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Rawls' Difference Principle: a test for social justice in contemporary social policy

Taylor, Helen 2017. Rawls' Difference Principle: a test for social justice in contemporary social policy. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

This thesis addresses a number of topics which are not normally combined: John Rawls, homelessness, and social policy. The research is a piece of applied philosophy which seeks to address claims about a disconnection between philosophical frameworks and tangible political problems. It argues that there is a role for philosophers, and philosophical frameworks, within the policy-making process. By applying philosophy to policy we can create normative accounts of the development and impact of legislation. The philosophical framework used within this research is John Rawls’ conception of justice as fairness. The work outlines the liberal principle of legitimacy and argues that Rawls’ concept of reasonableness can, and should, be used to justify the intervention of policy in individuals’ lives. The concept of reasonableness can be used as a regulatory mechanism in order to test whether social policy meets a standard of social justice. The metric used for this standard is whether the worst off in society have the capacity to create and pursue a conception of the good, a central capability of citizens as effective agents. Through modifying or emphasising certain Rawlsian concepts, the research develops the Difference Principle as a regulatory test to be applied to social policy. The final part of the research provides this initial application. The Housing (Wales) Act is used as a case study to assess whether the test as developed is able to create normative interpretations of specific pieces of legislation. It identifies a particular legal tool – the Pereira Test – as problematic on a normative account. The application of the Difference Principle demonstrates that this particular legal tool undermines individuals’ ability to safeguard their fundamental interests, and their capacity to create and pursue a conception of the good.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Department of Politics and International Relations (POLIR)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Social policy, homelessness, applied philosophy, John Rawls
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 May 2017
Date of Acceptance: May 2017
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2017 05:56
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/100700

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