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Entitlement Theories of Justice: From Nozick to Roemer and Beyond

  • Robert J. van der Veen (a1) and Philippe Van Parijs (a1)


In Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Robert Nozick contrasts entitlement theories of justice and “traditional” theories such as Rawls', utilitarianism or egalitarianism, and advocates the former against the latter. What exactly is an entitlement theory (or conception or principle) of justice? Nozick's book offers two distinct characterizations. On the one hand, he explicitly describes “the general outlines of the entitlement theory” as maintaining “that the holdings of a person are just if he is entitled to them by the principles of justice in acquisition and transfer, or by the principle of rectification of injustice (as specified by the first two principles of just acquisition and transfer)” (Nozick, 1974, p. 153). On the other hand, his famous “Wilt Chamberlain” argument against alternative theories is first said to apply to (all) “non-entitlement conceptions” (p. 160), and later to any “end-state principle or distributional patterned principle of justice” (p. 163) — which amounts to an implicit characterization of an entitlement conception (theory, principle) as a conception of justice which is neither end-state nor patterned.



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