Patriarchal Bargains and Responsibility for Structural Injustice

Anno LVIII, n. 238, settembre-dicembre 2023
Centro Einaudi
Articolo completo/Full text


Iris Marion Young (2011) introduces a paradigm shift in the conceptualization of responsibility through the elaboration of her Social Connection Model (SCM) to combat structural injustice. This model offers a shared political understanding of responsibility, aiming to avoid victim-blaming and the imposition of supererogatory duties on the oppressed. However, two objections emerge regarding the application of the SCM. First, Young’s approach of assigning differentiated duties based on individual circumstances raises concerns about potential evasion by both oppressors and victims, leading to the phenomenon of ‘undererogation’. Second, some question the SCM’s effectiveness in transcending blame, with the allocation of differentiated duties potentially resulting in a resurgence of victim-blaming.
In this paper, I address both objections in relation to the issue of patriarchal bargains. To tackle the first, I propose turning to Serene Khader’s deliberative perfectionist approach (Khader 2011), which advocates for an intersubjectively defined spectrum of vulnerability. This spectrum can help determine the scope and degrees of victims’ duties, thus mitigating the issue of undererogation. To address the second objection regarding the risk of victim-blaming, I suggest two strategies: 1) Robin Zheng’s clarification of Young’s distinction between blaming and criticizing (Zheng 2018; 2019), and 2) differentiating between victim-blaming and blaming victims after the allocation of justified duties. While both strategies have their limitations, they provide valuable insights for navigating the complexities of Young’s
reconceptualization of responsibility in relation to blame.

This article is the winner of the Young Researcher Award for the best article on the topic Forms of Injustice sponsored by the Department of Political and Social Studies at the University of Salerno and by the Italian Society for Women in Philosophy (SWIP Italia).