The demands of substantive decolonisation: Brexit and Ireland as a matter of justice

Shane O'Neill (Lead / Corresponding author)

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    Although the impact Brexit might have on Ireland has generated a vast array of critical analyses, insufficient attention has been paid to this project as a question of justice or a matter of potential injustice. It is suggested here that the relative academic silence on this moral dimension of Brexit is connected to a widespread failure to connect theory and practice within the dominant approach to conceptualising the demands of justice both within and beyond the state. If we are to grasp the fabric of justice today, including just relations between political communities, then we need to be less reliant on methods of rational abstraction and focus instead on the history and structure of those hierarchical relations between the peoples of the world that have been imposed throughout the colonial and neo-colonial eras. This will lead us to re-conceive justice among the world’s peoples as a project of substantive decolonisation, an alternative paradigm that offers a critical perspective on how best to address the legacy of historical injustice at a global level. This theoretical framework equips us too with the language required to assess the moral dimensions of Brexit, specifically in relation to its impact on Ireland.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)149-165
    Number of pages17
    JournalIrish Political Studies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


    • Global justice
    • critical social theory
    • colonialism
    • decolonisation
    • Brexit
    • Ireland


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