resurrected Anglo-American political philosophy in general, and social contract theory in particular, in an incarnation oriented by the ideal-theory determination of social justice for a perfectly just society. This is a complete disjuncture from the everyday sense of the term, which is all about the correction of injustices in unjust societies. Rawls himself conceded in the opening pages of A Theory of Justice that it was matters of non-ideal theory that were the ‘pressing and urgent’ ones (1999, p. 8). But ideal theory was supposedly the best route to properly doing non-ideal theory later. Yet at the time of his death three decades on, he had still not made the promised move to corrective justice—his brief excursions into non-ideal theory were focused on other matters—nor would his disciples and expositors do so in subsequent years, even as we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the book. So identified with this exclusion has Rawlsianism become, that for some philosophers the very invocation of rectification as a concept signifies that you must be taking a Nozickian approach to justice. And this is perhaps understandable, considering that Rawls (1999, pp. 8, 309) uses the phrase ‘compensatory justice’ (which I am taking to be corrective justice) a grand total of twice in the 2000 pages of his five books, and never provides any detailed discussion of it. Yet think how strange it would be for a social-democratic theory of justice—indeed, for some, the most impressive twentieth-century statement of the social-democratic vision—to exclude such matters on principle, given its ostensible commitment to remediation of the situation of the less fortunate. So the obstacles are not principled ones, but the contingent shaping of Rawlsianism, and more generally, liberalism, by R1 domination, white domination, resulting in a liberalism—‘imperial liberalism’ (Pitts 2005), ‘racial liberalism’ (Mills 2017, ch. 3)—that ignores its own history of racism and the need to redress it, above all, through developing as a central strand of social justice theory a theorization of corrective justice. My claim is, in other words, that the non-transition over nearly half a century from ideal theory for well-ordered societies to non-ideal-theory-as-corrective-justice for what I have called ‘ill-ordered societies’ (Mills 2017) is not accidental, not adventitious, but itself a manifestation of group privilege, and the dominant maleness and overwhelming whiteness of the profession (about 97 per cent in the United States, almost 100 per cent in the United Kingdom). The social contract apparatus, whether in its classic 1650–1800 incarnations (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant) or in its resurrected form as a ‘device of representation’ for society as ‘a cooperative venture for mutual advantage’ (Rawls 1999), cannot, unmodified and unsupplemented, serve as a general metaphor or figure or expository device for getting at principles of justice for racially subordinated populations, R2s, in the R1-dominant societies created by Western expansionism. The idea of a ‘contract’ definitionally models consent, whereas for these populations (expropriated indigenes, African slaves, colonial subjects) we need a modelling of coercion. The history supposedly rendered irrelevant by the purely hypothetical Kantian version of the contract as a mere ‘idea of reason’ ineluctably manifests itself in an R1 comfortableness with the conceptual universe generated by these assumptions, despite their flagrant inconsistency with the R2 history, and a refusal over nearly half a century to take the next, obviously required, theoretical step of deriving the principles of justice for the historically excluded. For there are two main alternatives. The ‘cooperative venture for mutual advantage’ characterization (of which ‘well-ordered societies’ are a subset) is either supposed to be descriptive (what societies are actually like) or to be normative (what societies should be like). If the former, then it is simply false as a representation of the Euro-dominant societies of modernity, and the principles of justice so derived are inapplicable to them. But if it is the latter, then clearly we need a corollary conceptualization of what these societies are actually like so we can then map the normative route—transitional justice—by which we must travel to get to the ideal. And this, I would claim, will require principles of corrective justice sensitized to the experience of racial subordination. Recent work in non-ideal theory is really looking at a different question, the extent to which putatively ‘general’ principles of justice should or should not take into account the factual situation. But it is really still being presupposed that these are principles of distributive justice, whatever the level of abstraction at which they are articulated. My contention is that non-ideal theory as corrective justice is a different issue. VIII Modifying Rawls to Derive Principles of Corrective Racial Justice. Rawls’s own thought experiment is an exercise in ideal theory, aimed at deriving principles for a well-ordered, perfectly just society. I suggest (Mills 2017, Epilogue) modifying the thought experiment for non-ideal theory, so that it becomes a ‘device of representation’ for arriving at principles of corrective racial justice. Behind a veil thinner than Rawls’s, we choose prudentially among a set of principles of corrective justice, knowing that when the veil lifts we will be a member either of the R1s or the R2s in an ill-ordered society with an R1-supremacist basic structure. So in our rational decision-making, we need to weigh the possibility of ending up as an R2, and the resultant consequences for us along various dimensions of racial injustice. (Note: The veil is sufficiently thick to block knowledge of demographic proportions, and thus to rule out expected utility calculations based on the probabilities of being an R1 or R2 member.) I have argued elsewhere (Mills 2003, ch. 7) that we can demarcate at least six dimensions of racial injustice: the economic, the juridico-political, the cultural, the cognitive-evaluative, the somatic, and the ontological. The first two are probably the most obvious and most frequently invoked. Economic injustice would be manifest in what could be termed racial exploitation (Mills 2017, ch. 7), not just the obvious examples of slavery, indigenous expropriation, colonial forced labour, and so forth, in the period of de jure R1 domination, but later patterns of de facto disadvantaging such as employment discrimination, unequal access to transfer payments from the state, confinement to segregated neighbourhoods, diminished opportunities to get bank loans, mortgages, decent education for one’s children, and so on. Rawls (1999, p. 272) explicitly prescinds from theorizing exploitation because of his self-location in ideal theory, the theory for well-ordered societies. But for ill-ordered societies, such as racist societies, understanding the dynamics of racial exploitation will be crucial, since as social science research has shown for the United States (findings probably also applicable elsewhere), racial differences in wealth are far more significant for the long-term prognosis for racial equality than racial differences in income (Lui et al. 2006; Oliver and Shapiro 2006). By juridico-political injustice, I mean that members of the R2 group are being denied the standard protections of liberal citizenship enjoyed by the R1s. In the period of colonialism, for example, the legal code was often explicitly bifurcated, with one set of rules for whites and another for ‘natives’. In the United States, there was an obvious racial demarcation between first-class citizenship for whites and second-class citizenship for people of colour, de jure and not merely de facto. Today, a century and a half after the Civil War, it is still the case that in representative democratic bodies non-whites are massively under-represented, while the police killings of unarmed blacks and the vast expansion of a prison industry filled with black, red and brown bodies have drawn the shocked attention of the world. So those two are completely familiar, and fit nicely under Rawls’s (1999) two aspects of membership in the polity (transmuted for non-ideal circumstances), as someone entitled to fair socio-economic opportunities and as a citizen with basic rights. I suggest that the other four can all be illuminatingly gathered under the category of ‘respect’, which Rawls leaves in his well-ordered society to the regulation of his two basic principles, but which for ill-ordered racist societies will require, I contend, a separate third targeted principle of corrective justice. Cultural injustice would be racist deprecations of R2 culture, a subject well explored in recent decades in the huge literature on multiculturalism. By the cognitive-evaluative I am referring to Fricker’s very influential work on ‘epistemic injustice’ (2007) as manifest racially (here) in the aprioristic denial of credibility to R2 testimony and hermeneutical proposals for the interpretation of the world. Think, classically, of R1 hostility to abolitionist propaganda, exposés of the atrocities of imperialism, documentation of patterns of police brutality (before the advent of the ubiquitous smartphone), general attempts to bring to the attention of the R1-dominated public sphere the actual conditions of the R2s. In all these cases, one could say, the ideal of liberal ‘publicity’/’transparency’ and access to the forums of ‘public reason’ has been violated by the R1 racial imperative to conceal the actual injustice of the social order. The somatic may seem an especially odd and unlikely candidate in this context, but remember that apart from sex and romance, it has public sphere ramifications in terms of the differential attractiveness of certain bodies enhancing employment opportunities, not to mention triggering implicit biases for or against one. Finally, by the ontological I mean the original stigmatization of the R2s as less than full persons, and the manifold ways in which such racial contempt manifests itself across the society. So with this subsumption we can think of these as three principles of corrective racial justice: ending racial exploitation, ending racially unequal citizenship, and ending racial disrespect. Contractarian deontological liberalism would turn out to have a far more radical potential than anticipated once the apparatus has been appropriately modified to register the realities of non-ideal racial domination. 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Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume – Oxford University Press
Published: Jun 4, 2018
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