- The Oxford Handbook of Distributive Justice
- Introduction: The Idea of Distributive Justice
- Rawls on Distributive Justice and the Difference Principle
- Dworkin and Luck Egalitarianism: A Comparison
- Equality Versus Priority
- Sufficiency and Needs-Based Approaches
- The Capability Approach
- Libertarianism, Left and Right
- Desert-Based Justice
- Retributive Justice
- The Good Society
- The Ethics of Care
- The Theory and Politics of Recognition
- Distributive Justice and Human Nature
- Political and Distributive Justice
- Consequentialism, Deontology, Contractualism, and Equality
- Ideal Theory
- Constructivism, Intuitionism, and Ecumenism
- Conceptual Analysis and Distributive Justice
- The Family
- Public Goods
- Cultural and Religious Minorities
- Justice Across Borders
- Climate Change
- Future Generations
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter analyzes Rawls’s complex account of distributive justice. Rawls’s difference principle requires that economic systems be organized so that the least advantaged members of society are better off than they would be in any alternative economic arrangement. The following questions are addressed here: What constraints are imposed by equal basic liberties and fair equality of opportunity on inequalities allowed by the difference principle? What are the difference principle’s broad and narrow requirements? Is maximizing the least advantaged position mandatory regardless of the inequalities created, or is it optional so that a society can choose to limit inequalities permitted by the difference principle? In what respect is the difference principle a reciprocity principle and not prioritarian? What measures are required to realize the difference principle under ideal conditions of a well-ordered society versus non-ideal conditions of an unjust society? Why should property-owning democracy rather than welfare-state capitalism satisfy Rawls’s principles of justice?
Keywords: John Rawls, distributive justice, economic justice, basic liberties, equality of opportunity, the difference principle, property-owning democracy, welfare-state capitalism, prioritarianism, ideal and non-ideal theory
Samuel Freeman is Avalon Professor of the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy and of Law at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Liberalism and Distributive Justice (OUP 2018), Justice and the Social Contract (OUP 2006) and of Rawls (Routledge 2007). He edited John Rawls’s Collected Papers (Harvard University Press 1999) and his Lectures in the History of Political Philosophy (2008). Freeman also edited the Cambridge Companion to Rawls (CUP 2003) and was co-editor of Reasons and Recognition: Essays on the Philosophy of T. M. Scanlon (OUP 2011).
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