A Modified Rawlsian Theory of Social Justice: “Justice as fair Rights”

Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 50:593-608 (2008)
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In my 1990 work – Marxism, Morality, and Social Justice – I argued for four modifications of Rawls’s principles of social justice and rendered a modified version of his theory in four principles, the first of which is the Basic Rights Principle demanding the protection of people’s security and subsistence rights. In both his Political Liberalism and Justice as Fairness Rawls explicitly refers to my version of his theory, clearly accepting three of my four proposed modifications but rejecting the fourth ‐‐ the demand for social and economic democracy – on grounds that it automatically justifies socialism as opposed to capitalism. I argue, contrary to Rawls, that it is not true that this demand automatically picks socialism as the preferablesocioeconomic/political system and that a Social and Economic Democracy Principle demanding workplace and neighborhood democracy is officially neutral between these two systems … although plausible empirical assumptions may, indeed, favor the former. I then significantly elaborate my second version of Rawls’s theory of social justice which is composed of the following principles arranged in a very strong order of priority : Basic Rights Principle, Equal Basic Liberties Principle, Fair Equality of Opportunity Principle, Modified Difference Principle, and Social and Economic DemocracyPrinciple. I argue that this elaborated version of the theory – which I call “Justice as Fair Rights” – is better than either Rawls’s original theory or my previous versions of it

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Rodney G. Peffer
University of San Diego


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