Justice-based social assistance

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What are the main objectives of social protection institutions in developing countries? What should be their scope and reach? What is the source of their legitimacy? Finding appropriate answers to these questions is essential to understanding, and shaping, the emergence of welfare institutions in low- and middle-income countries. Most available answers rely on instrumental arguments. Few make reference to normative principles. This article draws on three concepts from Rawls – social justice as regulating cooperation, the social minimum, and the need for a freestanding political notion of social justice – to develop a coherent argument for grounding social assistance on social
justice. In line with this argument, it identifies some parameters for a justice-based social assistance. This article then discusses, with examples, the tensions existing between a social justice-based social minimum and ‘real’ social assistance institutions emerging in developing countries.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal Social Policy
Issue number2
Early online date29 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2016


  • developing countries
  • institutions
  • social assistance
  • social minimum
  • social justice

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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