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This chapter examines the concept of distributive justice, asking in particular whether citizens should have the liberty to acquire and dispose of property however they see fit, or whether there are justified restrictions on economic activity in the name of liberty or justice. It begins with a discussion of the problem of distributive justice, taking into account a variety of differing opinions on how a liberal society should distribute property, along with the so-called income parade. It then considers property and markets, focusing on John Locke's ideas, and the free market principle. It also explores John Rawls's theory of justice and some of the criticisms levelled against him, including those by Robert Nozick.


Robert Garner

This chapter examines two related, but distinct, political concepts — justice and freedom. It first considers various possible constraints on freedom before discussing the degree to which freedom is desirable. It then explores various alternative values that might conflict with freedom, mainly in the context of John Stuart Mill’s political thought; these include equality, paternalism, and happiness. The chapter proceeds by analysing the concept of justice and various criteria for determining its meaning in the context of the major competing theories of justice provided by John Rawls and Robert Nozick. Finally, it evaluates alternative theories of justice which challenge the conventional liberal view that theories of justice should focus only on the nation-state and are applicable only to human beings.


David Boucher and Paul Kelly

This volume introduces a canon of major political thinkers from ancient Greece to the present, including Socrates and the Sophists, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine of Hippo, Hugo Grotius, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Hannah Arendt, John Rawls, and Michel Foucault. The text focuses on the ways that these thinkers have shaped the intellectual architecture of our modern conceptions of the scope of politics and its place in social life. This introductory chapter discusses the origins of the study of political thought as a distinct activity and describes four sets of considerations that shape approaches to the study of political thought and help answer the question of why we should study it. It also analyses the problem of so-called perennial questions and the attempt to explain and defend what it is that makes a book a ‘classic’ text.


Tony Burns

This chapter examines the argument of Aristotle's Politics in relation to the theory of justice that he articulates in his Nicomachean Ethics. It first provides a biography of Aristotle before discussing his view of human nature, the starting point for understanding his views on both ethics and politics. In particular, it considers what Aristotle means when he describes man as a ‘social and political animal’ (zoon politikon). It goes on to explore the theory of justice developed in Aristotle's Ethics, focusing on the notions of proportional and arithmetical equality. It also analyses the two areas of social life in which the concept of justice has a practical application: the spheres of rectificatory and distributive justice. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the continuing relevance of Aristotle for political philosophy today, especially for the debate between John Rawls and his communitarian critics.


Edited by David Boucher and Paul Kelly

Political Thinkers is an introduction to Western political thought. This third edition provides an introduction to the canon of great theorists, from Socrates and the Sophists to contemporary thinkers such as John Rawls and Hannah Arendt. Each chapter begins with a chapter guide, a biographical sketch of the thinker, a list of their key texts, and their key ideas. Scholastic commentary enables readers to understand the social and political contexts that inspired political thinkers. This edition features two new chapters on Arendt, one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century, and Hugo Grotius, whose work on just war continues to inform international law today. Following an introduction, the work is structured into five sections.


William Abel, Elizabeth Kahn, Tom Parr, and Andrew Walton

This chapter defends basic income. This policy requires the state to make regular cash payments to each member of society, irrespective of their other income or wealth, or willingness to find employment. It starts by describing three effects of basic income. The first is that it will raise the incomes of the least advantaged. The second is that it will protect against the threats of exploitation and abuse. The third is that it will remove one obstacle to finding employment. The chapter then explains the significance of these effects by drawing on ideas about distributive justice, emphasizing the relevance of John Rawls’s justice as fairness and Elizabeth Anderson’s democratic equality. It also considers the claim that basic income should be rejected because it would require the state to interfere with the lives of those who would be taxed to fund it, arguing that it is a mistake to oppose taxation in such a wholesale way. The chapter concludes with a reflection on the economic sustainability of basic income.


This chapter examines the notion of liberal equality by considering John Rawls’s alternative to utilitarianism. In his A Theory of Justice, Rawls complains that political theory was caught between two extremes: utilitarianism on the one side, and what he calls ‘intuitionism’ on the other. The chapter presents Rawls’s ideas, first by discussing the two arguments he gives for his answer to the question of justice: the intuitive equality of opportunity argument and the social contract argument. It also analyses Ronald Dworkin’s views on equality of resources, focusing on his theory that involves the use of auctions, insurance schemes, free markets, and taxation. Finally, it explores the politics of liberal equality, arguing that liberals need to think seriously about adopting more radical politics.


Rex Martin

This chapter examines the main arguments for John Rawls's ideas about justice. Rawls identified two principles as central to political liberalism: the principle of equal basic rights and liberties, and a principle of economic justice, which stresses equality of opportunity, mutual benefit, and egalitarianism. In Rawls's interpretation, these two principles take place ultimately in an ideal arena for decision-making, which he calls the ‘original position’. In time, Rawls became dissatisfied with this approach and began to reconfigure his theory, moving the focus towards a ‘family’ of liberal principles. The chapter begins by discussing Rawls's first and second principles before considering his concept of ‘original position’ as well as his views on overlapping consensus. It concludes with an analysis of the main ideas contained in Rawls's 1999 book, The Law of Peoples.