Researcher ORCID Identifier


Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis


Best Senior Thesis in Philosophy

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)

Second Department


Reader 1

Paul Hurley

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© 2024 Rukmini Banerjee


A system of civil recourse is a precondition for a just society. In this paper, I outline the ideal version of a system of civil recourse and analyze the accounts of various liberal philosophers to explain how a non-instrumental and mutual accountability theory of civil recourse best encapsulates its stated purpose. I analyze the American system of civil recourse, specifically tort law, and argue that it bypasses the threshold of tolerable injustice for marginalized people in the United States. Using Tommie Shelby’s framework in Dark Ghettos: Injustice, Dissent, and Reform, I argue that marginalized people are not obligated by the conditions of the tort system, because the tenets of reciprocity have been violated. Marginalized people are not required to follow a social scheme that does not intrinsically value them or respect their claims. To respond to the state of intolerable injustice that marginalized people operate in, I articulate a framework of controlled instrumentalism. Controlled instrumentalism can be deployed within a non-instrumentalist framework to reform a system of tort law that fails to achieve the threshold of tolerable injustice. Controlled instrumentalism aspires to achieve non-instrumental conditions but also constrains how individuals pursue non-instrumentalism because the tenets of non-instrumentalism cannot be violated during reform efforts. I then study prominent frameworks of tort reform and clarify how controlled instrumentalism either fits in, accommodates, or improves said frameworks. Finally, I tease out an important implication in the controlled instrumentalist project and explain how it provides greater avenues for marginalized people to operate within the law by clarifying how and when marginalized people are justified in pursuing alternate cases and setting aside precedents and procedures.