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 this article tells it in an unfamiliar way. The common theme in Nozick’s and Cohen’s arguments, I contend, is that there is a way of thinking about social justice that focuses not primarily on institutions, but rather on interpersonal relationships. I call this idea small justice. Justice, on this view, is identified with whatever institutions would arise through a process of social evolution from ethical interpersonal dealings repeated consistently over time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-243
Number of pages20
JournalRatio Juris
Issue number3
Early online date25 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


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  • The Idea of Small Justice

    Crowe, J., 2019.

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