For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Why Work Harder? Equality, Social Duty and the Market"

by Meckled-Garcia, Saladin (2002)


The paper responds to Cohen's critical claim that for agents who sincerely accept Rawls's difference principle it is not consistent to seek material incentives towards productivity. The central argument of the paper is that productive agents in a market economy would not be as productive without material incentives unless held to be under a (controversial) duty to increase productivity. This duty is distinct from merely having a duty to contribute up to a reasonable minimum, and then equalise material benefits. The controversial duty is not derivable from the difference principle itself, nor from the background motivations for it. Therefore, if Cohen's critique is internal to Rawlsian distributive justice, it is based on a controversial version of that view of distributive justice when applied to a market system. It is the reach, and not the core insight of Cohen's critique that is attacked here. If in any way sound, that insight does not un-controversially apply to all material incentive-seeking in a market economy.

Key Passage



Equality, Distributive Justice, Justice, Markets, Rawls, Duties, Difference Principle


Economics, Duty to Work

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