Page, Jennifer: Theorizing the Injustice of the State

(PDF) Liberal democratic governments use a variety of institutional safeguards to preempt the abuse of political power. Yet state-sponsored injustice does take place in liberal democracies, which suggests that these safeguards are not always failsafe.

State-sponsored injustice moreover has the ability to leave a lasting imprint even long after the law or order that authorizes it is annulled. A theoretical framework of state-sponsored injustice that consists of six elements— authorization, protection, systemization, execution, enablement, and norm- and belief-formation—describes how state-sponsored injustice takes place in a liberal democracy. The framework is illustrated with the example of eugenical sterilization laws in the United States. All in all, injustices that have societal roots can be greatly exacerbated by the state’s involvement. The legality of the law and the privileged nature of political authority give rise to a capacity for state-sponsored injustice that is not anticipated in the institutional design of liberal democracy to a sufficient degree.

 (This framework is adapted from part of a chapter of a dissertation on reparations for state-sponsored injustice.)