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How Association Matters for Distributive Justice

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image of Journal of Moral Philosophy

Under which conditions does the relation between the levels of benefit and burden held by distinct individuals become a concern of justice? Associativists argue that principles of comparative distributive justice apply only among those persons who share some (special) form of association; humanists argue that some such principles apply among all human persons qua human persons. According to the “weak associativist” account that I defend, humanism is wrong, but so are current versions of associativism. Association is necessary if talk of comparative distributive justice is to be apt, but no special form of it is required. Whether or not principles of comparative distributive justice do in fact apply to an association will depend on whether or not the conditions for legitimate enforcement of the resulting duties are satisfied, and we can expect these conditions to be satisfied by a wide range of associative forms.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, Wellesley College,


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