I’m stuck on a Philosophy question and need an explanation.
, I wanted to give you some reading guidance on Shelby‘s piece, to make it easier for you to follow his argument.The central question it seeks to answer is: what moral requirements apply to the ‘urban poor,’ and what forms of moral criticism for some of their ‘deviant’ behavior is thus appropriate or inappropriate?
The article is organized in six parts (plus an introduction that motivates, and provides some political background to, the question Shelby pursues).
- Part I outlines a broadly Rawlsian framework for thinking about social justice, and uses it to shed light on racial justice and injustice in particular.
- Part II summarizes some of the relevant empirical literature (mostly by sociologists and economists) about (i) the actual circumstances of those living in what sociologists call ‘urban ghettos,’ and (ii) the consequences that institutional racism has for the urban poor, specifically with regard to employment, housing, and criminal justice.
- Part III asks whether the ‘deviant’ conduct (i.e., conduct in violation of widely held social expectations) by those living in urban ghettos is ‘unreasonable,’ by which Shelby means: “do these forms of deviance express an unwillingness to honor the fair terms of social cooperation that others accept and abide by?” (143-144) This section basically brings together the Rawlsian framework (from Part I) with the empirical observations (from Part II) to assess which moral requirements in fact apply to the urban poor, and which ones don’t. Shelby’s conclusion is that at least some moral requirements that might apply to other citizens – what he calls ‘civic obligations’ – do not apply to the urban poor, because these requirements are conditional on forms of reciprocity that are not satisfied between the urban poor and the rest of society.
- Part IV discusses what moral requirements do apply to the urban poor even if they lack certain civic obligations. It identifies, in particular, various natural duties of justice that apply to the urban poor, especially in relation to each other, even if the larger society they live in is unjust.
- Part V discusses deviant (law- and norm-breaking) behavior that rises to the level of (something like) rebellion. [I suggest you read this, but largely ignore it for the time being. It touches on issues that we will return to when we begin discussing civil and uncivil disobedience, in a couple of weeks. We will discuss Shelby’s views on these matters then.]
- Section VI concludes.
In your response of 300 words try to answer the following questions:
- What is Shelby’s central question or concern? (Look at the introduction, as well as the first couple of paragraphs of Part III, on pp.143-144.)
- In Part II, Shelby adduces empirical evidence relevant to the question whether “an unjust basic structure is a significant causal factor in explaining the rise and persistence of ghetto conditions” (where “such conditions diminish the life prospects of citizens who live under them”) (p.143). So as you read Part II, keep track of two questions: (i) what ‘ghetto conditions’ diminish the life prospects of citizens who live under them, and (ii) which of these conditions are plausibly causally dependent on unjust legal, political, and economic institutions and practices?
- What moral requirements apply to the urban poor even if they lack civic obligations?