Children and Social Justice

Biggeri, Mario; Leßmann, Ortrud; Babic, Bernhard; Clark, Zoë; Graf, Gunter; Schweiger, Gottfried (2014). 'Children and Social Justice' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

Participation without Welfare? The UN Convention on the rights of the child, feminism and the CA by  Clark

During the last decades a significant part of the debate around CRC focused on participation conceptualized as the avantgardistic aspect of the CRC with important political and social impact. A shift in the definition of childhood– away from a passive object of welfare towards an active, participating agent and a political person – is linked to the participative articles which are considered as  revolutionary. 

This contribution challenges the enthusiasm for this new way of thinking about children derived from the UNCRC. Doubts will be casted on the implications of the UNCRC concerning the relation of welfare and participation, but also with respect to dualistic distinctions between public and private domains. The contribution will scrutinize whether the proclaimed shift in understanding childhood is desirable and necessary in order to recognize children as subjects of justice. Its main line of argument is as follows: Within the UNCRC those aspects related to participation are to be ensured by public institutions, while those related to welfare are understood as a matter of interpersonal relationship within nuclear families. This implies a distinction between legally binding right at the one hand and a natural, moral duty of parents on the other hand. As far as welfare is concerned a naturalizing ideology of the family is an intrinsic part of the UNCRC. The trap fall of a dualistic distinction between public political spheres with agental political persons vs. private family is a product from classical liberal models of political contractualism. But – as I will argue – a feminist informed rethinking of contractualism could provide a fundament for analyzing conditions of children's autonomy and their identity formation, and for taking processes of adaption of preferences and possible mechanisms of alienation into account. If the CRC is not considered as carved in stone, but as a milestone, we need to discuss its inherent family ideology and  take more aspects of humanity then political personhood into account.


Evolving Capabilities in Children? Importance and Requirements of such a Concept in Child Poverty Alleviation by Leßmann and Babic

The CA emphasizes the importance of being able to choose a life one values and has reason to value. It demands to see people as agents rather than patients in shaping their own lives. While there are good reasons to apply the same idea to children, there is agreement that a child's agency is still in development. In the context of child rights it has been argued to involve children as far as possible while respecting their 'evolving capacities'. In the same vein, Ballet et al(2011) suggested the notion of 'evolving capabilities'.

In order to specify the notion of 'evolving capabilities' we suggest understanding children's 'capabilities' as a broad term. On the one hand 'capabilities' refer to the 'capacities' of children primarily understood as their specific and growing physical and cognitive abilities and traditionally subject of child-related developmental and cross-cultural psychology. On the other hand 'capabilities' refer to the opportunities provided by society and to the normative framework that usually defines the functionings to be achieved. It is a freedom-type notion. Hence we suggest taking the findings of socialization research into account and consider both their freedom as a child and their future freedom as an adult. In our view the notion of children's 'evolving capabilities' can build also on Havighurst's 'developmental tasks'. Havighurst's concept assumes that human development is characterized by a long series of tasks that individuals have to cope with. Successful achievement of an earlier task leads usually to happiness and to success with later ones. Failure may in contrast result in unhappiness and difficulty with later tasks.

For the case of poverty alleviation programs in Mexico, Pick and Sirkin show that intrinsically motivated behavior changes are likely to sustain whereas extrinsically motivated behavior shifts are usually reversed when the incentive is withdrawn. To what extent these findings can be transferred to the case of children and child poverty alleviation is a question we take up in the final part.



Social justice for children – what can the capability approach offer?  By Graf andSchweiger

In our paper we explore what the capability approach can contribute to the current philosophical debates on justice for children.In the first part, we suggest that achild-sensitive theory of justice must at least deal with four issues: First, it must be able to conceptualize the well-being of children and to give intrinsic value to the life experienced in childhood. Second, theorizing about justice needs to incorporate a life course perspective. Third, it must be clarified to what level of well-being and well-becoming children are entitled. Fourth, considerations of justice need to go hand in hand with an account of responsibilities. In the second part, we introduce the CA, focusing particularly on its contributions to the concept of justice. We compare the basic aims of the CA with the identified concerns and argue that there is a lot of common ground between them. However, we will show that many claims of the approach are in need of further specification in order to give a valuable guidance for establishing a systematic account of justice for children.In the third part, we will take up this challenge, focusing on three points. First, we argue that a minimal conception of justice for children has to specify a set of core functionings and capabilities. Second, we show that the CA is best be interpreted as a sufficitarian approach. What matters is not that everyone should have the same level of functionings and capabilities but that each achieves an adequate threshold of them. Third, we present an account of responsibilities towards children based on four different grounds. In doing this it becomes clear that questions of justice for children are deeply entangled with the relationship between the child, the family and the state. We conclude byindicating a promising field of applicationof our theory: the analysis and evaluation of child poverty. 


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