First Steps Toward a Nonideal Theory of Justice

I am happy to announce that my article “First Steps Toward a Nonideal Theory of Justice” has been accepted for publication at Ethics & Global Politics. Here is the abstract:

Theorists have long debated whether John Rawls’ conception of justice as fairness can be extended to nonideal (i.e. unjust) social and political conditions, and if so, what the proper way of extending it is. This paper argues that in order to properly extend justice as fairness to nonideal conditions, Rawls’ most famous innovation – the original position – must be reconceived in the form of a “nonideal original position.” I then systematically construct a nonideal original position, showing that although its parties must have Rawls’ principles of ideal justice and priority relations as background aims, the parties should be otherwise entirely free to weigh those aims against whatever burdens and benefits they might face under nonideal conditions. Next, I show that the parties ought to aim to secure for themselves a special class of “nonideal primary goods”: all-purpose goods similar to Rawls’ original primary goods, but which in this case are all-purpose goods individuals might use to (A) promote Rawlsian ideals under nonideal conditions, (B) weigh Rawls’ principles of ideal justice and priority relations against whatever burdens and benefits they might face under nonideal conditions, and (C) effectively pursue their most favored weighting thereof. Finally, I defend a provisional list of nonideal primary goods, and briefly speculate on how the parties to the nonideal original position might deliberate to principles of nonideal justice for distributing them.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who, in ways large or small, contributed in some way to the development of my ideas on the subject, and to the development of the paper. I am truly thankful.

Finally, because the paper has been in development for so long, if I have neglected to thank you in the Acknowledgements section of the manuscript, please let me know. I have not submitted the final proofs to the journal yet, and I want to be sure that I thank everyone who played an instrumental part in its development. Hope the Spring semester is treating you all well. 🙂

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