March 2005 with “Current Implications” by Heidi Burgess added in July 2020.
I consider here five types of injustices that are involved in oppression: distributive injustice, procedural injustice, retributive injustice, moral exclusion, and cultural imperialism. To identify which groups of people are oppressed and what forms their oppression takes, each of these five types of injustice should be examined.
1. Distributive Injustice
Under this heading, I shall briefly consider the distribution of four types of capital — consumption, investment, skill, and social.
Consumption capital is usually thought of as “standard of living.” In industrial societies, this is very much related to income. It includes the amounts and types of food and clean water, housing, clothing, health care, education, physical mobility (such as travel), recreation, and services that are available to members of a group. Clearly, there are gross differences in income and standard living among the different nations, among the different ethnic groups within nations, among the different classes, and between the sexes. For example, compare Sudan with Canada, African Americans with Euro-Americans, employees of General Motors and its executives, males and females.
Sen, for example writes: “women tend in general to fare quite badly in relative terms compared to men, even within the same families. This is reflected not only in such matters as education and opportunity to develop talents, but also in the more elementary fields of nutrition, health, and survival.” He estimated that there are “more than a hundred million missing women,” in Asia and North Africa, as a result of the unequal deprivations they suffer, compared to men. In other words, the survival rates of women compared to men is considerably lower than could be expected when these are compared to the relative survival rates of men and women in Europe, North America, and sub-Saharan Africa where the differences in consumption capital available to males and females is not as unequal.