The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd


  • Amartya Sen
Reference work entry


Traditionally, economists have treated justice as a component of social welfare maximization. Recently, philosophical treatments of justice have challenged the three principles underlying utilitarianism: welfarism, sum-ranking and consequentialism. Various theories of justice advance alternatives to utility (such as Rawls’s notion of ‘primary goods’) as a basis for social judgements, counterpose distributional criteria (such as Sen’s ‘leximin’ rule) to the aggregative approach of utilitarianism, and assert the moral priority of certain aspects of individual advantage (such as Nozick’s idea of individual rights as entitlements) over consequences. This article attempts to distinguish and clarify these conceptions of justice.


Arrow, K. Consequentialism Difference principle Entitlements Envy Equality Fairness Interpersonal utility comparisons Justice Leximin Liberty Maximin Meade, J. Nozick, R. Pigou, A. Primary goods Property rights Rawls, J. Sen, A. Sum-ranking Utilitarianism Welfarism 

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Amartya Sen
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