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John RawlsDebating the Major Questions$
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Jon Mandle and Sarah Roberts-Cady

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190859213

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190859213.001.0001

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Specters of Democracy

Specters of Democracy

Detouring the Limitations of Rawls and the Capabilities Approach

(p.183) 10 Specters of Democracy
John Rawls

Tony Fitzpatrick

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores how those interested in the making, implementation, and effects of government policies might approach the stand-off between Rawlsians and the capabilities approach. It proposes we should want any theory of justice to do lots of different things. It argues that both perspectives wrestle with an “elasticity problem” to which there is no final, ideal solution. The limitations of Rawls lie in trying to make capabilities adjuncts to the primary goods; the limitations of the capability approach derive from allowing capabilities to occlude the material-distributive characteristics of resources and the political strategies of capitalism. The chapter considers several means of dealing with the elasticity problem, before proposing a possible way forward. This involves not a grand, syncretic reconciliation but one that is, nonetheless, multiperspectivist in intent and method. The task for students of policy studies is therefore to find practical, institutional forms for this multiperspectivism.

Keywords:   capabilities approach, justice, primary goods, resource, distribution, public policy, policy process

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