The Idea of Justice

Front Cover
Penguin Books Limited, 2010 - Philosophy - 496 pages
Social justice: an ideal, forever beyond our grasp; or one of many practical possibilities? More than a matter of intellectual discourse, the idea of justice plays a real role in how--and how well--people live. And in this book the distinguished scholar Amartya Sen offers a powerful critique of the theory of social justice that, in its grip on social and political thinking, has long left practical realities far behind. The transcendental theory of justice, the subject of Sen's analysis, flourished in the Enlightenment and has proponents among some of the most distinguished philosophers of our day; it is concerned with identifying perfectly just social arrangements, defining the nature of the perfectly just society. The approach Sen favors, on the other hand, focuses on the comparative judgments of what is "more" or "less" just, and on the comparative merits of the different societies that actually emerge from certain institutions and social interactions. At the heart of Sen's argument is a respect for reasoned differences in our understanding of what a "just society" really is. People of different persuasions--for example, utilitarians, economic egalitarians, labor right theorists, no-nonsense libertarians--might each reasonably see a clear and straightforward resolution to questions of justice; and yet, these clear and straightforward resolutions would be completely different. In light of this, Sen argues for a comparative perspective on justice that can guide us in the choice between alternatives that we inevitably face.

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User Review  - r4hulk - www.librarything.com

Giving it one star for attacking Rousseau's 'social contract' theory of justice. I couldn't go past a few pages but it seems Sen considers justice unattainable through collectively willed laws, but ... Read full review

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User Review  - EmreSevinc - LibraryThing

Before I bought the book I thought that some parts of it could be a difficult read for someone who is not well versed in political theory, philosophy of justice and social choice theory ... Read full review

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About the author (2010)

Amartya Sen is one of the world's leading public intellectuals. He is Professor of Economics and Professor of Philosophy at Harvard. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1998 to 2004, and won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998. His many celebrated books include Development as Freedom (1999), The Argumentative Indian (2005) and The Idea of Justice (2010). They have been translated into more than 30 languages.

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