Distributive Theories of Justice

  • Lynelle WattsEmail author
  • David Hodgson


Social justice in the social work literature is frequently equated with fairness and equality in the distribution and access to resources, opportunities and rights and liberties. This is a version of social justice known as the distributive theory of justice. The most influential exponent of this theory is philosopher John Rawls, outlined primarily in his book A Theory of Justice . Given the influence of the distributive theory on social work specifically, and the welfare state generally, this chapter explains the distributive theory of justice according to Rawls. The location of justice as the first virtue of institutions is explained, as are Rawls’ two main principles of justice: (1) justice as equal rights and opportunities; and (2) the difference principle, which may be seen as socially just inequality. How and why Rawls arrived at these principles is explained, as are his objections to utilitarian and meritocratic conceptions of justice.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Arts and HumanitiesEdith Cowan UniversityBunburyAustralia

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