No Entry: The Evils of Social Deprivation

Professor Kimberley Brownlee


Debates about human rights neglect social rights. By ‘social rights’, I do not mean economic rights, such as basic subsistence, health, and education, which have received considerable attention. By ‘social rights’, I mean the rights that protect our fundamental interpersonal, associative, and community-membership needs irrespective of our economic circumstances. The project aims to remedy the neglect of these social needs by exploring 1) the theoretical and practical credentials of social human rights, and 2) the ethics and politics of sociability in acknowledging such rights. The project aims to show that we have more reason to attend to each other’s interpersonal needs than liberal thinking tends to recognise.

Within the category of social human rights, there is one particularly fundamental, but neglected right, which I call the human right against social deprivation. By ‘social deprivation’, I refer not to poverty, but to a persisting lack of minimally adequate opportunities for decent human contact and social inclusion. Social deprivation is a common experience in arenas of institutional segregation such as long-term medical quarantine and solitary confinement. It is also a common experience for people whose principal forms of social interaction are degrading or cruel. The human right against social deprivation can be fleshed out as a civil-political right and a socio-economic right. It faces such objections as redundancy, burdensomeness, unclaimability, infeasibility, and intolerability, which the project aims to answer.

Coercive social deprivation is the most extreme variant of a more general, pervasive phenomenon of social isolation that includes people, many of whom are elderly or disabled, who are chronically, acutely lonely and unable to remedy their situation. Such severe unwanted loneliness is a topical concern in the UK and elsewhere given aging populations and the individualistic bent of Western culture and policymaking that threatens social support structures.

Kimberley Brownlee ISRF

Kimberley Brownlee’s areas of expertise lie within moral, political, and legal philosophy. Before joining the University of Warwick in 2012, she was a Senior Lecturer in Moral and Political Philosophy at the University of Manchester.

Kimberley is a member of the Executive Committee of the Aristotelian Society (2014-2017) and a former member of the Executive Committee of the British Philosophical Association (2012-2016). She is a member of the Editorial Board of Law and Philosophy, the Editorial Board of Criminal Law and Philosophy, and the Advisory Board of the Springer series in Ethics and Public Policy.

Kimberley is the author of Conscience and Conviction: The Case for Civil Disobedience, published by Oxford University Press (2012). She is also the co-editor the Blackwell Companion to Applied Philosophy (Wiley 2016), and co-editor of Disability and Disadvantage, published by Oxford University Press (2009). Her articles have appeared in Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical Studies, Ethics, Law and Philosophy, Utilitas, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Journal of Applied Philosophy, Criminal Law and Philosophy, and Res Publica. She is the author of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on civil disobedience.

Her current work focuses on the ethics of sociability, social rights, human rights, and freedom of association. Her recent work focused on conscience and conscientious disobedience, ideals and virtue, philosophy of punishment, and restorative justice.



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