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Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: GV, HM
In A Theory of Justice (1971) John Rawls attempted to solve the problem of distributive justice by combining self-interest, ignorance and risk-aversion. He argued that if self-interested persons in a situation of uncertainty imposed by a veil of ignorance were choosing principles for the basic structure of society, then they would be risk-adverse and choose two principles – The Principle of Equal Liberty and the Difference Principle. Critics have argued against this risk-adverse element of Rawls’ theory but those critics as well as Rawls made certain presuppositions about risk-aversion, risk-taking and gambling. This thesis also examines the risk-aversion in Rawls’ theory but addresses the previous shortfall by exploring the issue of risk and gambling in two interrelated ways. It applies a Foucauldian approach to the history of risk and gambling in order to contextualise the current views and then investigates the contemporary meaning by drawing on research leading up to the UK Gambling Act 2005. Drawing on these findings it argues that not only might risk-taking occur in the original position but that different types of participants could show different degrees of risk-taking behaviour. By exploring the theoretical debates between essentialism and anti-essentialism, it further argues that it is unlikely that the veil of ignorance would be able to screen out those differences. It then employs theories of identity and difference in the work of Heidegger, Deleuze and Lyotard in an attempt to overcome that weakness in Rawls’ theory but finds that this may not be possible. After highlighting a connection between impartiality and gambling, it concludes, in contrast to Rawls, that risk-taking rather than risk-aversion lies at the heart of social justice. The implication of this reversal is that it may have an impact on policy-decisions in other areas of the justice system.
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