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Distributive Justice Before the Eighteenth Century: The Right of Necessity

18 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2009  

Siegfried Van Duffel

National University of Singapore (NUS)

Dennis Yap

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: October 8, 2009

Abstract

Until recently, few people would have doubted that the idea of distributive justice is old, indeed ancient. Several authors have now challenged this assumption. Most prominently, Samuel Fleischacker argued that distributive justice originates in the eighteenth century. If accurate, this would upset much of what we have taken for granted about an important part of the history of Western political thought. However, the thesis is manifestly flawed. And since that it has already proven influential, it is important to set the record straight. We will focus on the principle of extreme necessity, developed in twelfth and thirteenth century canon law, and subsequently adopted in civil law. Despite its immense importance for the history of political thought, the principle is barely know, and much less discussed. We briefly characterize the main tenets of the principle and show that it meets all the criteria to count as a principle of distributive justice.

Suggested Citation

Van Duffel, Siegfried and Yap, Dennis, Distributive Justice Before the Eighteenth Century: The Right of Necessity (October 8, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1485420 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1485420

Siegfried Van Duffel (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) ( email )

Bukit Timah Road 469 G
Singapore, 117591
Singapore

Dennis Yap

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States

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