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Brian Barry


Brian Barry


ISBN 9788131608302
Publication Year 2017
Pages 336 pages
Binding Hardback
Sale Territory India Only

About the Book

In the past twenty years, social injustice has increased enormously in Britain and the United States, regardless of the party in power. At the same time, the idea of social justice itself has been subverted, as the mantras of ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘equal opportunity’ have been employed as an excuse for doing nothing about the enrichment of the few at the expense of the many and for making ever harsher demands on the poor and vulnerable. With grace and wit, Brian Barry exposes the shoddy logic and distortion of reality that underpins this ideology. Once we understand the role of the social structure in limiting options, we have to recognize that really putting into practice ideas such as ‘equal opportunity’ and ‘personal responsibility’ would require a fundamental transformation of almost all existing institutions. Barry argues that only if inequalities of wealth and income are kept within a narrow range can equal prospects for education, health and autonomy be realized. He proposes a number of policies to achieve a more equal society and argues that they are economically feasible. But are they politically possible? The apparent stability of the status quo is delusory, he responds: radical changes in our way of life are unavoidable. Whether these changes are for better or for worse depends partly on the availability of a coherent set of principles and a programme flowing from them that is capable of mobilizing the growing discontent with business as usual. That is, ultimately, why social justice matters.


Part I: Social Justice: The Basics Why We Need a Theory / The Machinery of Social Injustice / The Scope of Social Justice

Part II: Equality of Opportunity Why Equal Opportunity? / Education / Health / The Making of the Black Gulag

Part III: What’s Wrong with Meritocracy? The Idea of Meritocracy / The Abuse of Science

Part IV: The Cult of Personal Responsibility Responsibility versus Equality? / Rights and Responsibilities / Irresponsible Societies

Part V: The Demands of Social Justice Pathologies of Inequality / Wealth / Jobs and Incomes / Can We Afford Social Justice?

Part VI: The Future of Social Justice The Power of Ideas / How Change Happens / Meltdown? / Justice or Bust

About the Author / Editor

Brian Barry is Lieber Professor of Political Philosophy, Columbia University.