Justice as Sharing

  • Charles Place

Student thesis: Phd


This research aims to rehabilitate equality of outcome as a distributive ideal for egalitarians. I propose an ideal, Justice as Sharing, that claims the core egalitarian intuition is to share power and resources, and that the ideal distributive pattern is one of simple equality. In chapter two I show how in some circumstances, egalitarian ideals hold strong appeal to most of us and our intuitions suggest that we are more attracted to egalitarian ideals than many might expect. In chapter three, I discuss the state of nature as a philosophical device which is used to help us go 'back to basics', and strip away the contingent elements of our thinking. In his Second Discourse, Rousseau tells a story about the emergence of inequality in the state of nature. This leads me in chapter four to explore the anthropological evidence around the actually existing state of nature of hunter-gatherers, and show that these are strongly egalitarian societies that share both power and resources. From these ancient values, I propose an egalitarian ideal called Justice as Sharing in chapter five. This ideal says that the process of sharing, through redistributive taxation or the provision of health care, is a good in itself. Equality of outcome and sharing have intrinsic value. Justice as Sharing is then compared to other ideals of distributive justice from chapter six. In chapter seven, I suggest that Rawls' argument to 'democratic equality' provides support, as it also argues for equality of outcome. As it attaches intrinsic value to equality, Justice as Sharing faces the Levelling Down Objection which, in chapter eight, I argue does not represent a strong critique so long as the egalitarian accepts that he should be a pluralist about the values that he holds. In chapter nine the ideals of priority and sufficiency are assessed to be effective humanitarian values, but fail to convince the egalitarian as they are untroubled by inequality itself. Similarly, in chapter ten I conclude that luck egalitarian theories are unconvincing for the egalitarian as they have no problem with inequality if it is judged to be fair. The concept of desert is important to these discussions as it is often used to add weight to arguments against distributive equality. In chapter eleven, I argue that the egalitarian can accept desert but does not have to accept that the outcomes delivered by the market reflect desert. In chapter twelve I discuss theories that value distributive equality as a means to social equality. These theories identify the problems associated with inequality, but do not attach intrinsic value to equality which distinguishes them from Justice as Sharing. In chapter thirteen I consider whether the scope of distributive justice should be global or apply only to a particular political association such as the state. I remain neutral on issue of scope. Finally, in chapter fourteen I conclude that Justice as Sharing is feasible as an ideal of distributive justice, in particular as a theoretical ideal that can guide political policy making.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorThomas Smith (Supervisor) & Hillel Steiner (Supervisor)

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