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Keywords:

  • distributive justice;
  • recognition;
  • structural inequality;
  • Brian Barry;
  • social solidarity;
  • Nancy Fraser;
  • religious diversity

Abstract

Three key contributions of Iris Young to democratic political theory, and three challenges that have arisen in response to Young's theory, are examined here in relation to education. First, Young has argued that oppression and domination, not distributive inequality, ought to guide discussions about justice. Second, eliminating oppression requires establishing a politics that welcomes difference by dismantling and reforming structures, processes, concepts and categories that sustain difference-blind, impartial, neutral, universal politics and policies. The infatuation with merit and standardized tests, both of which are central to measuring educational achievement, are chief amongst the targets in need of reform. Third, a politics of difference requires restructuring the division of labour and decision-making so as to include disadvantaged social groups but allow them to contribute without foregoing their particularities. The challenges that have arisen in response to Young's theory are first, that difference is merely another way of getting at inequality of resources or opportunities, and if it is not, then, second, a politics of difference values difference for the sake of difference rather than for the sake of alleviating social disadvantage. Third, in theory and in practice a politics that focuses on difference putatively jeopardizes a politics whose aim is to improve the redistribution of resources.