How can injustice be reduced in practice? : A philosophical and empirical exploration of ways to promote justice

  • Saori Murakami

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The idea of justice has long been debated by philosophers, as has the issue of how such theoretical debates may contribute to reducing injustice in practice. The thesis aims to contribute to these long-lasting debates by a two-fold methodology of philosophical discussion and empirical exploration. In the first place, the thesis draws on the literature on theories of justice to develop a theoretical model which specifies both a model of justice and a potential path to promote it. As the foundational building block, it takes Amartya Sen’s theoretical framework of justice, and the features it proposes of pragmatism, open-endedness, and the centrality of public reasoning. However, it argues that this alone is not sufficient. Despite great strengths, Sen’s framework has three limits: it does not have a normative criterion by which the extent of justice may be assessed; there remain idealisations in its concept of public reasoning; and it conceptualises public reasoning in an over-individualised way. Thus, the thesis proposes that Sen’s theoretical framework of justice needs to be augmented, by the normative criterion of ‘equal dignity’ on the one hand, and the dynamic expression of public reasoning encapsulated in Nancy Fraser’s concept of ‘subaltern counter publics’ on the other. In the second place, the thesis embarks on an empirical exploration by applying the model to real-world contexts where struggles for justice are taking place so as to gain empirical feedback. Firstly, by using other scholars’ studies, it examines whether injustice is actually reduced through the operation of subaltern counter publics as theorised in the model. Secondly, by utilising fieldwork data from my own primary study in West Bengal, India, it brings to light the dynamic and complex operation of a subaltern counter public. It then explores how the subaltern counter public has emerged and evolved over the years. In so doing, it develops the model further with practical implications to guide actions and policies for the promotion of greater justice.
Date of Award21 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSarah White (Supervisor) & Aurelie Charles (Supervisor)


  • social justice
  • democracy
  • Amartya Sen

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