Business and Society
Spiliotis talks about historical injustices which correlates to human rights violations and the role of the actor in civil society that extends beyond the duty to observe corporate social responsibility, corporate governance, corporate citizenship and just philanthropy (Spiliotis 50). In this book, the author has highlighted on the collective responsibility of those who are guilty for the offenses made on their victims. It was clearly shown that sharing collective and retroactive responsibility among the major corporations as actors of civil society and not just a part of the corporate civil society (Spiliotis 56). The main idea of this book is that there is a need to take collective responsibility to assume moral obligations in order to repair the past wrongs that was brought about by state action (Spiliotis 55).
There are two aspects of justice mentioned in the book of Spiliotis which involve transitional justice and retroactive justice. Transitional justice shall refer to the law in periods of political transformation which derived its nature from the fact that it integrates different views that arise from the concept of historical injustice and the concept of looking ahead or recollection of the past (Spiliotis 51). The concept of traditional justice is closely associated to the state that the successful quest for justice is dependent on the support of civil society. On the concept of retroactive justice, it refers to rectifying of past wrongs. Here, it is believed that the state has the obligation for previous acts of injustice and it will be the state that has the duty to correct the mistakes in the past (Spiliotis 53). In the international arena, the United Nations and some of the NGOs have recorded the names of the victims and the details of human right violations. On the part of the victims, they have sought the help of the U.S. courts to recover compensation against racism and colonialism by filing civil cases.
On the other hand, the book of Sandel talks about justice and what he believes is the right thing to do. He believes that admission of wrong and making public apology on behalf a nation is extremely difficult (Sandel 110). After decades, there have been prolonged disagreements over the public apologies made by nations for historic injustices. However, he pointed out that the present generation should not be morally held accountable for the mistakes done by their predecessors. It is impossible to apologize for the offense such as slavery because no one who lives in modern time is guilty of slaveholding (Sandel 111). This can be illustrated in the case of the historic injustices which involve indigenous people such as in the case of the duty of the Australian government to apologize to the aboriginal people. It can be traced back on history that between 1910s to the early part of the 1970s, the aboriginal children who came from mixed race were forced to be separated from their mothers. Sandel has cited the theory of Immanuel Kant on moral individualism by stating on the part of the moral individualist, he stated that there is no sense of a responsibility to atone for the sins of one’s predecessors for the simple reason that those wrongdoings were done by other people (111). He further defends this position on the basis of Kant’s theory that of moral individualism and the principle of autonomous self. Thus, he concluded that it is not mandatory to bear a moral burden for the offenses committed by the predecessors.
The argument of Spiliotis on the adjudication of the courts to award claims for damages brought about during the World War II relied on the law known as the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) gave the U.S. federal courts the jurisdiction to try any civil action by an alien for a tortious act which were done in violation of any U.S. treaty or the law of nations (Spiliotis 54). During the 1980’s to the 1990s, there were several companies which have provided funds for humanitarian assistance programs to Nazi victims, who have abused the forced laborers or the slaves. It was during the same time that the Nazi victims were awarded with financial assistance by companies which provided them global payments. This was made possible after individual industrial companies have entered contracts with the conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany known as Claims Conference. The claims conference waived any forced labor claims on behalf of the Jewish camp inmates (Spiliotis 56). In order to enforce collective responsibility, a corporate solution was decided and created an innovative initiative called the “German Business Foundation Initiative” which was established by a group of German companies in 1999. The main purpose of this initiative is to achieve legal closure for German business without the court procedures. In order to obtain legal peace for all German businesses, all the companies which engaged the services of forced labor workers joined together to pool their financial resources to compensate all the surviving forced laborers (Spiliotis 57). It took a couple of years to unite the idea of collective fund to fruition by entering negotiations among the concerned governments such as U.S., Germany, Israel and Germany, as well as other European countries.
On the other hand, this view was opposed by Sandel when he argued that he does not believe that every person living at modern time should not be made to pay for the debts committed by our forefathers or to ask forgiveness for their sins (Sandel 60). The duty to recompense is founded on consent, and not the duty that may arise from a collective responsibility that will have to be paid by present and future generations. It bears stressing that the moral individualist does not have the obligation to make atonement for the mistakes committed by one’s predecessors. The rationale for this conclusion is that the author believed that those sins were should not be become burden to the present generations because they did not commit the sins. He further focused on the moral individualist vision which adapted the belief that freedom is right. Hence, he considered the explanation of experts who believe that no one should be made answerable for the moral burden for the mistakes committed by our forerunners. Thus, in comparison to the concept of Spiliotis who presented the concept of collective responsibility, Sandel believed that apologies and collective responsibility are not necessary. Sandel has relied on the individualist view of freedom that coincides with the theories of justice which is common in contemporary politics (114). The rationale of freedom is defective based on the view of Sandel because he believed that there is a need to revisit the fundamental features of man’s public life. This is not the concept of modern theories of justice, where in the notions of consent and free choice is present only in modern theories of justice and does not merely rely on contemporary politics, but also the fundamentals essence of public life. Sandel used the principle of Kant on the autonomous self and devised the theory of justice based on his personal view. Just as the opinions of Kant and Rawls, who have provided that the choices that man’s influence to arrive at a conclusion that is show that morally haphazard possibilities (113). Sandel stated that the decision to make a point does not usually depend on the meaningful perspective. In order to describe the meaningful sense, it will be economical to choose free choices of man.
Hence, the principle of justice shall take into account the voluntary procedure that requires the consent of the other party. Sandel borrowed the idea of Kant on the autonomous will of the common good (Sandel 114). Based on the deontological approach of Immanuel Kant who stated that the wrongfulness of an action is inherent, rather than the consequences it will bring. Therefore, the mistakes of predecessors which produced negative results should not be charged to the present and future generations because it is in violation of ethical standards and moral grounds.
Therefore, the statements of Spiliotis and Sandel are contradictory to each other because Sandel believed that there should be no special responsibility to make recompense for the mistakes of the past such as the Holocaust, and that Americans of the present generation do not have the obligation to remedy the historic injustices committed by the forerunners. People are free and independent to make their own choice and should not rely on the collective responsibility across generations, which was the opposed view of Spiliotis.
Sandel, Michael. Justice : What's the Right Thing to Do? New York: Penguin Books, 2002.
Spiliotis, Susanne-Sophia. “Corporate Responsibility and Historical Injustice”. In Civil
Society. Berlin Perspectives, edited by J. Keane. New York: Berghahn Books, 2006.