The Antinomies of Social Justice


Journal Article

Theories of social justice are either hegemonic (defending a single determinate standard), skeptical (finding social justice to be radically indeterminate if not meaningless), or pluralistic (claiming that we can disqualify all but a handful of standards, but that we cannot definitively adjudicate among these). I offer here a variation of the pluralistic view, arguing that a single standard cannot be definitive because of what is termed the antinomies of social justice. These antinomies arise where the demands of justice collide with elements of the gratuitous that are morally valid or are practically unavoidable. Where this occurs, all possible distribution rules turn out to be unfair. An important implication of the argument is that liberal democracies cannot find their grounds for consensus, as John Rawls contends, in a common attachment to principles of justice. Instead, common interests and civic friendship will always be necessary supplements to the sense of justice as a source of social bonds in a free society. © 1993, University of Notre Dame. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Spragens, TA

Published Date

  • November 1, 1993

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 55 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 193 - 216

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1748-6858

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0034-6705

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/S0034670500017356

Citation Source

  • Scopus