Social Cooperation and Basic Economic Rights: A Rawlsian Route to Social Democracy

Journal of Social Philosophy 47 (3):288-308 (2016)


The central idea of Rawls’s theory of justice is the idea of democratic society as a fair system of cooperation between free and equal citizens. The moral powers of democratic citizens are the capacities presupposed by this idea. Rawls identifies two such powers, the capacity for a conception of the good and the capacity for a sense of justice. I argue that the idea of democratic citizenship presupposes also a third moral power: the capacity for working. Since the basic rights are the rights necessary for the development and exercise of the moral powers of citizenship; and since the capacity for working is such a moral power; and since access to work, education, and healthcare are necessary for the development and exercise of the capacity for working; access to work, education, and healthcare are basic rights.

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Jeppe von Platz
University of Richmond

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