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Juliana Bidadanure (Stanford): “Demonization”

7 June 2022, 2:00 pm3:30 pm

This event will take place in person on LSE’s campus. However, those unable to attend in person will have the option of taking part online.

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Abstract: In the age of individual responsibility, those at the bottom of the income hierarchy are routinely shamed. Out-of-work benefits claimants are subject to particularly severe forms of vilification, their unemployment being portrayed as resulting from personal failings. When these shortcomings are constructed as moral failings, we enter the space of what I call “demonization”. Demonization is the act of treating individuals as morally inferior or dysfunctional. Benefits recipients are demonized when they undergo sustained attacks on their moral character, when they are viewed as deliberately choosing idleness over hard work. The trope of the lazy free rider living at taxpayers’ expense is remarkably uniform across advanced economies and has been an effective strategy to undermine support for welfare. Despite its social significance, demonization has received little attention from political theorists. And yet, because demonization diminishes its target’s moral standing, it pauses a critical threat to our ability to stand as equals, which contemporary theorists allege to be an essential component of a just and democratic society. Starting from the example of benefits recipients, my paper analyses the definitional features of demonization, examines its social function, and characterizes what makes it wrongful.


Juliana Bidadanure is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University, and the Faculty Director of the Stanford Basic Income Lab. In Summer Term 2022 she will take up a Ludwig M. Lachmann Research Fellowship at the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science.


7 June 2022
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Event Category:


Department of Philosophy, Logic & Scientific Method


Online via Zoom