Iris Marion Young

by Henry Farrell on August 2, 2006

Via “Larry Solum”:, Iris Marion Young died two days ago, on July 31. I had known that she was ill with cancer over the last couple of years – it doesn’t seem to have slowed her writing down. She criticized liberal theory from a perspective that seemed to me to be both tougher and more attractive than communitarianism, focusing on the ways in which liberal remedies failed to address enduring structural inequalities. She liked the ways in which cities fostered diversity – her best book, _Justice and the Politics of Difference_, drew as much on sociologists of the city like Richard Sennett as on political theory. I don’t have any personal anecdotes – I never met her – but I liked and admired her work very much indeed.

Update: obituary “here”: (thanks to David Kahane in comments)



Peter Levine 08.02.06 at 7:15 pm

She was a nice and good person as well as an important thinker. I’m very sorry to hear about her death.


Scott Lemieux 08.02.06 at 7:31 pm

Wow, I had no idea. I saw her give a terrific talk, and her work was ivaruably stimulating as well. It’s a real loss.


David Kahane 08.02.06 at 9:18 pm

A giant loss. An obituary can be found at


loren king 08.02.06 at 9:36 pm

An important thinker. The first time I met Iris Young was at a reception the evening before an APSA panel I’d organized, and that I’d invited her to join. She couldn’t participate, but told me she planned to be in the audience, and was in fact taking one of my speakers to lunch the next day. She told me (with what I now realize was the hint of a grin) that she was under no obligation to get him back in time for our session. I was terrified, but of course they both arrived early. The next time we met, a few years later, I awkwardly blurted out “do you remember that chapter you wrote on cities in Justice and the Politics of Difference?” Her answer, again with that grin: “yes, you remember these things.” A great loss for political theory.


ingrid robeyns 08.03.06 at 1:34 am

This is very, very sad news. There is an increasing recognition among political philosophers that political philosophy/theory should not only be consistent, elegant, etc. etc., but also relevant. Young was one of the best philosophers in terms of writing theory that is based on non-distortive assumptions and that has immediate socio-political relevance. One might have disagreed with her arguments, but at the very least they would always have prompted important questions and pointed at main shortcomings of other theories. A great loss, not just for her friends and family, but also to many political philosophers, feminist theorists and others scholars.


djw 08.03.06 at 1:59 am

Very well put, Ingrid.

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