Marginalization as non-contribution
Marginal citizens occupy a kind of liminal space on the edges of a larger society; they are members of it, but disadvantaged members. The papers in this special issue show in various ways how the route to full membership consists inter alia in giving marginal citizens the opportunity to contribute: the right to work for disabled citizens and irregular migrants, for example, and the right to vote for prisoners and children. In this paper I elaborate on this thought by trying to show that the opportunity to contribute positively to others’ lives answers a human need and is something which an adequate theory of social justice should take into account. Indeed, the opportunity to contribute in an institutionally mediated way is a signiﬁcant human interest, and one likely to be occluded if the exclusive focus is on rights to freedom and the just distribution of social and economic goods (cf. Sayer 2009). I do not examine here precisely how justice should incorporate the good of contribution; my aim instead is to marshal support for the claims that contribution is a component of human ﬂourishing, and that individuals engaged in contributory practices are on that account less marginalized. In the next section I sketch a view of contribution, saying a little about contributors’ motivations, the institutional relationships in which contribution occurs, the value of contributions and whether that value is diminished where individuals have a
duty to assist others. The following section argues that contribution is valuable because it promotes the goods of meaning, self-respect and reliance. The paper concludes by arguing that where contributors meet others’ interests in publicly recognized institutions, their own lives ﬂourish on that account.