We report with sadness the death of Prof. Jean Harvey of the University of Guelph, on Sunday, April 20, 2014. Jean Harvey was the author of Civilized Oppression (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999) and numerous articles on topics ranging from social justice, to moral solidarity, to companion-animals. In her work, Jean Harvey unhesitatingly drew upon feminist philosophy and advanced visions of a better and more just society. In her service to the Canadian Society of Women in Philosophy (CSWIP), Jean established the graduate student award and fostered the success of individuals as well as the philosophical community.
It is something of a tradition at FP to feature a passage from the work of an author whose death we mark. I continue to draw on the first bit of Jean’s work I ever heard about, in almost every presentation on equity that I give. It was my colleague Sybol Cook Anderson who first read to me at some length from Jean Harvey’s monograph, on Jean’s concept of “indirect support power” to explain why just passing a law is not enough to end sexism or racism. Every time I repeat this to students they get it, they electrify, with the excitement of an audience that had always longed for words to explain why formal structures ending discrimination are not enough. As Jean explains in her JSP article, “Social Privilege and Moral Subordination,” being assigned direct power does not guarantee an individual’s success:
[This] ignores the role of support power. For most bank managers the support mechanisms will never undermine their assigned power, but when members of groups traditionally excluded from such positions begin to move into them, unreliable support power is not uncommon. The black police officer, the woman priest or professor, the openly homosexual politician all have assigned powers because of their roles, but the first to move into such roles in some places may not be able to count on the support power that is taken for granted by their long-accepted colleagues, the white, male, physically able, heterosexual police officers, priests, professors, and politicians.
When this phenomenon occurs, those concerned are doubted more often, ridiculed more often, supervised more closely, maneuvered into the least critical decision making whenever possible, and when challenged in some outrageous rather than legitimate way by someone over whom they technically have direct power, find no minimal and fair-minded support from peers who belong to the long-accepted groups, nor from those in supervisory roles.
Philosophers, we can honor our late colleague by offering support-power to one another. Let us make this a more just world. Jean Harvey’s work offers us some ways to do so.