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Current Research

My current research focuses on global injustice and on human rights.  One ongoing project, a book tentatively entitled Political Theory and the Politics of Injustice, criticizes the theoretical approach taken by most global normative theorists to questions of justice and injustice.  That approach – which I call ideal moral theory — seeks first to work out what spotless justice (Amartya Sen’s term) requires, on the assumption that without a fully specified account of justice it is impossible to identify injustice or to think coherently about reform.  I propose that injustice is better understood as a function of ideology – that is, of people’s values, beliefs, commitments, and worldviews.  On this view, making sense of injustice requires a thoroughly politicized hermeneutics, an interpretation of injustice that treats it not as some moral truth but rather as a fundamentally political concept.  Adopting this view transforms our notions of the role of political theory in relation to injustice and indicates the need for a political approach to combating it. Related projects include papers on responsibility for injustice and on the nature of the problem of justice itself.

 

A second ongoing project conceptualizes human rights in a similar way.  I am interested in thinking about human rights not as moral truths but rather as political tools.  This way of conceptualizing rights turns the conventional wisdom about them – that they express some essential truth about human beings or about morality – on its head.  By looking at rights primarily as contested political claims, we can make much more sense of their global appeal and of the ongoing controversy surrounding them.  I have published one paper on this topic so far, and several others (and a book) are in the works.