Social Theory and Practice

Volume 39, Issue 1, January 2013

Andrew Lister
Pages 70-94

Reciprocity, Relationships, and Distributive Justice

This paper argues that the concern for distributive justice might be universal rather than contingent on a morally optional relationship, but limited in the demands it places upon us where a reasonable assurance of reciprocity is lacking. Principles of distributive justice apply wherever people are interacting, even if they have no choice but to interact, but are grounded in the goal of constituting relationships of mutual recognition as equals, and so partly conditional on compliance by others. On this view, there is no unilateral duty to share the benefits of cooperation fairly, only a unilateral duty to help establish institutions that will permit fair sharing with a reasonable assurance of reciprocity.