First Steps Toward a Nonideal Theory of Justice

Ethics and Global Politics 7 (3):95-117 (2014)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Theorists have long debated whether John Rawls’ conception of justice as fairness can be extended to nonideal (i.e. unjust) social and political conditions, and if so, what the proper way of extending it is. This paper argues that in order to properly extend justice as fairness to nonideal conditions, Rawls’ most famous innovation – the original position – must be reconceived in the form of a “nonideal original position.” I begin by providing a new analysis of the ideal/nonideal theory distinction within Rawls’ theoretical framework. I then systematically construct a nonideal original position, showing that although its parties must have Rawls’ principles of ideal justice and priority relations as background aims, the parties should be entirely free to weigh those aims against whatever burdens and benefits they might face under nonideal conditions. Next, I show that the parties ought to aim to secure for themselves a special class of nonideal primary goods: all-purpose goods similar to Rawls’ original primary goods, but which in this case are all-purpose goods individuals might use to (A) promote Rawlsian ideals under nonideal conditions, (B) weigh Rawls’ principles of ideal justice and priority relations against whatever burdens and benefits they might face under nonideal conditions, and (C) effectively pursue their most favored weighting thereof. I then defend a provisional list of nonideal primary goods which include opportunities to participate effectively in equitable and inclusive grassroots reform movements guided by a series of substantive aims. Finally, I briefly speculate on how the parties to the nonideal original position might deliberate to principles of nonideal justice for distributing nonideal primary goods, suggesting that those goods should be distributed in proportion to unjust disadvantage.

Similar books and articles

A Nonideal Theory of Justice.Marcus Arvan - 2008 - Dissertation, University of Arizona
Rawlsian Affirmative Action.Robert S. Taylor - 2009 - Ethics 119 (3):476-506.
Sen on Rawls’s “Transcendental Institutionalism”: An Analysis and Critique.Alan Thomas - 2014 - European Journal of Political Theory 13 (3):241-263.
Global Justice and Poverty Relief in Nonideal Circumstances.Pablo Gilabert - 2008 - Social Theory and Practice 34 (3):411-438.
Ideal and Nonideal Theory: A Conceptual Overview.Milica Trifunovic - 2013 - Filozofija I Društvo 24 (2):151-173.
Against Ideal Guidance.David Wiens - 2015 - Journal of Politics 77 (2):433-446.
Idealizing Morality.Lisa Tessman - 2010 - Hypatia 25 (4):797 - 824.

Analytics

Added to PP
2014-02-07

Downloads
1,277 (#4,814)

6 months
93 (#7,792)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Marcus Arvan
University of Tampa

References found in this work

Ideal Vs. Non‐Ideal Theory: A Conceptual Map.Laura Valentini - 2012 - Philosophy Compass 7 (9):654-664.
Ideal and Nonideal Theory.A. John Simmons - 2010 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 38 (1):5-36.
What Do We Want From a Theory of Justice?Amartya Sen - 2006 - Journal of Philosophy 103 (5):215-238.
An Egalitarian Law of Peoples.Thomas W. Pogge - 1994 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 23 (3):195-224.

View all 9 references / Add more references