How should we understand and combat injustice? Is it only the responsibility of those who suffer the consequences or perpetrate the harm? When it comes to addressing injustice, for many the first step is assigning blame – usually satisfied through a specific individual or thing. Although compartmentalism and blame may make our problems seem smaller and seemingly easier to address, Thomas J. Donahue-Ochoa
’s (Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science, Haverford College), in his new book Unfreedom for All: How the World's Injustices Harm You
(Oxford University Press, 2019), concludes that responsibility for injustice should not fall on the few, but rather the many. Looking at injustice through three main lenses – race, gender, and poverty – Donahue-Ochoa argues that oppression and inequality damage everyone, perpetuators, bystanders, and victims alike. Since injustice is bad for everyone, not just those it directly impacts, it is therefore in our best interest to combat it in every form no matter whether or not it directly impacts our own identities.
Donahue-Ochoa highlights three paradoxes that he believes thwart our ability to address injustice: it is necessary to use identity politics to fight injustice: the focus on single identities cause and perpetuate injustice; and tools used by perpetrators of injustice
should never be used by those seeking justice. Donahue-Ochoa helpfully maps these beliefs onto both popular journalism and academic scholarship. Unfreedom for All
argues that “there is a sense in which all three beliefs are true” and the seeming incompatibility can be explained by carefully distinguishing between two functions: diagnosing and remedying injustice.
Unfreedom for All
offers a new theory for understanding the consequences of systemic injustices. When it comes to oppressive authoritarian systems, Donahue-Ochoa argues it is not only a moral duty for individuals to unite against this threat to justice, but rather it is also in their own best interest. Although oppression is carried out through marginalization and the oppression of specific identities, leaving many seemingly “unaffected,” Donahue-Ochoa's theory argues in accordance with an old line of liberal thought that is, “"No one is free while others are oppressed!" Unfreedom for All
is a message for society that if we truly want to achieve justice we cannot do it separately or only when it concerns our personal identities, but rather all those in society must unite against injustice for it harms us all.
Bernadette Crehan assisted with this podcast.
Susan Liebell is associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Democracy, Intelligent Design, and Evolution: Science for Citizenship (Routledge, 2013) and, most recently, “Retreat from the Rule of Law: Locke and the Perils of Stand Your Ground” in the Journal of Politics (August 2020).