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The Shadow of UnfairnessA Plebeian Theory of Liberal Democracy$
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Jeffrey Green

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190215903

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190215903.001.0001

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Reasonable Envy

Reasonable Envy

The Heart of Plebeian Progressivism

(p.67) 3 Reasonable Envy
The Shadow of Unfairness

Jeffrey Edward Green

Oxford University Press

This chapter defends the plebeian concept of reasonable envy against the widespread denigration of envy in contemporary political culture and philosophy. It makes the case that beneath the shadow of unfairness permanently cast in even the most advanced liberal-democratic states, there is a legitimate place for singling out the most advantaged class for singular regulatory attention and, further, there are some special circumstances when it is not irrational to impose costs on the most advantaged that have neutral or even negative material effects on the rest of society. Through a critical dialogue with the philosophy of John Rawls, the leading recent philosopher of liberal-democratic justice, the chapter argues that the same grounds on which a liberal-democratic society already finds it appropriate to regulate the least advantaged class also justify it in identifying and regulating the most advantaged class.

Keywords:   envy, reasonable envy, John Rawls, plebeianism, democracy, unfairness, citizenship, ancient Rome, plutocracy

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