The troubled life of social citizenship: Rawls on equality

Chris Armstrong

in Rethinking Equality

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9780719069246
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781701287 | DOI:
The troubled life of social citizenship: Rawls on equality

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This chapter examines John Rawls's theory of justice and compares it with T. H. Marshall's account of social citizenship. Like Marshall, Rawls tried to integrate a concern for economic equality into the framework of liberal citizenship. As such, both accounts represent attempts to heal the dualism of what Karl Marx called bourgeois citizenship. The central problematic of Marshall's account was ‘how to reconcile the formal framework of political democracy with the social consequences of capitalism as an economic system'. Rawls, in A Theory of Justice (1971), seemed to share the widespread hope of mid-century social welfare politics that political strategies could ameliorate the hardship of the worst off without destroying the principle of productive labour’. Rawls's account recalls the aspirations of the post-war consensus, a corporatist dream where citizens would avoid conflict by accommodating themselves to the inevitable but essentially productive nature of inequality. Both Rawls and Marshall offer wholly inadequate accounts of inequalities organised around race and sex, and both inexcusably neglect the global inequalities which sustained the social citizenship regime of the rich West.

Keywords: John Rawls; justice; T. H. Marshall; social citizenship; equality; dualism; capitalism; inequality; race; sex

Chapter.  15756 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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