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Pursuing Social Justice: Redistribution and/or Recognition? (19-20)


Pursuing Social Justice: Redistribution and/or Recognition?

Nederlandse titelStreven naar sociale rechtvaardigheid: herverdeling en/of erkenning? 

Course Code



Professional skills

Year of Study

Master, 2nd year




7,5 ECTS




Dr. Ellen Grootegoed


Prof. dr. Evelien Tonkens, Dr. Ellen Grootegoed, Simon van der Weele MA, Jante Schmidt MA

Learning ObjectivesAccording to the requirements, after participating in Organization 2 the student is able to:

  1. Reproduce, analyze and compare different theories of social justice, (including theories of recognition, redistribution and representation)
  2. Apply different theories of social justice to contemporary social problems
  3. Analyze and reflect on the role of (citizens, professionals and other actors in) public organizations and social movements to solving or reframing these social problems.
  4. Make their own contribution to indicating and framing issues that are not yet recognized as social problems and argue why they do (not) deserve to be recognized as social problems. 
  5. Make their own contribution to contemporary debates on social justice and social problems. 

Content Description

This course gives a deepening of the knowledge gained in Organization 1. In this course we focus on contemporary social problems in relation to social justice, and the role of the (welfare) state in its pursuit. Social justice is reviewed through a lens of recognition, parity of participation and representation. The philosophical debate between Honneth and Fraser on the proper balance between redistribution and recognition (and representation) will guide us in the analysis of which social problems the welfare state needs to address, and how. Next to the more philosophical-theoretical debate on social justice, we also employ a sociological lens to study the lived, dehumanising experience of social injustices, as well as its possible recovery.


There is a mixed format with lectures, guest lectures and student participation. The participation of students includes individual tasks, group work, peer review and self-study.
The structure of the format is the same every week. The first three hours are plenary sessions, wherein we start with lectures on the weekly theme, occasionally followed by a guest lecture from someone active in the field.
The third hour is devoted to student’s presentations, wherein they critically discuss the literature of the week. After this we have two hours of workgroups; the first hour we will discuss the literature; the second hour is reserved for working on student papers, based on ongoing peer review.


Next to structural attendance, active involvement and weekly exercises, there are two key assignments:

  1. Scientific paper (75% of final grade): Students are assigned to write a scientific paper wherein they show proof of understanding of the course literature. Students may choose a topic of their own interest, which allows them to critically discuss welfare state policies and welfare state change through a philosophical and sociological lens.
  2. Group presentation (25% of final grade): On a weekly basis, students are responsible to give a presentation, and critically review the literature and compare different authors and viewpoints in relation to an overriding empirical and/or philosophical question.

and other prescribed

Required reading:

  • UvH Workbook + required articles/book chapters (available on ELO or in the library)
  • Fraser, N. and A. Honneth (2003) Redistribution or Recognition? A political-philosophical exchange. London/New York: Verso.
Recommended literature:

  • Thompson, S. (2006) The Political Theory of Recognition: A Critical Introduction.

The recommended articles are enlisted in the course book.