Luck Egalitarianism and Relational Egalitarianism: An Internal Tension in Cohen’s Theory of Justice

Jiangjin Chen 1
  • 1 School of Philosophy, Wuhan University,, Wuhan, China


Relational Egalitarianism focuses on the construction of equal social relationships between persons. It strongly opposes luck egalitarianism, which understands equality as a distributive ideal. In Cohen’s theory of justice, luck egalitarianism and relational egalitarianism simultaneously exist, and Cohen provides arguments corresponding to each. In this paper, we explore the manifestation of tension between these two forms of egalitarianism in his theory. In addition, we also reconstruct some possible solutions provided by Cohen to soften this tension, including the three approaches of market mechanism, egalitarian ethos and value pluralism, and find them to be unsuccessful. This tension is a serious challenge that needs to be addressed in Cohen’s theory of justice.

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The Journal is devoted to the fundamental issues of empirical and normative social theory, and is directed at social scientists and social philosophers who combine commitment to political and moral enlightenment with argumentative rigour and conceptual clarity. Published articles develop social theorizing in connection with analytical philosophy and philosophy of science.