Freedom from Past Injustices

Freedom from Past Injustices: A Critical Evaluation of Claims for Inter-Generational Reparations

Nahshon Perez
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 200
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt3fgs5d
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  • Book Info
    Freedom from Past Injustices
    Book Description:

    Should contemporary citizens provide material redress to right past wrongs? There is a widespread belief that contemporary citizens should take responsibility for rectifying past wrongs. Nahshon Perez challenges this view, questioning attempts to aggregate dead wrongdoers with living people, and examining ideas of intergenerational collective responsibility with great suspicion. He distinguishes sharply between those who are indeed unjustly enriched by past wrongs, and those who are not.Looking at issues such as the distinction between compensation and restitution, counterfactuals and the non-identity problem, Perez concludes that individuals have the right to a clean slate, and that almost all of the pro-intergenerational redress arguments are unconvincing.Key Features: >Unique in claiming past wrongs should not be rectifiedAnalyses pro-intergenerational material redress argumentsCase studies include court cases from Australia, Northern Cyprus, the United States and Austria

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-4964-8
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Analytical Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    This book is written as a critique of a fashionable opinion: namely, that historical injustices should be redressed. Calls for redressing past wrongs¹ are widespread both in the academy and elsewhere. Examples of this general tendency, both from within the academic literature and from a variety of other sources, will be examined in this book.

    In sharp contradiction to this fashionable opinion, I shall argue that in the vast majority of cases, there are very good reasons to let bygones be bygones. Several different justifications for the “let bygones be bygones” position will be examined in this book. However, the...

  7. Chapter 1 Laying the Groundwork
    (pp. 8-23)

    Historical injustices are cases of substantial past wrongs, in which all the original wrongdoers and all the original victims have since passed away. I shall assume that the wrong has ended, and that related debates – regarding, let us say, entitlements of descendants of the deceased victims – take place in a broadly conceived liberal democratic society with no legal discrimination against such descendants.

    Some notes about this definition: I am discussing only substantial cases of past wrongs, so the definition intentionally excludes the 1 cent the Jane stole from John in 1870 in New York. Cases that will be considered have...

  8. Chapter 2 Non-identity and Redressing Historical Injustices
    (pp. 24-39)

    The non-identity problem presents an urgent challenge to scholars wishing to justify redressing historical injustices, and is the first hurdle that any pro-intergenerational redress argument will need to bypass. This chapter is dedicated to an examination of this problem. The non-identity problem is as follows: if living is (usually) better than non-living, and if a given historical injustice is causally connected to the existence of the descendants of deceased victims of this historical injustice, how can a living person be wronged by something without which he or she would not exist? Surely the historical injustice improved his or her situation...

  9. Chapter 3 Against Redress (1): The Individualistic Perspective
    (pp. 40-59)

    The goal of this chapter is to examine closely the most recent, and important, attempt to justify redressing past wrongs, and, more specifically, to justify offering monetary compensation to descendants of deceased victims of past wrongs. I started to examine this argument in Chapter 2 above in the context of the non-identity problem, however, this is perhaps the most successful attempt to justify intergenerational redress and it merits a comprehensive examination aside from the analysis offered in the context of the non-identity problem. This individualistic-based argument was suggested by several scholars, and I shall refer to it as the “continuing...

  10. Chapter 4 Against Redress (2): Thinking about Collectivities, States, and Nations
    (pp. 60-98)

    This chapter analyzes the claim that redressing past wrongs is justified on the ground of intergenerational collective responsibility. As will become clear throughout the deliberations of this chapter, “collective responsibility” can mean various different things, following the diverse ways in which scholars construct and support such pro-redress arguments. The underlying tone of this chapter is one of skepticism toward arguments for intergenerational collective responsibility. There are two main reasons for this skepticism. The first is that, in order to argue for the existence of intergenerational collective responsibility, one needs to demonstrate the existence of a collective. As the collectives discussed...

  11. Chapter 5 Intergenerational Redress and Forward-looking Considerations, and the Remaining Case for Redressing Past Wrongs
    (pp. 99-124)

    This chapter aims to cover two subject matters: forward-looking considerations regarding intergenerational redress for past wrongs; and, following the various arguments critiquing intergenerational redress examined in previous chapters and the first part of the current chapter, an analysis of a justified case of a claim for intergenerational redress.

    Forward-looking considerations with regard to intergenerational redress differ from the pro-redress arguments examined so far, as they do not focus on the past wrong, harms to victims, or the obligations of the wrongdoers and their beneficiaries. Rather, they consider such issues as relations between communities, resumption of economic activity, and deterrence. Such...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 125-137)

    In thinking through the results of my argument as a whole, it may be fruitful to recall Isaiah Berlin’s famous short essay, which contrasted the hedgehog to the fox: the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.¹ Thinking about the various arguments that were raised against the idea of intergenerational redress in this book, it seems that the objections resemble the fox’s knowledge. There is no one grand idea that serves as a trump argument against intergenerational redress. Rather, there are various considerations and arguments, employed in various different contexts, which counter a variety of very...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 138-180)
  14. Index
    (pp. 181-186)