Rescuing justice from equality

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This essay discusses Rawlsian justice in general and the difference principle in particular. It does so in the light of G. A. Cohen's masterful critique of Rawls in Rescuing Justice and Equality, a work that not only inspires the present paper, but also serves as a point of contrast for much within it. Like Cohen, I argue that the difference principle and the justifications given for it pull us in opposing directions. Specifically, I argue that Rawlsian arguments for the difference principle present a puzzle and that to respond adequately to the puzzle we must engage in rational reconstruction. To respond to the puzzle we must go beyond asking whether or not a proposed interpretation is one that Rawls himself would have endorsed, and start asking whether it is one that puts Rawlsian justice in its best light. This much, I believe, is common ground between Cohen and myself. However, in stark contrast to Cohen, I present an interpretation-a rational reconstruction-of Rawlsian justice that shows it to be less intolerant of economic inequality than it is commonly taken to be. My aim, in short, is to rescue Rawlsian justice from its commitment to equality. A key motivation behind this reconstructive effort is the following simple thought.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNew Essays in Political and Social Philosophy
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9781139096812
ISBN (Print)9781107604537
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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