Recommended readings for module on distributive justice

I’m putting together my reading list for next term’s module on distributive justice, and aiming that it NOT be a total sausage fest. I’m finding it surprisingly easy – so many great women political philosophers!

There are two topics I (and perhaps other interested readers?) would really benefit from reading recommendations on:

a) prioritarian principles (either arguing for or being critical of them), and

b) so called left-libertarianism. Any ideas?

14 thoughts on “Recommended readings for module on distributive justice

  1. In case it helps, here are some of the authors I’ve already got on the list: Emma Goldman, Zofia Stemplowska, Susan Hurley, Elizabeth Anderson, Samantha Brennan, Iris Marion Young, Paula Casal, Serena Olsaretti, Heather Milne, Ingrid Robeyns, Martha Nussbaum … I’m still working on it, so please do suggest more (including suggesting yourself!). The focus is principally on different principles of distributive justice – priority, sufficiency, equality, capabilities, rectification – and topics such as the relevance of desert, choice, responsibility, personal ethos to justice.

  2. The people listed above by Stoat are all good choices, with Anderson and Hurley being especially appropriate on the narrow issues of prioritarian principles. (Hurley is sometimes fairly hard going, so even though her book on luck egalitarianism is excellent, it might be a bit harder to use, depending on the level of the class.) On left-libertarians, I’m not coming up w/ a female proponent off the top of my head, but one of the best and most interesting critics is Barbara Fried of Stanford Law School. She has had several papers in Philosophy and Public Affairs over the last several years on the topic (including some direct debates w/ major proponents) and is certainly worth looking into.

  3. I think of Harriet Baber as left-libertarian, but if I’m wrong, Harriet reads this blog somewhat regularly, so hopefully she’ll just come around and correct me. I think her “Choice, Preference, and Utility” article re: Christina Hoff Sommers would be a good companion to the other sorts of readings it looks like you’re considering.

  4. Its a primary not secondary source but The Durham School of Law did a great paper on redistributive Justice and Sexual assault.

  5. Hi, for the metric of justice you may also include work on needs by Soran Reader and Gillian Brock, and for principles of justice Paula Casal’s 2007 Ethics article on ‘Why sufficiency is not enough?’

  6. Just a brief note to enunciate clearly what many/most here may well already know, one reason Elizabeth Anderson’s work on democratic equality/relational egalitarianism is so good and important is that it highlights the differences (moral/ethical, social, psychological, pragmatic, etc.) between conceiving of justice in distributive terms and conditions, on the one hand, and in terms and conditions of social relationships (especially ones that facilitate forms of oppression and those that foster forms of egalitarian social relations), on the other hand. Although many people probably and justifiably/totally-innocently use “distributive justice” as a shorthand phrase for the subject(s) of justice/social justice, some people might argue that “distributive justice” is a loaded phrase that biases certain conceptions of and approaches to justice/social justice. (Just one of many possible additional notes: the emphases very briefly summarized above include (but of course do not exhaust) Anderson’s (famed/famous) criticisms of (Richard Arneson’s) prioritarianism(/hybrid-prioritarian form of luck egalitarianism). — David Slutsky

  7. Hi David – that’s interesting. Tbh I hadn’t thought about whether that phrase had the biasing effect you point out… partly because Anderson’s view does have distributive implications, right? – it’s simply that they’re framed in terms of what is needed to secure those social relationships of democratic equality, and THAT is the value that should guide thinking about who should have what (not whether someone has been lucky or not, made bad choices or not, etc) – and the ‘what’ in ‘who should have what’ is not simply a matter of resources or welfare, but empowerment and participation.
    This is making me look forward to reading Anderson’s work on this again!

  8. Hi – yes, those distributive implications are indeed in her view. However, a question remains about a focus – or aspects of discourse on – distributions, on the one hand, and the kinds of relationships in and through which things (resources, opportunities, attitudes, forms of interpersonal treatment, thought, regard, sentiment, etc.) are and are not distributed, on the other hand. This and more also keeps me looking forward to (re)reading Anderson’s work. The 1999 Ethics article is probably the best place to start, though most of her related writings tie in nicely together in her work. To take the first two sentences of her Canadian J Phil abstract: “Luck egalitarians and relational egalitarians disagree on several matters. First, they disagree about whether equality is fundamentally a distributive pattern, or a relation among people…” [And this is a fundamental part of a disagreement over how to understand justice and what justice requires.]

    Really good stuff here, regardless of the reader’s view/position/focus.

  9. David – indeed! I’m glad you brought to my attention the potential bias in that phrase. It is good to be aware of such dangers. I’m very excited about this module next term! Lots of great papers to re-read.

  10. There is also Okin’s “Justice, Gender, and the Family.” She has a critique of Rawls and Nozick.

    If you are interested in work outside of philosophy here is some work on welfare:

    Abramovitz, Mimi. “Still under Attack: Women and Welfare Reform.” In The Socialist Feminist Project. Edited by Nancy Holmstrom. Monthly Review Press, 2002.

    Christensen, Kimberly. “Empty Bellies, Empty Promises: Welfare Reform in the Nineties.” In Political Economy and Contemporary Capitalism: Radical Perspectives on Economic Theory and Policy. Edited by Ron Baiman, Heather Boushey, and Dawn Saunders. M.E. Sharpe, 2000.

    Here is a great article on job guarantees:

    Tcherneva, Pavlina. “What Do Poor Women Want? Public Employment or Cash Transfers? Lessons from Argentina.”, Working Paper #705, Levy Economics Institute, Annandale-on-Hudson, February 2012

    Justin Holt

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