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Exploitation & Time: Investigating Intergenerational Exploitation


Nici Mulkeen (University of Warwick);

Leonie Smith (University of Manchester);

Earlier generations can jeopardize the opportunities, resources and wellbeing of their successors. Indeed, there is growing unease with the gigantic debts which older generations are passing on to their successors and of the associated vulnerability that comes with financial insecurity, youth unemployment, a gig economy, housing shortages, and climate change. Many worry that our policies and institutions are being shaped to advantage the interests of older generations at the expense of the young and future generations.

While much theoretical (and empirical) literature now exists on the many ways in which earlier generations can unjustly jeopardise the wellbeing of their successors, very little has appeared on how the former’s decisions can generate specifically exploitative relationships. This is all the more surprising, in light of the fact that very large theoretical literatures exist on both intergenerational justice and exploitation. It does seem exploitative for a birth cohort to design public policies and to shape institutions that neglect the interests of other birth cohorts. It also seems ethically and politically troubling for institutions to distribute essential resources and opportunities between generations (such as natural resources, income, employment opportunities, housing and debt) in a way that creates important imbalances of power between generational cohorts.

The aim of this workshop is to analyse exploitation in an intergenerational context and to explore its implications for policy debates. Papers from a wide range of disciplines – philosophy, economics, sociology, policy making, and political theory – that address topics on the following (and related) topics are welcome:

  • What is intergenerational exploitation?
  • What (if anything) makes this type of exploitation wrong?
  • Is the notion of intergenerational exploitation plausible?
  • What is the cause of intergenerational exploitation?
  • What role does intergenerational exploitation play in broader moral and political theory?
  • What policy measures (if any) should be put in place to prevent this type of injustice from taking place?