Is social justice possible within capitalist societies? Or should progressives and egalitarians be looking for viable alternatives to free-market capitalism? John Rawls, one of the most influential political philosophers of the last century, advanced the view that social justice is indeed impossible within the constraints of the capitalist welfare state. Rawls believed that familiar capitalist societies in which a small minority holds a massively disproportionate share of wealth could not possibly be just. Instead, he argued that justice requires a different form of socioeconomic organization, one in which human and nonhuman capital is dispersed widely. He called it a “property-owning democracy.”
Property-Owning Democracy: Rawls and Beyond presents the first extended treatment of Rawls’s important ideas about the practical implementation of his theory of justice. Contributors to this volume approach Rawls’s idea from a number of perspectives: its philosophical foundations, institutional implications, and possible connections to the future of left-of-center politics. Readings shed new light on a variety of topics, including the inequality of current wealth distribution in advanced capitalist societies; ways of funding a system of universal asset holdings; novel democratic forms of ownership; the link between asset ownership and human capital; and many others. Property-Owning Democracy: Rawls and Beyond offers thought-provoking insights into the concept of social justice in the twenty-first-century world.
This splendid volume offers a fresh alternative to stale debates about the welfare state versus unfettered markets. It invites us to think anew about the economic arrangements that make democracy possible. This book reconnects political philosophy with political economy, and sets a new and promising agenda for political theory, and for democratic politics."--Michael J. Sandel, Harvard University
Transforming principles of distributive justice into practical institutional designs is never an easy task. What O'Neill and Williamson have achieved, in assembling this collection of outstanding papers, is to supply us with strong reasons to believe that property-owning democracy is that transformation, with respect to John Rawls' account of just principles.--Hillel Steiner, Universities of Manchester and Salford