What is a Just State?Intersectionality and Utilitarianism – PHI 2301

The notion of a ‘just state’ is a concept that has been explored by leading philosophers over the centuries. In particular, the organization of a nation state, power structure, education and the relationship between the individual and the state have emerged as major areas of focus in this philosophical discourse. This paper will, therefore, explore this conception by first discussing intersectionality, utilitarianism, in addition to conducting an in-depth evaluation of intersectional and traditional social justice approaches. 

            Intersectionality is a relatively modern theoretical framework which primarily focuses on exclusive types of discrimination brought forth by combining social and political identities. The initial objective of this charter was to elucidate aspects of feminism which had not been explored by leading proponents of the movement. For instance, proponents of intersectionality such as Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw were critical of the preliminary agenda which seemingly explored this concept through the perspective of Caucasian white middle-class woman. In coining this term, Crenshaw sought to introduce a comprehensive agenda to probe combinations of injustices experienced by society at large. Furthermore, Crenshaw endeavored to introduce a qualitative analytic framework to categorize intertwining structures of power responsible for the injustices suffered by marginalized members of society. It was through this agenda that overlapping categories were classified in a bid to promote equity within society. According to Rosen et al. (2015), intersectionality bolstered the feminist agenda by concentrating on the amalgamation of various forms of oppression which can be attributed to injustice in society (p.123). Contemporary intersectionality investigates multiple sources of oppression commonplace in society and the fact that individuals are typically treated for one. The interaction of varying social identities and experiences eventually shape human beings, in addition to the disposition they adopt later on in life.  Intersectionality essentially acknowledges that intragroup differences are typical in society, even in the case of individuals sharing a common identity. Individual experiences differed slightly due to an overlay of sexual, racial, and religious identities which eventually resulted in an intersection of oppressions.

            The idea behind utilitarianism is the adoption of policies and actions with the aim of promoting the overall well-being of society. It is anchored in the premise that a just society is one which primarily focuses on maximizing the happiness and welfare of the individual members for posterity. Maximizing utility in society aims to introduce positive consequences while considering the interests of all affected parties equally. Utilitarianism, as espoused by John Stuart Mill, is now widely regarded as a moral theory whose main objective is improving the welfare of the community through the introduction of individual benefits (Mitchell, 2015). However, it is essential to note that utilitarianism regarded pleasure as a relative concept with fluctuating aspects of quality and quantity.  Individuals seeking pleasure were required to acknowledge its basis in higher faculties and direct links to the decisive attainment of goals and life objectives. Besides, utilitarianism also included aspects of virtuous living as a regular sentiment of the social nature of human beings. These standards form the basis of utilitarianism which should always be considered when regarding it as an ethical approach. Utilitarianism also places happiness at the crux of morality. It is the sole desire of every individual, with every other item being regarded as a means to an end. Thus, justice in society has its foundation on utility since the existence of rights is solely for the purpose of improving human happiness.  Intersectional and traditional social justice approaches are two dissimilar systems that have emerged over the course of time.  The intersectional justice approach is archetypally applied to multiple grounds complaints which consist of a combination of subjugations which ultimately produce distinct discrimination.  This approach reckons the social and political context in a case when probing a sufferer’s unique set of circumstances. For instance, the type of discrimination experienced by a woman from an ethnic minority may differ significantly from that of a man from the same ethnicity and vice versa.   This phenomenon is attributed to distinctive types of stereotyping which exist in society. Belonging to a specific organized religion such as Islam may expose an adherent to religious discrimination only if they pinpoint an additional ground such as race as a basis for this percipience. Similarly, an individual with a physical disability may experience unique experiences of discrimination, especially when age becomes a factor. An older individual from a racialized group (such as a Native American) with a disability may be subjected to disproportionate discrimination which ultimately introduces significant disadvantages. The intersectional approach is cognizant of the intricacies of individual’s experiences of discrimination while taking the historical, social and political aspects into account.  The traditional social justice approach focuses exclusively on justice with special focus on relations between affected individuals and society. It is based upon access to opportunities and social privileges within a society which commonly shares links with an individual’s ability to fulfill social roles. For instance, the reciprocal relationship currently existing in society is a methodology based on an individual’s responsibility and their access to instruments of power. Thus, this approach assigns rights and responsibilities to individual members based various institutions of a well-designed society.

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