Three Rawlsian Routes towards Economic Democracy

Revue de Philosophie Économique 9 (1):29-55 (2008)
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This paper addresses ways of arguing fors ome form of economic democracy from within a broadly Rawlsian framework. Firstly, one can argue that a right to participate in economic decision-making should be added to the Rawlsian list of basic liberties, protected by the first principle of justice. Secondly,I argue that a society which institutes forms of economic democracy will be more likely to preserve a stable and just basic structure over time, by virtue of the effects of economic democratization on the development of an active, democratic character among citizens. Thirdly, I argue that a proper understanding of the demands of the difference principle shows that justice demands more than ex post redistribution, but also requires the ex ante redistribution of power and authority in economic life. This connects to Rawls’s discussion of the badness of inequality, and to his endorsement of a “property-owning democracy”. My conclusion is that, even if we may doubt the success of this first Rawlsian argument,the second and third arguments are both successful, and together establish a strong Rawlsian case forseeing economic democratization as a requirement of justice.

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Martin O'Neill
University of York


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