Opinion; The Independentarian

Justice as the Pursuit of Accord: Toward a non-utopian theory of justice

I have just posted a new academic article on my “selected works” cite. It’s called, “Justice as the Pursuit of Accord: Toward a non-utopian theory of justice.”  Here’s a brief summary:

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.

The article is online at:

Karl Widerquist, “Justice as the Pursuit of Accord: Toward a non-utopian theory of justice,” Unpublished Manuscript available at SelectedWorks. Fall 2017.

Karl Widerquist

About Karl Widerquist

Karl Widerquist has written 920 articles.

Karl Widerquist is an Associate Professor of political philosophy at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University, specializing in distributive justice—the ethics of who has what. Much of his work involves Universal Basic Income (UBI). He is a co-founder of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG). He served as co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) for 7 years, and now serves as vice-chair. He was the Editor of the USBIG NewsFlash for 15 years and of the BIEN NewsFlash for 4 years. He is a cofounder of BIEN’s news website, Basic Income News, the main source of just-the-facts reporting on UBI worldwide. He is a cofounder and editor of the journal Basic Income Studies, the only academic journal devoted to research on UBI. Widerquist has published several books and many articles on UBI both in academic journals and in the popular media. He has appeared on or been quoted by many major media outlets, such as NPR’s On Point, NPR’s Marketplace, PRI’s the World, CNBC, Al-Jazeera, 538, Vice, Dissent, the New York Times, Forbes, the Financial Times, and the Atlantic Monthly, which called him “a leader of the worldwide basic income movement.” Widerquist holds two doctorates—one in Political Theory form Oxford University (2006) and one in Economics from the City University of New York (1996). He has published seven books, including Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press 2017, coauthored by Grant S. McCall) and Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). He has published more than a twenty scholarly articles and book chapters. Most Karl Widerquist’s writing is available on his “Selected Works” website (works.bepress.com/widerquist/). More information about him is available on his BIEN profile and on Wikipedia. He writes the blog "the Indepentarian" for Basic Income News.

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