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Colonialism, injustices of the past, and the hole in Nine

Published in Taylor & Francis

In ‘Colonialism, territory and pre-existing obligations,’ Cara Nine argues that Lea Ypi’s account of the wrongness of colonialism has a hole in it: Ypi leaves open the possibility of justified settler colonialism. Nine suggests that we can patch this hole by attaching value to existing political associations. But Nine’s solution has its own hole. Many political associations exist due to settler colonialism, and thus if we endorse the value of these associations we seem to endorse colonialism. In response, we could say that past colonial injustices have been remediated or superseded. Or, we could leave the hole open: colonialism is sometimes justified. I argue that, surprisingly, the second option is likely preferable, because it does not require us to say that the injustices of colonialism are gone, and because it points towards a better theory of colonialism’s wrongness than Ypi’s: cosmopolitan instrumentalism, according to which colonialism is wrong only when it is unjust according to one’s overall theory of cosmopolitan justice.

About the journal
JournalCritical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Open AccessNo