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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 42, Issue 4, October 2016

Brian Berkey
Pages 706-732
DOI: 10.5840/soctheorpract201642424

Against Rawlsian Institutionalism about Justice

One of the most influential claims made by John Rawls in A Theory of Justice is that the principles of justice apply only to the institutions of the “basic structure of society,” and do not apply directly to the conduct of individuals. In this paper, I aim to cast doubt on this view, which I call “Institutionalism about Justice,” by considering whether several of the prominent motivations for it offered by Rawls and others succeed in providing the support for the view that they claim. I argue that all of the motivations are problematic as grounds for accepting Institutionalism, at least in part because they, and the Institutionalist view that they are thought to support, seem to misconceive what our concern about justice is fundamentally a concern about.

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