Democratic equality and Rawls's criticism of welfare state capitalism


  • Juan Antonio Fernández Manzano Universidad Complutense de Madrid



Capitalist welfare state, capitalism, democratic equality, justice as fairness


Despite the accusation of developing an abstract theory, detached from real conditions, depoliticizing, and ultimately inclined towards the status quo, Rawls did not fail to analyze, since 1971, the political-economic conditions in which his theory could become viable. The analysis of this topic concludes with the statement that the principles and ideals of his theory could not be satisfied under capitalism in any of its forms.

This article discusses the possibilities of making justice as fairness compatible under a capitalist welfare state and shows that the reasons Rawls presented for denying this possibility remain perfectly valid. The difficulties of a welfare state to curb the tendencies of capitalism towards undemocratic inequality make it unviable. The article defends that, although it is a noble ideal to avoid that no one should fall below a certain social minimum, the requirements of the principles of justice are much more demanding. The article concludes by defending Rawls's methodology and main arguments and showing that far from having depoliticizing effects, justice as fairness allows us to broaden the political imagination both to denounce the high oligopolistic character of capitalist economies and to combat the omnipresent inclination of neoliberalism towards economic efficiency.




How to Cite

Fernández Manzano, J. A. (2022). Democratic equality and Rawls’s criticism of welfare state capitalism. Ethics, Politics & Society, 5(2), 80–95.



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