Martin O'Neill (York): Social Justice, Democratic Socialism, and Collective Capital Institutions
Rawls's theory of social justice has historically often been read as a defence of a form of redistributive welfare state, not so different in kind to the real world societies of the post-war era. In more recent years, Rawls's hostility to "welfare state capitalism" has come to be better understood, as his more radical institutional option of a "property-owning democracy" has been further explored. In this paper, I make the case that we need to further radicalise our understanding of Rawls's theory of social justice if we are to make it applicable for our world of runaway inequality. A 21st century Rawlsian view needs to take seriously our distance from the kind of well-ordered societies that Rawls envisaged, as our understanding of the pressures driving increased economic inequality have developed. I argue that Rawls's "property-owning democracy" may well turn out to be an unstable halfway house, that a Rawlsian account of justice needs to think more seriously about class politics, and that a stable Rawlsian society would need to be much closer to a form of liberal democratic socialism, incorporating a range of "collective capital institutions".
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