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Neoliberal Social Justice

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Neoliberal Social Justice

Rawls Unveiled

9781800374539 Edward Elgar Publishing
Nick Cowen, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln, UK
Publication Date: April 2021 ISBN: 978 1 80037 453 9 Extent: c 224 pp
This timely and provocative book challenges the conventional wisdom that neoliberal capitalism is incompatible with social justice. Employing public choice and market process theory, Nick Cowen systematically compares and contrasts capitalism with socialist alternatives, illustrating how proponents of social justice have decisive reasons to opt for a capitalism guided by neoliberal ideas.

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This timely and provocative book challenges the conventional wisdom that neoliberal capitalism is incompatible with social justice. Employing public choice and market process theory, Nick Cowen systematically compares and contrasts capitalism with socialist alternatives, illustrating how proponents of social justice have decisive reasons to opt for a capitalism guided by neoliberal ideas.
 
Cowen shows how general rules of property and voluntary exchange facilitate widespread cooperation. Revisiting the works of John Rawls, he offers an interdisciplinary reconciliation of Rawlsian principles with liberal democracy by introducing Robust Property-Owning Democracy, a new form of governance that aims to achieve social justice via practical, liberal means. Chapters address the knowledge problem and the incentive problem that emerge when aiming for a fair distribution of social resources and demonstrate how everyday political bargaining can help achieve just outcomes for all.
 
Utilising insights from philosophy, politics and economics to show the role of market institutions and constitutional government in producing social justice, this book is crucial reading for academics, researchers and students of PPE and the political sciences. Its practical policy proposals will further benefit policymakers interested in mechanisms that spread the benefits of economic growth equitably.
Critical Acclaim
‘The problem any political group faces is how to generate morally binding political choice that somehow reconciles the conflicting plans and purposes of many citizens. The “first-wave” Rawlsians argued that consensus necessarily emerges from the reasoned consideration of shared goals. The “second-wave”, including Tom Christiano, Gerald Gaus, and others, used Rawlsian methods but amended Rawls’s conclusions, suggesting concrete procedures by which a binding consensus could be generated. In this book, Cowen proposes a novel third approach: expand Rawls’s approach to incorporate the limitations of real political arrangements to solve the problem of discovery and incentives. Cowen’s conclusion, that even – and perhaps especially – doctrinaire Rawlsians should support liberal institutions such as market systems and capitalist profit and loss, is sure to generate controversy. But the book is well-argued, and the argument is firmly situated in substantive arguments in political philosophy. Cowen’s work is a landmark in our understanding of the relationship between ethical theories and practical politics.’
– Michael C. Munger, Duke University, US

‘From Rousseau and Smith to John Rawls and Milton Friedman, liberalism has wished humans to be equal. In his closely argued yet lucid book, Nick Cowen melds the left and right of liberalism. Such an equality requires a plausible theory of what’s economically and politically possible. This Cowen elegantly supplies.’
– Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, author of Why Liberalism Works

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