April 15, 2022

Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò

Harvard Book Store and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University welcomes OLÚFẸ́MI O. TÁÍWÒ, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University, for a discussion of his most recent book Reconsidering Reparations.


Reparations for slavery have become a reinvigorated topic for public debate over the last decade. Most theorizing about reparations treats it as a social justice project - either rooted in reconciliatory justice focused on making amends in the present; or, they focus on the past, emphasizing restitution for historical wrongs. Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò argues that neither approach is optimal, and advances a different case for reparations - one rooted in a hopeful future that tackles the issue of climate change head on, with distributive justice at its core. This view, which he calls the "constructive" view of reparations, argues that reparations should be seen as a future-oriented project engaged in building a better social order; and that the costs of building a more equitable world should be distributed more to those who have inherited the moral liabilities of past injustices.

This approach to reparations, as Táíwò shows, has deep and surprising roots in the thought of Black political thinkers such as James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr, and Nkechi Taifa, as well as mainstream political philosophers like John Rawls, Charles Mills, and Elizabeth Anderson. Táíwò's project has wide implications for our views of justice, racism, the legacy of colonialism, and climate change policy.

About Author(s)

Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University. He specializes in social/political and Africana philosophy, with an emphasis on figures and themes from anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, and Black radical traditions of thought and practice. He is the author of Reconsidering Reparations (January 2022) and Elite Capture (May 2022).