The ‘structural injustice’ framework is an increasingly influential way of thinking about historical injustice. Structural injustice theorists argue against reparations for historical injustice on the grounds that our focus should be on forward-looking responsibility for contemporary structural injustice. Through the use of a case study – the Caribbean Community (CARICOM’s) 10-Point Plan for reparations from 2014 – I argue that this reasoning is flawed. Backward-looking reparations can be justified on the basis of state liability over time. The value of backward-looking reparations is that they ensure that historical perpetrators do not evade their reparative obligations and that affected communities are taken seriously. However, I argue that this backward-looking approach should be supplemented by a forward-looking structural injustice approach and the ‘social connection model’ of responsibility, which can (a) expand the scope of responsible agents and forms of injustice that warrant repair and (b) explain how citizens living now can be expected to pay for crimes of the past.
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Earlier drafts of this article have been presented at ‘Repairing the Past, Imagining the Future: Reparations and Beyond…’ (University of Edinburgh, 2015), the ECPR general conference (Montreal, 2015), and Collective Responsibility for the Future (University College Dublin, 2015). Many thanks to participants in these sessions for their helpful comments. Thanks also to the Free University-Berlin historical injustice reading group and Alasia Nuti for comments on an early version. Many thanks to Timothy Waligore for written comments on the final draft. The initial research for this article was made possible by a postdoctoral research fellowship at Justitia Amplificata, Goethe University Frankfurt. Final thanks to the anonymous reviewers at CPT for very helpful comments.
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McKeown, M. Backward-looking reparations and structural injustice. Contemp Polit Theory (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41296-020-00463-9
- structural injustice
- historical injustice