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Unpublished Paper
Justice as the Pursuit of Accord: Toward a non-utopian theory of justice
  • Karl Widerquist
The hardest thing for any society to do is to avoid oppressing its least advantaged people. This article argues that well-meaning theories of justice contribute to this problem by employing utopian assumptions that imagine solving unsolvable problems. They eliminate the disadvantages they know and understand, but their overconfidence leads to errors that systematically disadvantage the least powerful people in political, social, and economic terms. This article previews a theory of justice, I call “justice as the pursuit of accord” (JPA), which by attempting to eliminate these unrealistic assumptions, creates a fundamentally different framework than most prevailing political theories of justice. In this sense, JPA attempts to be an “agathatopian” theory with far more tentative assumptions about what is achievable. The essay introduces JPA as I have outlined it in past works, contrasts it with prevailing theories, and previews JPA property theory as I will outline it in much greater detail in the forthcoming book, Justice as the Pursuit of Accord. The main difference between JPA and more conventional social contract theories is that JPA assumes the impossibly of a contract that all rational, reasonable people will have reason to accept. Social agreements are inherently insider-outsider agreements. Under those circumstances, the article argues, a just society has a responsibility that is unrecognized by either social contract or rights-based theories of justice: to minimize negative impact of social arrangements on dissenters (the outsiders the insider-outsider agreement). Among other things, JPA provides three arguments for basic income: to protect everyone's status as a free person, to compensate people for unequal duties imposed on them by a property rights system, and to help minimize the negative impact of all social arrangements on dissenters.

  • Justice,
  • Accord,
  • Indepentarianism,
  • Theory of Justice,
  • Property rights,
  • Freedom,
  • Basic Income
Publication Date
Fall 2017
Citation Information
Karl Widerquist. "Justice as the Pursuit of Accord: Toward a non-utopian theory of justice" (2017)
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