This paper investigates the peculiarities that arise when mechanism design is deployed in contexts in which social, racial and distributive justice are particularly salient. The paper draws on the distinction between ideal theory and non-ideal theory in political philosophy and the concept of performativity in economic sociology to argue that mechanism can enact elaborate ideal theories of justice. A normative gap thus emerges between the goals of the policymakers and the objectives of economic designs. As a result, mechanism design may obstruct stakeholders’ avenues for normative criticism of public policies and serve as a technology of depoliticization.
I reminded myself regularly that all the adults I met were survivors or former killers, who now had to try to live with what they had seen or done. Almost everyone, survivor or killer, had lost family members. They carried around inside themselves millions of tiny worlds of suffering.