1st Edition

Theories of Distributive Justice Who Gets What and Why

By Jeppe Platz Copyright 2020
    224 Pages
    by Routledge

    224 Pages
    by Routledge

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    How should we design our economic systems? Should we tax the rich at a higher rate than the poor? Should we have a minimum wage? Should the state provide healthcare for all? These and many related questions are the subject of distributive justice, and different theories of distributive justice provide different ways to think about and answer such questions.  This book provides a thorough introduction to the main theories of distributive justice and reveals the underlying sources of our disagreements about economic policy. It argues that the universe of theories of distributive justice is surprisingly simple, yet complicated. It is simple in that the main theories of distributive justice are just four in number, and in that these theories each offer a distinct, well-defined theoretical approach to distributive justice; yet it is complicated in that the main theories disagree at several distinct, fundamental levels, and in that it is possible to spin innumerable new theories from the elements of the four main theories.

    Key Features:

    • Covers the four major theories of distributive justice and their leading philosophers, elucidating the attractions and drawbacks of each:
      • Friedrich A. von Hayek and right-liberalism;
      • John Rawls and left-liberalism;
      • Robert Nozick and libertarianism;
      • Gerald A. Cohen and socialism.

    • Explains why these four theories have come to dominate most philosophical discussions on distributive justice, highlighting the essential answer provided in each that is lacking in other theories.
    • Written for any reader interested in the topic, with an annotated reading list at the end of each chapter and helpful glossary at the back of the book.


    1. Distributive Justice
    2. Right-Liberalism / Hayek
    3. Left-Liberalism / Rawls
    4. Libertarianism / Nozick
    5. Socialism / G.A. Cohen
    6. Contrasts
    7. Concluding Reflections


    Jeppe von Platz is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and in the PPEL Program at the University of Richmond.

    "This is an absolutely wonderful book! It easily offers the best overview of the political views of Hayek, Rawls, and Cohen available today. Moreover, when Jeppe von Platz offers criticisms of the views that he outlines they are always fair, and the outlines themselves are both accurate and charitable."

    James Stacey Taylor, The College of New Jersey

    "With Theories of Distributive Justice, Jeppe von Platz does a real service for scholars and students alike. In admirably lively prose, employing clear and pertinent examples, Platz cogently lays out the most prominent positions on distributive justice, including Right Liberalism (represented by Hayek), Left Liberalism (Rawls), Libertarianism (Nozick), and Socialism (Cohen). More than a summary of arguments, this book assists readers in making up their own minds by providing a comparative critical analysis of each position’s strengths and weaknesses, explaining each's basic ideas and values, its conception of justice, and the institutions needed to implement the theory. Platz’s concluding chapter presents contemporary challenges and alternatives to these theories, which will serve as a valuable provocation to both discussion in the classroom and further research in the field."

    Gregory Fried, Boston College