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Political Equality, Firm Size and the Choice of Social System: A Rawlsian Recovery of a Neglected Ideal-Type?

Wilesmith, John; (2017) Political Equality, Firm Size and the Choice of Social System: A Rawlsian Recovery of a Neglected Ideal-Type? Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in the evaluation of models of political economy in normative political theory. These debates raise questions of both a substantive and a methodological nature. On the substantive side, an important question is 'What restrictions, if any, need to be placed on corporations and other types of firms in order for a social system to conform to the demands of justice?' From a methodological standpoint, a central question is 'How should we conceive of the choice between different types of political economy or social system?' These are the two main questions that I shall address in this thesis, offering my answers in three parts from a broadly Rawlsian perspective. In Part I, I address the methodological question and defend a flexible approach to evaluating social systems that allows for 'recombinant possibilities'. In Parts II and III, which make up the bulk of the thesis, I turn my attention to the substantive question. In Part II, I set out the theoretical underpinnings of my argument. I argue that Rawlsians should include a principle of political equality within a lexically prior principle of justice, and then specify some constraints that this places on constitutional design. In Part III, I build on these arguments to make the case that the very existence of large firms poses a threat to the realisation of political equality, and therefore justice, regardless of whether they are owned by many small shareholders (as in a property-owning democracy) or controlled by their workers (as in a liberal socialist society). This concern about large firms has been largely overlooked by Rawlsians. Accordingly, I end with some suggestions as to how these theorists might usefully supplement their existing institutional recommendations by combining them with a neglected model of political economy.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Political Equality, Firm Size and the Choice of Social System: A Rawlsian Recovery of a Neglected Ideal-Type?
Event: University College London (UCL)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Property-owning Democracy, Rawls, Political Equality, Ordoliberalism, Political power, Liberal socialism, Theory of the firm
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Political Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1544405
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