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The Philosophy and Welfare Politics of Distributional Justice

Semester and Year SP 2017
Course Number IDSEM-UG1466
Section 001
Instructor Justin Holt
Days F
Time 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   SOC



Are the outcomes of capitalist exchanges fair or unfair? Is capitalism supportive or detrimental to democratic virtues? Does the welfare state rectify the problems of capitalism or exacerbate them? John Rawls’ work  A Theory of Justice  has greatly shaped these considerations of the welfare state. His theory refined many of the debates concerning the fairness of capitalist economic outcomes and the effects capital accumulation has on democratic virtues. According to Rawls, the welfare state in some form was necessary for capitalism to have morally acceptable outcomes. But, critics of Rawls have called into question welfare state interventions, many finding them economically inefficient and detrimental to democratic virtues. Other critics have founds Rawls’ theory to be too limited in its impact, thereby supporting more extensive interventions into capital accumulation. In this course we will try to answer questions about the morality of capitalist accumulation by studying theoretical conceptions of Rawls’ work and the responses of his critics. The main texts of Rawls’ critics we will consider are Nozick’s  Distributive Justice  and Cohen's  Rescuing Justice and Equality . We will also discuss current welfare state policies such as basic income grants.


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Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)