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Civil society. Historical injustice . Corporate historical injustice and its redress. Historical injustice. Civil Society. “Civil society” is a sphere of democratic societies distinct from the state and the market economy..

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Points covered:

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Points covered:Civil societyHistorical injustice Corporate historical injustice and its redress

Historical injusticeSlide2

Civil Society“Civil society” is a sphere of democratic societies distinct from the state and the market economy.Organizations which comprise civil society include:NGOs, universities, churches, social movements, consumers’ groups, environmental groups, trades unions.Slide3

What “happens” in civil society?The organisations of civil society inform the public about an issue and try to mobilize public opinion and influence the political agenda – locally, nationally and internationally. It is a sphere of political engagement beyond party politics.Slide4

Corporations and civil societyCorporations are usually seen not to be a part of civil society as defined above, though they (as well as governments) are often the focus of criticism and opposition by civil society groups.Slide5

Historical injustice?Historical injustice is a wrong committed by an agent which, when committed, was legal but which is subsequently acknowledged by the perpetrator to be unjust.Slide6

CompensationPrinciple of compensation:A victim, V, to whom injustice has been done.

A perpetrator,


, of the injustice

Compensation, C, which redresses the injustice.

To compensate for the wrong done to V, P pays C to V.Slide7

Compensation & historical injusticeThe perpetrators of the injustice are very often dead.The direct victims are also often dead.

Who is to be compensated, how and by whom?Slide8

Loyalty and identity In professing its guilt and offering compensation, a contemporary government or people recognises its identity across time and assumes collective responsibility for the injustice of its predecessors, even if those who perpetrated the injustice are dead.‘[I]t would at first appear that there is no institution … other than the state that can take on collective responsibility’ (


2007, p. 55).Slide9

Corporations and historical injusticeCorporations, too, perpetrate injustice.Is it feasible that present owners of a corporation identify with the corporation’s past and collectively assume responsibility for past injustices committed by the corporation?Slide10

Corporate injustice in Nazi GermanyDuring World War II, corporations, e.g. Volkswagen, IG Farben, made use of forced (slave) labour performed by inmates of


or concentration camps.Slide11

Corporate injustice in Nazi GermanyNot all corporations which committed injustice in Hitler’s Germany were German. Examples:IBMFordOpel (GM)

Standard OilSlide12

German Business Foundation InitiativeWhy did German companies help set up this initiative in 1999?Was it:Due to a sense of guilt?

A public relations exercise?

To bring an end to future lawsuits from Holocaust survivors?Slide13

German Business Foundation InitiativeWhat was the historical identity that these firms were representing - German business in general?‘Underlying this line of thinking was the path-breaking concept of private business as a continuous, long-standing and inter-generational association with moral duties’ (


2007, p. 59).Slide14

German Business Foundation Initiative‘[T]he overwhelming majority of German business … did not take part in the initiative’ (ibid., p. 60). Some companies which did not exist before World War II did contribute to the fund. Many corporations (e.g. Swiss, Swedish, American) have embarked on no such initiative.Slide15

Corporations and civil societyDoes the Initiative mark a “venturing out” into “civil society” by corporations and what does this mean?