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Redressing Historical Injustice

Waldron, Jeremy
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) In, Lukas H. Meyer, ed., Justice in Time: Responding to Historical Injustice. Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft. Pp. 55-77.

Jeremy Waldron begins this chapter with reference to Immanuel Kant’s argument that each person and each group has the right to approach or visit other individuals and peoples anywhere in the world to try to establish relationships or engage in commerce. Kant insisted, however, this is not the same as a right to settle in another region or land if already settled by others. Waldron goes on to point out that Kant was less clear as to what should happen once this latter situation had occurred – that is, after settlement had taken place in lands already inhabited by others, especially without the agreement of the original inhabitants. The issue becomes more complicated over time, namely, when subsequent generations live in a place long after the original injustice of intrusion and settlement had occurred. In this regard, Waldron notes Kant’s “proximity principle.â€? This principle refers to the duty people have to enter into political society when they live close to each other, when they unavoidably co-exist with others. In the above instance, when subsequent generations live in the same land where in the past one group had invaded and expropriated the land of the original inhabitants, they have a duty to enter into political society. They cannot reverse time and undo the historical injustice, nor should they act as if it did not occur. How then do subsequent generations come to terms with one another and establish a fair arrangement for sharing lands and resources? Waldron explores all of this concretely by discussing the nineteenth century European appropriation of Maori land in what is now New Zealand.


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