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Reciprocity, Relationships, and Distributive Justice

Andrew D. Lister

Queen's University

May 7, 2012

Social Theory and Practice, Forthcoming

Critics of luck egalitarianism and the "distributive paradigm" have argued that equality is fundamentally a matter of the character of relationships between persons rather than a pattern in the distribution of material goods. Critics of cosmopolitanism have claimed that principles of distributive justice apply only between persons who are related in particular ways – by co-citizenship, for example. It is natural to suppose that views that are relational in ground and content will also be relational in scope, limiting egalitarianism to those participating in the relationships in question. The purpose of this paper is to explore a neglected possibility, which is that the concern for distributive justice might be universal rather than contingent on a morally optional relationship, but limited in the demands it places upon us where a reasonable assurance of reciprocity is lacking. Principles of distributive justice apply wherever people are interacting, even if they have no choice but to interact, but are grounded in the goal of constituting relationships of mutual recognition as equals, and so partly conditional on compliance by others. On this view, there is no unilateral duty to share the benefits of cooperation fairly, only a unilateral duty to help establish institutions that will permit fair sharing with a reasonable assurance of reciprocity.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 32

Keywords: justice, reciprocity, cosmopolitanism, distributive justice

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Date posted: May 7, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Lister, Andrew D., Reciprocity, Relationships, and Distributive Justice (May 7, 2012). Social Theory and Practice, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2053815

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Andrew Donald Lister (Contact Author)
Queen's University ( email )
Mackintosh_Corry Hall, Room C321
Kingson, Ontario K7L 3N6
613-533-6229 (Phone)
613-533-6848 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.queensu.ca/politics/faculty/regular-faculty.php?bioID=19
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