Generating Justice: The social, legal, political and ethical issues of ensuring justice across generations.

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Politics Int Stu and Philosophy


This project will explore the social, legal, political and ethical issues of ensuring justice across generations. It will examine what justice requires of the present generation, what can be claimed against past generations, and what can be demanded by future generations. Its distinctive character and originality lies in the fact that it will examine these issues in three distinct areas: of criminal, reparative, and social justice. It will do so with a view both to understanding what problems are particular to each and to learning from comparisons between them.
Thus the key research questions are:
(1) What are the responsibilities of the current generation for the injustices of previous generations, especially in the context of post-conflict societies such as Northern Ireland?
(2) How should we understand and evaluate the transmission of social, economic advantage and disadvantage across generations?
(3) What is the proper understanding of legal liability for the wrongdoing of the present generation within a plausible theory of socialisation and familial education?
The project is interdisciplinary and will draw on staff at Queen's University Belfast from the subjects of Philosophy, Law, Politics, Criminology, Education and Sociology.
Leading academics with expertise in the three areas of the project will be invited to attend the relevant events. These include: Professor Antony Duff (Law, Stirling and Minnesota); Professor John Gardner (Law, Oxford);Professor Simon Caney (Politics, Oxford); Professor Maeve Cooke (Philosophy, University College Dublin); Professor Andrew Dobson (Politics, Keele); Professor Tim Hayward (Politics, Edinburgh); Professor Tom Lodge (Politics & Public Administration, Limerick); Professor Matt Matravers (Politics, York); Professor David Owen (Social and Political Philosophy, Southampton); (Professor Rupert Read (Philosophy, University of East Anglia); Professor Andrew Schaap (Politics, Exeter); Professor Adam Swift (Politics, Warwick); Professor Sypros Sypros (Sociology and Anthropology, European University, Cyprus).
The project will take the form of six workshops, two in each of the three areas, and a final conference designed to draw together the threads of the workshop discussions and oriented to the design of further research.
The six workshops are envisaged as follows:
(1) Responsibilities for past injustice (Looking back): Who should pay, and how, for the injustices of the previous generation? How do we now memorialise the wrongs of the past and what place is there for reparation, reconciliation and forgiveness?
(2) Responsibilities for future justice (Looking forward) : How can and how should the present generation avoid repeating the injustices of the past? What is the role of children and young people as 'custodians' of cultural heritages and identities that dispose to continuing conflict?
(3) The crimes of the present generation within the context of the past (I): can and should a proper account of criminal liability take account of family circumstances and parental misconduct?
(4) The crimes of the present generation within the context of the present (II): can we hold parents vicariously liable for the behaviour of their children? How should we understand the criminal responsibilities of children?
(5) Intergenerational social justice (I): what is owed by the current generation to future generations, with particular emphasis upon the problem of environmental degradation across time?
(6) Intergenerational social justice (II): how should we understand and evaluate the role of the family in the transmission of advantage and disadvantage?
The final conference will be entitled 'Generating Justice: The Problem of Intergenerational Justice'. It will comprise keynote addresses from invited speakers on each of the six sub-themes with respondents drawn from QUB.

Planned Impact

This research will have impact upon and benfits for
policy-makers, governments, and public sector agencies on matters concerning transition to post-conflict societies, the proper character of a criminal justice system in respect of the judicial treatment of young persons and families, the design of educational institutions and practices within the context of social and economic inequality, and the principles that should underpin the taxation, welfare and benefit system to ensure intergenerational fairness;
those organisations dealing with the problems of justice within post-conflict societies and concerned to learn from the lessons of a particular example such as that of Northern Ireland;
those working within the criminal justice system dealing with children and families;
those working within the criminal justice system and addressing issues arising from the transition to a post-conflict society, such as the role for truth and reconciliation;
those in public bodies and private charities working with the victims of conflict;
those in public bodies and private charities dealing with young offenders especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds and from dysfunctional families
those in the cultural sector who might be interested in the appropriate ways to memorialise past conflict
those within the educational system who need to address the issue of how young persons might inherit and transmit a cultural identity that predisposes to continuing social conflict


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Description Hong Kong 
Organisation Chinese University of Hong Kong
Country Hong Kong 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Formulation of new research project on comparative normative approaches to the understandings of our obligations to the old
Collaborator Contribution Named partners in research proposal, and hosts of one planned workshop in 2015
Impact None as yet
Start Year 2014