Rawls and racial justice

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 16 (3):235-258 (2017)
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This article discusses the adequacy of Rawls’ theory of justice as a tool for racial justice. It is argued that critics like Charles W Mills fail to appreciate both the insights and limits of the Rawlsian framework. The article has two main parts spread out over several different sections. The first is concerned with whether the Rawlsian framework suffices to prevent racial injustice. It is argued that there are reasons to doubt whether it does. The second part is concerned with whether a Rawlsian framework has the resources to rectify past racial injustice. It is argued that it has more resources to do this than Mills allows. This second part of the article centers on two Rawlsian ideas: ideal theory and the fair equality of opportunity principle. It is argued that ideal theory is essential for the kind of rectificatory work that Mills wants nonideal theory to do, and that where there is a socioeconomic legacy of past injustice, it is hard to see how FEO could be implemented if it did no rectificatory work, a result which means that there is less need to turn to nonideal theory at all.

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Dale C. Matthew
York University

Citations of this work

Reparations and Egalitarianism.Megan Blomfield - 2021 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (5):1177-1195.
Mills, The racial contract and ideal theory.D. C. Matthew - 2024 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 27 (1):47-61.

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References found in this work

A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
Nicomachean ethics.H. Aristotle & Rackham - 1998 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Michael Pakaluk.
Justice as fairness: a restatement.John Rawls (ed.) - 2001 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
The idea of justice.Amartya Sen - 2009 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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