Socially Constructed Luck and Exploitation

  • Nicola Mulkeen

Student thesis: Phd


Abstract This thesis shows that exploitation can arise from a just background, via just steps, when we exercise our moral rights. The theory rests on the idea that exploitation can arise via a special category of luck, which I call socially constructed luck. By taking into account what John Rawls calls background justice and what G.A. Cohen refers to as an accumulation problem, I argue that socially constructed luck is brought about through a cumulative process of people freely exercising their moral rights in the pursuit of their own conception of the good life. Unless the negative effects of this type of luck are offset, exploitative interactions can arise where people have no reasonable alternative but to enter a particular transaction. Socially constructed luck can play a direct role in privileging some individuals at the expense of others and allows for the extraction of surplus benefits. Importantly, by showing that luck egalitarianism should be understood within a conception of exploitation, the thesis not only provides a deeper understanding of how the luck egalitarian and relational egalitarian views align, but also justifies the introduction of a basic right to a reasonable alternative.
Date of Award31 Dec 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJames Pattison (Supervisor)


  • Accumulation
  • Exploitation
  • Left-Libertarianism
  • Luck Egalitarianism
  • Rights
  • Relational Egalitarianism

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