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Edited by Harald Wydra and Bjørn Thomassen

This Handbook engages the reader in the major debates, approaches, methodologies, and explanatory frames within political anthropology. Examining the shifting borders of a moving field of enquiry, it illustrates disciplinary paradigm shifts, the role of humans in political structures, ethnographies of the political, and global processes. Reflecting the variety of directions that surround political anthropology today, this volume will be essential reading to understanding the interactions of humans within political frames in a globalising world.
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Harald Wydra and Bjørn Thomassen

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Alan Walker

What does social justice mean with respect to later life? We need to comprehend the social injustices that are associated with old age, or what might be termed unjust ageing. These are inequalities that arise from the way that societies are organised rather than from diversities such as gender, race, ethnicity, personality or physical attributes that characterise all human societies. The good fortune to be born a woman does not have to result in injustice but, in patriarchal societies, it invariably means a subordinate economic status entailing lower income and more labour market precarity than a man, which in time means lower pension in old age. This inequality is not inevitable, but it is universal because societies are not arranged in ways to prevent it. The chapter looks at the policy measures required to ensure that social injustice is minimised in later life and the principles underpinning such a programme.

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Michael J. Prince

This chapter reviews debates about the nature of social justice with reference to Canada, in relation to welfare state arrangements, politics and social policies. Significant factors affecting the development of welfare provision and public attitudes to it include the treatment of Indigenous peoples and the impact of colonialism, apparent in the legacy of social assistance and, against the market economy and neo-liberalism of the present age, the begrudging public aid offered to poor people and disabled people. It shows in the persistent inequalities and insecurities in economic and social spheres of life, and the social justice work of social movements and activists. Social justice, both as idea and discourse, is highly relevant and hotly contested in Canadian social policy and governing. In the Canadian political context, social justice invariably is a constitutional and intergovernmental affair involving relationships and disputes between federal government and the provincial/territorial governments and Indigenous governments.

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Miriam E. David

The idea that gender equality in education has been achieved is a staple of public debate in this age of global neoliberalism. Consequently, educational policies, practices and underpinning research often do not deal explicitly with gender issues, such as sexual abuse, bullying, harassment, rape or violence against women and girls, nor with the more usual issues of the intersections between social class, diversity, ethnicity, racism or sexualities. Changing concepts of gender and sexuality, especially lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer, or intersexual are also not usually included in these considerations about educational equality. The assumption that neoliberal education has provided for individual opportunities for all, whether for social class or social mobility, and the gender norms on which they are based, is taken as axiomatic. The chapter argues this kind of educational approach is ‘misogyny masquerading as metrics’ and for changes in the patriarchal rules of the game, including questioning ‘gender norms’ and stereotypical binaries.

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Gary Craig

This chapter is based on the findings of a study which sought to investigate how UK civil society associations (CSAs) understood the meaning of social justice, and the extent to which they felt it was reflected in their work. The chapter offers a glimpse of the way in which other, particularly non-state, organisations might assess the social justice orientation of what they do. CSAs are generally defined as incorporating voluntary and community sector organisations, faith-based groups, trades unions, informal citizen groups, cooperatives and mutual and political parties. In short, civil society is all forms of human association that fill the space between the state and the individual, and between the public and the private spheres. The research showed that CSAs tended to identify the key elements of social justice as to do with fairness and equality. The chapter reviews the extent to which these were reflected in the structure and practices of the organisations, their relationship with their publics and the outcomes of their work.

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David Beetham

This chapter analyses the significance of the claims of social justice on democratic forms of political life. The claim of democracy is that it provides both a standard of social justice in the political sphere and a means to remedy injustices in economy and society. As the author notes, it bears both an intrinsic and extrinsic relationship to social justice. The two basic principles of democracy – popular control over collective decision-making and decision-makers, and equality in the exercise of that control – serve as a clear standard for social justice in the political domain. In the context of a representative democracy, these two principles require that votes for public office should determine both who governs and the broad thrust of government policy, and that votes should count equally.

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Tom Shakespeare and Nicholas Watson

Recently, ways of thinking about and acting on disability have been transformed globally. This transformation, beginning in America and Britain in the 1960s, has spread across the world, and has seen changes in social and public policy towards disability across a range of sectors. Included here are changes in housing, employment, education, leisure and recreation. The key driver for this change has been the influence of self-organised groups of disabled people demanding a radical change in the way disability is understood. They rejected the traditional medical approach, arguing instead that the problems disabled people faced arose not because they had an impairment, but rather as the outcome of social structures and practices. Disability, they argued, is a problem of social justice and not a medical problem. This was formalised in what has become widely accepted as the social model of disability.

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Nicolette Naylor and Halima Mahomed

This chapter focuses on language and meaning by looking at the contradictions in both the language and the practice of social justice philanthropy. It starts by separating philanthropy from social justice, setting out the historical and classical Greek definition as well as its more modern understanding. This specifically concretizes the understanding of philanthropy within the realm of “love of humanity” as opposed to a discussion around money or wealth. The theory of philanthropy is grounded within a social justice framework; social justice is a commonly used term to distinguish a specific type of philanthropy rooted in principles of fairness, justice, and equity, and addressing structural causes of problems faced in societies. Since there is no consensus on the definition or practical application – sometimes it is assumed to be implicit in the very notion of philanthropy and sometimes it is used as a specific framework or strategy within philanthropic practice – this chapter interrogates some key theoretical approaches to social justice philanthropy.

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Patrick Savidan

The analysis of social justice discourses in France is subtitled ‘A democratisation of an oligarchic ethos’. This alludes to the fact of rapidly increasing inequality and wealth accumulation by a very small oligarchic elite and the concomitant desire amongst many people to be on the ‘right side’ of history, that is to say to be amongst this elite, in a sense to ‘democratise’ wealth accumulation. The author argues we know that this happened not just as a consequence of relevant governments being unable to control or reverse the rising tide of inequality. Substantial research shows that government can redress economic inequities and that recent social and economic policies have impacted on inequality. What then, he asks, can drive large portions of the middle classes or even the poor to support (or to not oppose) policies and political movements that serve preferences or interests that are not their own. This paradox can be explained both by the dynamic of inequality since the 1970s and by the more widely shared distrust towards governments and political parties.