Inalienable rights: A litmus test for liberal theories of justice

Law and Philosophy 29 (5):571-599 (2010)
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Liberal-contractarian philosophies of justice see the unjust systems of slavery and autocracy in the past as being based on coercion—whereas the social order in modern democratic market societies is based on consent and contract. However, the ‘best’ case for slavery and autocracy in the past were consent-based contractarian arguments. Hence, our first task is to recover those ‘forgotten’ apologia for slavery and autocracy. To counter those consent-based arguments, the historical anti-slavery and democratic movements developed a theory of inalienable rights. Our second task is to recover that theory and to consider several other applications of the theory. Finally, the liberal theories of justice expounded by John Rawls and by Robert Nozick are briefly examined from this perspective.
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