Structural Injustice

On 31 May 2018, Professor Jonathan Wolff (Oxford) delivered the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics 2018 annual lecture at the University of Birmingham. 

The public lecture was a freestanding event related to the 2018 Conference of the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics on A Post-Liberal World? 


Iris Marion Young’s concept of structural injustice has proved enormously helpful in thinking about how it is possible for structures as a whole to generate and sustain injustice in a way that cannot be reduced to the unjust actions of particular individuals. As others have pointed out, however, in her published works the concept of structural injustice is left in a relatively undeveloped state and it could benefit from further analysis. Drawing on related notions, such as structural violence and institutional racism, I will attempt to provide one way of adding more detail to the concept. In particular I will explore what can be gained from the fact that a structure is also an engineering concept, and hence there may be parallels between the concept of structural injustice and a structural problem in, for example, a building. In this way, different types of remedies to address different type of injustice become more apparent.

Jonathan Wolff is the Blavatnik Chair in Public Policy in association with Wolfson College at the University of Oxford (also visit his personal webpage). He is a political philosopher who works on questions of equality, disadvantage and social justice. He has had a long standing interest in health and health promotion, including questions of justice in health care resource allocation, the social determinants of health, and incentives and health behaviour. His work in recent years has also turned to applied topics such as public safety, disability, gambling, and the regulation of recreational drugs, social equality and social exclusion.”