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Title: Self-respect in the just society : a Rawlsian reconstruction and defence
Author: Penny, Richard
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis is concerned with the status of the good of ‘self-respect’ within John Rawls’s account of the just society. Self-respect has a central place within Rawls’s theory of justice—and yet, as many recognise, Rawls’s discussion of this good is both fragmented and opaque. As such, very basic questions remain unanswered. What is the nature of this good? Precisely how does it relate to justice? And what moral implications follow from this for organising the basic structure of a just society? In the first part of this thesis I address these (and other) important questions. I begin by reconstructing a Rawlsian account of self-respect, so as to arbitrate between the multiple uses Rawls ascribes to the term. What emerges, I argue, is an account of self-respect which is not only more coherent than Rawls’s exposition may suggest, but one which has an interesting and sophisticated relationship to the account of justice which Rawls develops. I use this account to argue that considerations of self-respect act as a constraint upon the principles of justice Rawls sets out, and I set out what I take to be a covert distributive standard for this good. These findings not only shed light on the status of self-respect within Rawls’s work, but also on a number of theoretical debates over the kind of project in which Rawls was engaged. With this exegesis completed, the second part of the thesis asks what the implications are for three contemporary debates over the Rawlsian ‘legacy’. I first address G.A. Cohen’s ‘incentive-based’ critique of Rawls, and argue that the good of self-respect serves to deepen the thrust of this challenge. I then address recent accounts of ‘Market Democracy’ and argue that its proponents are wrong to argue self-respect can act as the bridge between Rawlsian and libertarian thought. Finally, I address the recent work done to expand upon the Rawlsian ideal of a ‘property-owning democracy’. I argue that—subject to some minor revisions—this interpretation comes closest to realising thevision that Rawls had for the status of self-respect in the just society.
Supervisor: Armstrong, Christopher Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available