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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: January 2013

Chapter 2 - Social justice


Assuming for the moment that state and government are required in order to organize life in a society on a coercive basis, there are two large questions that any political philosophy must address in the context of that society. First question: what decisions or policies should the state impose in order to establish social justice in the relationships between its citizens? Second question: what processes of decision-making should it follow, if it is to count as a politically legitimate decision-maker for its citizens on questions of justice, and indeed on related matters too? Both questions might be treated as questions of justice in an encompassing sense of the term, but since I think they are importantly distinct, I shall cast the first as a question of social justice, the second as a question of political legitimacy.

I take citizens in this discussion to comprise, not just citizens in the official sense, but all the more or less settled residents of a state who, being adult and able-minded, can play an informed role at any time in conceptualizing shared concerns and in shaping how the state acts in furthering those concerns (compare Tully 2009: I, 3). Special issues of justice and legitimacy arise with those who are not adult or not able-minded, with those who are not permanent residents, and indeed with those who are not yet born, as related issues arise, of course, with the treatment of other animals. But I shall almost exclusively concentrate on the general issues that arise for how the state should treat current citizens in my broad sense.

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On the People's Terms
  • Online ISBN: 9781139017428
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