About the project

by | May 16, 2017

Duration: 2019-2024
PI: Adina Preda

Global economic inequality is rising but the human rights movement is poorly equipped to deal with questions of distributive justice. This is partly because the kind of rights enshrined in international documents are either civil and political rights or socio-economics rights that only envisage the relief of poverty rather than inequality.

This is not just a historical accident; a rift between individual moral rights and egalitarian justice is well entrenched in the philosophical literature as well. Socialist thinkers have traditionally been sceptical of rights, and contemporary egalitarian theories are often silent about them. At the same time, theories that take rights seriously either neglect the distributive dimension, are inegalitarian, or suggest that egalitarian redistribution may infringe on individual rights. Egalitarianism and rights thus appear to be inhospitable to each other. This project seeks first, to understand what explains this divide and second, to demonstrate that it can be bridged.

REAL is motivated by the thought that a theory of justice would be more action-guiding if it could translate its recommendations into moral and subsequently legal rights. It thus aims to show that egalitarianism is not only compatible with a commitment to rights but that they are mutually supportive. The project will critically examine theories of rights and egalitarian theories of justice and adopts an analytical approach that blends arguments from political and legal philosophy, normative ethics and axiology in order to provide a novel and solid framework that integrates the two and advances current debates in these areas.


The project consists of 3 sub-projects

Sub-project 1 will examine theories of rights and the extent to which they might have implications that are inegalitarian. The question is whether there is anything intrinsic to the nature of rights that might rule out an egalitarian account of distributive justice.

Sub-project 2 will examine the most prominent contemporary egalitarian theories and seek to uncover the reasons why egalitarian theories are hostile or, at best, silent about rights. What this sub-project is expected to reveal is that what is missing from the literature is a deontic theory of (luck) egalitarian justice. Offering such a theory is the objective of the third sub-project.

Sub-project 3 builds on the conclusions of the first two sub-projects and completes the framework that integrates the two perspectives. The objective here is to propose a blueprint for a rights-friendly theory of (luck) egalitarian distributive justice with global scope.

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