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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 42, Issue 3, July 2016

Harrison P. Frye
Pages 501-524
DOI: 10.5840/soctheorpract201642314

The Relation of Envy to Distributive Justice

An old conservative criticism of egalitarianism is that it is nothing but the expression of envy. Egalitarians respond by saying envy has nothing to do with it. I present an alternative way of thinking about the relation of envy to distributive justice, and to Rawlsian justice in particular. I argue that while ideals of justice rightly distance themselves from envy, envy plays a role in facing injustice. Under nonideal circumstances, less attractive features of human nature may play a role in motivating the action necessary to push an unjust society in a more just direction.

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