Iris Marion Young

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Iris Marion Young
Iris Marion Young.jpg
Born (1949-01-02)January 2, 1949
Died August 1, 2006(2006-08-01) (aged 57)
Nationality American
Alma mater Queens College (CUNY)
Pennsylvania State University
Institutions University of Chicago
Main interests
Contemporary political theory, feminist social theory, and public policy

Iris Marion Young (2 January 1949 – 1 August 2006) was Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, and affiliated with the Center for Gender Studies and the Human Rights program there. Her research covered contemporary political theory, feminist social theory, and normative analysis of public policy.

Early life[edit]

Young was born in New York City and was awarded a PhD in philosophy by the Pennsylvania State University in 1974.


Before coming to the University of Chicago she taught political theory for nine years in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, and before then taught philosophy at several institutions, including the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Miami University. During the summer term of 1995 Young was a Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. Young held visiting fellowships at several universities and institutes around the world, including the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, the Australian National University, and the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa.

Philosophical contributions[edit]

Young's interests ranged broadly, including contemporary theories of justice; democracy and difference; feminist political theory; continental political theory including Michel Foucault and Jürgen Habermas; ethics and international affairs; gender, race and public policy.

Social groups and the politics of difference[edit]

Central to Young's philosophy is the contention that concepts of justice were not limited to individual desert. Instead, the recognition of social groups was essential redressing structural inequalities. Because the social rules, laws, and institutional routines constraining certain people constrain them as a group, and because our awareness of injustice almost universally compares classes of people rather than individuals directly, our evalutions of inequality and injustice must recognize the salience of social groups as constituent of a complete theory of justice.[1]

Young's recognition of social groups impelled her to argue for a post-liberal "politics of difference," in which equal treatment of individuals does not override the redress of group-based oppression. Young contrasted her approach with contemporary liberal political philosophers like John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin, who she claims conflate the moral equivalence of people with procedural rules that treat all people equally.

Five Faces of Oppression[edit]

Among Young's most widely disseminated ideas is her model of the "five faces of oppression." Synthesizing feminist, queer, poststructuralist, and post-colonial critiques of classical Marxism, Young argued at least five distinct types of oppression could not be collapsed into more fundamental causes, and furthermore could not be reduced to dimensions of distributive justice.[2] Her "five faces" are:

  • Exploitation:
  • Marginalization
  • Powerlessness
  • Cultural domination
  • Violence

Later life[edit]

Young died, aged 57, on 1 August 2006 after an 18-month struggle with esophageal cancer.[3]

Memoriam activities[edit]

In recognition of her work with the Center for Gender Studies at the University of Chicago, the Center's distinguished faculty lecture series was renamed in her honor in November 2006. In addition, the University of Pittsburgh Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program, in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, created the Iris Marion Young Award for Political Engagement in 2008 to honor Young's memory and to recognize faculty/staff, graduate, and undergraduate members of the University who impact the community.[4] Young was also honored at Penn State University through a series of gifts which created the Iris Marion Young Diversity Scholar Award as part of the association for Feminist Ethics and Social Theory's and the Rock Ethics Institute's Philosophy in an Inclusive Key Summer Institute.[5] This Institute is designed to encourage undergraduate students from under-represented groups to consider future study in the field of philosophy. Students who are part of this summer institute are awarded the Iris Marion Young Diversity Award and their studies during the institute include her work.

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • Young, Iris Marion; Allen, Jeffner (1989). The thinking muse: feminism and modern French philosophy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253205025. 
  • Young, Iris (1990). Justice and the politics of difference. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691023151. 
  • Young, Iris (1997). Intersecting voices: dilemmas of gender, political philosophy, and policy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691012001. 
  • Young, Iris Marion; DiQuinzio, Patrice (1997). Feminist ethics and social policy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780585025438. 
  • Young, Iris Marion; Jaggar, Alison (2000). A companion to feminist philosophy. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell. ISBN 9780631227649. 
  • Young, Iris (2000). Inclusion and democracy. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198297550. 
  • Young, Iris (2002) [1990]. Throwing like a girl and other essays in feminist philosophy and social theory. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Books on Demand. ISBN 9780608050478. 
  • Young, Iris Marion; Macedo, Stephen (2003). Child, family, and state. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 9780814756829.  (Conference proceedings)
  • Young, Iris (2007). Global challenges: war, self determination and responsibility for justice. Cambridge Malden, Massachusetts: Polity. ISBN 9780745638355. 
  • Young, Iris Marion; Shanley, Mary Lyndon; O'Neill, Daniel (2008). Illusion of consent engaging with Carole Pateman. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 9780271035918. 
  • Young, Iris (2011). Responsibility for justice. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199970957. 
  • Young, Iris Marion; Levy, Jacob (2011). Colonialism and its legacies. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books. ISBN 9780739142943. 

Chapters in books[edit]

  • Young, Iris Marion (2001), "Pushing for inclusion: Justice and the politics of difference", in Terchek, Ronald J.; Conte, Thomas C., Theories of democracy: a reader, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, pp. 268–278, ISBN 9780847697250. 
  • Young, Iris Marion (2005), "Five faces of oppression", in Cudd, Ann E.; Andreasen, Robin O., Feminist theory: a philosophical anthology, Oxford, UK Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 91–104, ISBN 9781405116619. 


Her writings have been translated into several languages, including German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Swedish and Croatian, and she lectured widely in North America, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Young, Iris Marion (2001). "Equality of Whom? Social Groups and Judgements of Injustice" (PDF). The Journal of Political Philosophy 9 (1): 1–18. 
  2. ^ Young, Iris Marion (2004). "Five Faces of Oppression". In Maree Heldke, Lisa; O'Conor, Peg. Oppression, Privilege, and Resistance: Theoretical Perspectives on Racism, Sexism, and Heterosexism (PDF). McGraw-Hil. pp. 37–63. ISBN 9780072882438. 
  3. ^ Iris Marion Young, 1949-2006, 2 August 2006, accessed 19 December 2007
  4. ^ "Iris Marion Young Award". Gender, sexuality, & women's studies program, University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  5. ^ "Iris Marion Young Award". Rock Ethiics Institute, The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 

External links[edit]