What is a Just State?
Intersectionality refers to the way in which various social identity structures interact with each other. Some of these social identity structures include gender, race, religion, culture, class and other structures that people identify themselves with (Gopaldas,2013).. The social philosophy of utilitarianism is an ethical theory that is based on acting in the best good for the greatest number of people. This essay discusses what a just state is according to intersectionality and the social philosophy of utilitarianism.
A just state according to Plato is properly performing one’s role and duties and not doing the opposite or overstepping authority. In a just state, everyone has their own duties and responsibilities that when properly performed, they could lead to harmony in the community. This implies that when one does what one is supposed to do, he or she gets a reward that he or she deserves but if one fails to perform one’s duties, then he or she is punished.
The origin of the concept of intersectionality dates back to the twentieth century when black women advocates proposed that interests of black women failed to be featured in any social movements in the US. This implies that black movements only prioritized the needs and interests of black men including the equality with white men while women movements were characterized by white women who sought equality with white men (Carbado, Crenshaw, Mays & Tomlison, 2014). As a result the black women advocates developed their own social identify and equality in the society by considering the oppression and privileges brought about by the different social identity structures. However, other researchers from other different disciplines have talked about intersectionality and the concept now has new definitions that include some social groups and leave out others.
Intersectionality refers to the way different social identities interact and define life experiences particularly those related to social privileges and interaction. At the individual level, this means that everyone in the society is defined by multiple identity structures and that at this intersection of the identities lies the different social advantages and disadvantages.
In summary, intersectionality can be used to refer to way in which the different social identity structures interact or intermingle to define the position of everyone in the society. And depending on how people are defined, they are either at a social advantage or social disadvantage. For researchers, the concept of intersectionality suggests that every social group in the population should be included while considering a sample population for a study. At the community level, it means that to attain a just state, every social group including the underrepresented ones should be considered while making decisions on the use of community and national resources.
One social philosophy from the textbook that also has a clear collate with the concept of intersectionality is utilitarianism. This social philosophy was developed by John Stuart Mills in 1863 and it suggests that whether an act is right or wrong is based on whether the act leads to the maximization of overall wellbeing (Mills, 1863). This implies that the right thing to do is what leads to happiness to the majority. Utilitarianism has five different characteristics:
- Consequentialism – this suggests that the rightness or wrongfulness of an act is based on the consequences of the act.
- Welfarism – this suggests that the rightness or wrongfulness of an act is determined by the wellbeing of the people affected.
- Individualism – this suggests that the sources of value are persons and animals.
- Aggregation – this suggests that the value of the state of affairs is based on the values of the individuals affected by the state of affairs (Eggleston, 2012).
- Maximization – this suggests that the value of the state of affairs should be maximized.
Examples of intersectionality and utilitarianism approaches with examples
Intersectionality could also refer to the interdisciplinary study of social phenomena such as femininity, gender based violence or even labor markets using the different social identities. One example of intersectionality is researching about domestic violence as a social disadvantage to some women of certain social identities. This research could help identify several social identities and aspects that contribute to domestic violence. For example, the concept could help in developing an understanding of the social identity constructs that lead to a considerable number of black women experiencing domestic violence. Another example of intersectionality is conducting a research to develop an understanding on the reasons behind health inequities in the country.
An example of utilitarianism approach is justifying the concept of taxation. For example, the idea behind taxation is good because the resources collected through taxes are used to provide basic amenities such as roads, water and subsidized health care to the majority. If the money from taxes is used to improve the wellbeing of the community in terms of health and security, then taxes are good. Looking at the individualism point of view, if taxes are used to ensure that there is clean water available for both people and animals, then taxes are good. Considering the value of an action based on the same concept of taxation, the people paying taxes should be the ones benefitting from the services provided through taxes. Lastly, to ensure maximization, the taxes collected should be used for projects that benefit the entire community or nation.
While considering both intersectionality and utilitarianism, all actions taken at the individual or nationwide level should aim at benefiting the most people if not all social groups including those that are underrepresented in the society.