Property-Owning Democracy and the Demands of Justice

Thad Williamson, University of Richmond
Martin O'Neill, Manchester Centre for Political Theory


The concept of property-owning democracy is not well understood, and is still only rarely treated as integral to Rawls’s theory of justice. The aim of this review article is threefold. First, we review how Rawls and his leading interpreters have described the concept of property-owning democracy. Second, we examine how the notion of “property- owning democracy” has recently been appropriated by non-Rawlsian political philosophers working in the republican tradition, who have developed arguments from non-Rawlsian premises which also favour the widespread dispersion of property ownership. Third, we briefly review recent workattempting to translate the general notion of a property-owning democracy into concrete institutional and policy proposals that might be adopted by advanced industrialized nations.