Friday, October 26, 2012

John Rawls - Beyond the Welfare State

In "Boston Review":

"Beyond the Welfare State: Rawls’s Radical Vision for a Better America"

by Martin O’Neill & Thad Williamson

[.....] to treat Rawls simply as a defender of Democratic Party liberalism and the welfare state — as he is widely regarded — is to misread him. Rawls’s critique of contemporary capitalism — and the condition of democratic practice within American capitalism — runs much deeper. As he made especially clear in his late writings, he did not think that welfare-state capitalism could realize his theory of justice. The architecture of welfare-state capitalism, Rawls felt, enthroned the disproportionate political power of the rich and militated against a shared sense among citizens that they are bound in a common enterprise, which operates in accordance with fair rules and respects the basic interests of all.
Rawls argued that in a just society the political economy must be organized with an explicit aim of either sharing or else widely distributing wealth and capital. The sharing option corresponds to what Rawls termed “liberal socialism”: schemes of market socialism in which the bulk of capital is collectively owned, by one arrangement or another. The widely distributing option corresponds to “property-owning democracy”: a political-economic system aimed at distributing wealth and capital as widely as possible among citizens, while keeping it for the most part privately held.

Martin O'Neill is Lecturer in Moral and Political Philosophy in the Department of Politics at the University of York.

Thad Williamson is Associate Professor of Leadership Studies and Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law, University of Richmond.

See my previous post on Martin O’Neill & Thad Williamson's book: "Property-Owning Democracy: Rawls and Beyond" (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012) - with links to some of their papers.

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