Principles of Social Justice

Miller, David

Published by Harvard University Press, 2001
ISBN 10: 067400714X / ISBN 13: 9780674007147
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Synopsis: Social justice has been the animating ideal of democratic governments throughout the twentieth century. Even those who oppose it recognize its potency. Yet the meaning of social justice remains obscure, and existing theories put forward by political philosophers to explain it have failed to capture the way people in general think about issues of social justice. This book develops a new theory. David Miller argues that principles of justice must be understood contextually, with each principle finding its natural home in a different form of human association. Because modern societies are complex, the theory of justice must be complex, too. The three primary components in Miller's scheme are the principles of desert, need, and equality. The book uses empirical research to demonstrate the central role played by these principles in popular conceptions of justice. It then offers a close analysis of each concept, defending principles of desert and need against a range of critical attacks, and exploring instances when justice requires equal distribution and when it does not. Finally, it argues that social justice understood in this way remains a viable political ideal even in a world characterized by economic globalization and political multiculturalism. Accessibly written, and drawing upon the resources of both political philosophy and the social sciences, this book will appeal to readers with interest in public policy as well as to students of politics, philosophy, and sociology.

Review: As with all David Miller's work, a high level of scrupulousness marks Principles of Social Justice. He remains unswayed by ideological and philosophical background noise--no mean feat with this topic--and, as always, displays a distrust of grand generalization. The exposition, lucid and wholly unpretentious, is a model of its kind. And the argument is impressively sustained throughout, with some particularly acute remarks about the role of luck in judgments of desert, and about the relevance of procedures to just outcomes.-- (11/10/2000)

This groundbreaking book explores...how extremely divergent views about what is required to bring about justice might be reconciled when they stem from shared beliefs at a deeper level...This is a complex and ambitious book. Instead of proposing a normative theory of social justice, Miller illustrates how different principles are used in different social contexts. His theory of justice does more than simply report popular beliefs, however. It presents principles of need, desert, and equality that are philosophically coherent and blended together to form a cohesive theory.-- (06/01/2001)

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Principles of Social Justice
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication Date: 2001
Binding: Soft cover
Condition: good

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