Differences, inequalities and the politics of law

A.A. 2023/2024
Crediti massimi
Ore totali
Obiettivi formativi
The course aims at introducing students to philosophical debates on social justice with a focus on three topics: economic inequality, gender oppression and the discipline of sexuality. Special attention will be paid to the analysis of relevant concepts and to the discussion of the potentials and limits of legal reform in promoting social change.
Risultati apprendimento attesi
At the end of the course students should have acquired:
- knowledge of the main positions in current philosophical debates on economic inequality, including a better understanding of the concepts and different interpretations of equality of opportunity, meritocracy, distributive justice, and structural injustices;
- knowledge of the main positions in current philosophical debates on gender oppression and the discipline of sexuality, including a better understanding of the concepts of sex, gender, gender identity, and of their relations;
- capability to apply acquired knowledge and understanding to the discussion of solutions to problems of economic inequality, gender oppression, and discipline of sexuality, with special attention to proposals for legal reform.
In order to exercise their learning, critical and communication skills, students will be required to read texts, to discuss them and to express and defend personal opinions.
Programma e organizzazione didattica

Edizione unica

Secondo trimestre

After an introductory lesson discussing the epistemic status of philosophical reflections on social justice and its methodology, Part 1 of the course will analyze the normative idea of the fundamental political equality of all members of the same polity, understood as the core normative idea of democratic conceptions of social justice. That idea assigns to each member of a polity a fundamental right to equal consideration. The idea of equal consideration will be analyzed, following a suggestion by Ronald Dworkin, in terms of equal respect and equal concern. The idea of equality of respect provides a foundation for the liberal ideas of freedom and tolerance. A lesson will be dedicated to the discussion of the competing liberal views of those who claim that equality of respect requires public institutions to be neutral towards competing ideals of the good life and of those who claim that equality of respect is compatible with the promotion of individual autonomy by public institutions. The course will then present the main ideas of John Rawls' theory of social justice. Rawls has provided one of the more convincing and influential interpretation of the idea of democratic equality. His theory represents an essential reference for contemporary debate on social justice. Central to Rawls's theory are particular conceptions of competitive equality of opportunity and permissible economic inequality, that will be compared to alternative conceptions. Two lessons will be dedicated to the discussion of the idea of meritocracy in the distributions of jobs and of problems of justice in the social division of labor. Most contemporary theories of social justice assign to public institution the task of constraining economic inequality through social policy, including market regulation, taxation and public spending. It is not the task of philosophy to evaluate the efficacy of alternative social policy measures. However, the design of social policy raises questions of justice about which philosophy has something to say. The final lessons of Part 1 will address some of those questions.
Part 2 will shift from "ideal" to "non-ideal" theory: from a discussion of what social justice requires to a discussion of patterns of social injustice distinctive to our societies and of how they could be remedied. Following a suggestion by Iris Marion Young, social injustice will be defined in terms of oppression. The particular instances of oppression that will be tacked are sexism, racism and the oppression of sexual and cultural minorities. This part of the course will open with a general discussion of the concept of oppression, and of the forms of oppression and the way it manifests. The focus will then move on to sexism and racism, to consider similarities, differences and interactions between these patterns of oppression. At that point, a series of lessons will be devoted to discuss specific controversies that emerged in the context of feminist and LGBT+ movements and critical theory: (a) the controversy over the opportunity to recognize an individual right to gender self-determination and the forms that such a recognition should take; (b) the controversy over the opportunity to reform social conventions and institutions (including language, the law and social policy) to make them gender-neutral and how that could be done; (c) the controversy over the legal censorship and/or regulation of pornography and the need and goals of sexual education; (d) the controversy over the institution of marriage between those who would like it to be abolished and those who would like it to be reformed to be made more inclusive. The course will then shift back to racism, discussing the pathologies of racial segregation and, in Elizabeth Anderson's words, the "imperative of integration". Finally, a lesson will be devoted to the oppression of cultural minorities or "cultural imperialism", by discussing the forms and the risks of multiculturalism. The course will conclude with a general discussion of the oppressed groups' claim for recognition, drawing attention on the risks of identity politics and on the ambiguous relationship between recognition and emancipation.

Part 1 will address the following topics:

- the philosophical reflection on social justice
- fundamental political equality
- equality of respect, freedom and tolerance
- equality of respect: neutrality vs autonomy
- John Rawls' theory of social justice
- competitive equality of opportunity and economic inequality
- meritocracy and job distribution
- justice and the social division of labor
- justice in the design of social policy
- justice of taxation and justice in taxation

Part 2 will address the following topics:

- oppression: concept, forms and faces
- sexism and racism: similarities, differences and interactions
- the right to gender self-determination
- gender blindness vs gender sensitivity
- pornography, sexual liberation and sexual education
- reforming vs abolishing legal marriage
- racial segregation and the imperative of integration
- forms of multiculturalism and their risks
- merits and limits of affirmative action
- oppressed groups' claims for recognition
No preliminary knowledge is required.
Metodi didattici
For attending students, learning will be promoted through lectures, discussion, and individual reading of assigned material.
Attending students will be required to write two short position papers (2000/3000 words long) defending their personal positions on two topics chosen from a list provided by the teacher.
Non-attending student should prepare for the exam through the individual reading of assigned material.
Materiale di riferimento
The reading list will be provided by the beginning of the lessons.
Modalità di verifica dell’apprendimento e criteri di valutazione
Assessment methods and criteria will be different for attending and non-attending students.
In order to be considered an attending student, attendance of 3/5 of classes (12 on 20) is required. Attendance will be assessed, but students can miss up to two lessons without penalties.
For attending students, a provisional final assessment will be based on attendance, participation, two position papers, and a final written exam on the content of the lessons and the assigned readings. Students not satisfied with the provisional assessment will have the opportunity to take a final colloquium to try to improve it.
For non-attending students, the final assessment will be based on a written exam on the assigned readings and on a mandatory final colloquium.
For further information about assessment methods and criteria, and guidelines to write the position papers, consult the document uploaded on the Ariel website of the course.
Lezioni: 40 ore
Docente: Riva Nicola
Il docente riceve studenti e studentesse su base settimanale, in presenza o online, su appuntamento. Per fissare un appuntamento scrivere un'email al docente.
I ricevimenti in presenza si terranno presso l'ufficio del docente che si trova al secondo piano dell'edificio che si affaccia su via Passione (stanza 208). I ricevimenti online si terranno tramite Microsoft Teams.