Technological innovation and liberal theories of justice

Papaioannou, Theo (2008). Technological innovation and liberal theories of justice. In: 58th Political Studies Association Annual Conference: Democracy, Governance and Conflict: Dilemmas of Theory and Practice, 1-3 Apr 2008, Swansea.



The acceleration of technological innovation in Western liberal societies has in recent years offered the prospect of applications with crucial impact on social and economic life. For instance, in the area of new life sciences, the successful decoding of human genome and subsequent advances of genomics-based technologies (including biotechnology) have enabled the development of cheaper and safer drugs, the introduction of new gene-based diagnostics and biomedical therapies. However, these new technologies have also provoked fears about the potential of genetic discrimination, the re-emergence of eugenics and the problem of access to genomic services. The fairness of distribution of opportunities and risks of accelerated technological innovation constitutes a new problem of justice. Whether liberal political theories can successfully address this problem in the twenty first century? This paper tries to answer the question by evaluating egalitarian liberalism, libertarianism and utilitarianism in terms of their politico-theoretical responses to genomics-related concerns. It is argued that there is a gap between liberal political theories and the new problem of justice emerging in societies of accelerated technological innovation. Egalitarian liberalism, libertarianism and utilitarianism need to be extensively revised if not replaced by less narrow theories of distributive justice in order to be able to deal with such a problem.

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