The Idea of Small Justice

Jonathan Crowe

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Talk about social or distributive justice, at least among legal and political philosophers, tends to focus heavily on institutions. This way of thinking about justice owes a great deal to John Rawls. Rawls's theory of justice was famously criticised by Robert Nozick who, in turn, attracted an influential critique from G A Cohen. The story of these critiques is well known, but Professor Crowe will tell it in an unfamiliar way, drawing out a lesson that perhaps none of its protagonists would recognise. The moral of the story, as Professor Crowe tells it, is not that Rawls was right or wrong about the features of just social institutions, but rather that by focusing on institutions he thought about justice in an incomplete and unstable manner. The common theme in Nozick's and Cohen's arguments, Crowe contends, is that there is a way of thinking about social justice that focuses not on institutions, but rather on interpersonal relationships. He calls this idea small justice. Small justice might appear, at first, not to be a conception of justice at all. He will suggest that it is, albeit of an unfamiliar—which is to say, a radically non-Rawlsian—kind.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventJulius Stone Institute Seminar Series - University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 27 Jun 201927 Jun 2019


SeminarJulius Stone Institute Seminar Series
Internet address


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  • The Idea of Small Justice

    Crowe, J., Sept 2021, In: Ratio Juris. 34, 3, p. 224-243 20 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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