Distributive Justice and Disability


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Utilitarianism against Egalitarianism

Mark S. Stein

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Theories of distributive justice are most severely tested in the area of disability. In this book, Mark Stein argues that utilitarianism performs better than egalitarian theories in this area: whereas egalitarian theories help the disabled either too little or too much, utilitarianism achieves the proper balance by placing resources where they will do the most good.
Stein offers what may be the broadest critique of egalitarian theory from a utilitarian perspective.  He addresses the work of egalitarian theorists John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, Amartya Sen, Bruce Ackerman, Martha Nussbaum, Norman Daniels, Philippe Van Parijs, and others. Stein claims that egalitarians are often driven to borrow elements of utilitarianism in order to make their theories at all plausible. 
The book concludes with an acknowledgment that both utilitarians and egalitarians face problems in the distribution of life-saving medical resources. Stein advocates a version of utilitarianism that would distribute life-saving resources based on life expectancy, not quality of life. Egalitarian theories, he argues, ignore life expectancy and so are again found wanting. 
Distributive Justice and Disability is a powerful and engaging book that helps to reframe the debate between egalitarian and utilitarian thinkers.

Mark S. Stein is academic fellow at the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, Harvard Law School.

"Books that cast a long-running philosophical dispute in a fresh light are rare, but Distributive Justice and Disability is one of them. It is important, not only for what it says about justice for people with disabilities, but also for the way it transforms the debate about utilitarianism and egalitarianism."—Peter Singer, Princeton University

Distributive Justice and Disability is an engaging, smart, and insightful book on a topic of social importance. Mark Stein’s arguments are controversial and interesting, and his treatment is illuminating and helpful.”—Anne L. Alstott, Jacquin D. Bierman Professor of Taxation, Yale Law School, and author of No Exit: What Parents Owe Their Children and What Society Owes Parents

Distributive Justice and Disability offers a powerful brief for a utilitarian theory of distributive justice over its most prominent rival, egalitarianism. Mark Stein’s arguments are always pellucid and thoroughly engaging, and he handles the densest work of others with remarkable acuity. Bioethicists and political theorists will find this work invaluable.”—Ellen Frankel Paul, Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, and Deputy Director, Social Philosophy and Policy Center, Bowling Green State University

“Mark Stein has written a thoughtful and impressive book that makes an important contribution to utilitarian moral philosophy.”—Julia Driver, Professor of Philosophy, Dartmouth College, and author of Uneasy Virtue

Distributive Justice and Disability wrestles with many difficult and contentious issues, but Mark Stein has a talent for taking very complicated ideas and relating them in a clear and accessible manner. The author engages an important topic, one that promises to become even more timely over the coming years.”—Grant Reeher, Associate Professor of Political Science and Senior Research Associate, Center for Policy Research, Syracuse University

Distributive Justice and Disability is an important, lucid, powerfully argued book that sheds fresh light on the debate between utilitarians and egalitarians.”—Peter Singer, Princeton University

"For such a compact and elegant book, Stein's coverage of the immense literature on distributive justice is astonishing. . . . [Stein] is also extremely clear about his assumptions, his definititions, and his argumentative strategy—all of which makes the book a delight to critically engage with."—Jerome E. Bickenbach, Social Theory and Practice
[Reviewer refutes Stein's argument, but strongly praises his scholarship]
ISBN: 9780300100570
Publication Date: May 15, 2006
316 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4