The Many Concepts of Social Justice in European Private Law
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The Many Concepts of Social Justice in European Private Law

Edited by Hans-W. Micklitz

This insightful book, with contributions from leading international scholars, examines the European model of social justice in private law that has developed over the 20th century.
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Chapter 10: Social Justice in the Welfare State from the Perspective of the Comparative History of Institutions

Cornelius Torp


Cornelius Torp 1 INTRODUCTION Justice is one of the central norms of modern, democratic welfare states. As the welfare state was invented by humans, it is therefore in need of legitimation, unlike nature, which cannot be made to answer for its distribution of strengths and weaknesses, but like the market, the other important agency of distribution in modern times.1 The modern state’s reason for being and its legitimacy are to a large degree based on the just distribution or redistribution of the burdens, demands and benefits in society. ‘Justice’, wrote John Rawls, arguably the most important theoretician of justice in the twentieth century, ‘is the first virtue of social institutions as truth is of systems of thought.’2 This is true especially for the institutions of the welfare state. And it applies particularly during the period of the restructuring of the welfare state since the mid1970s, when justice as one of the central normative categories of the welfare state gained even more importance in public opinion.3 In the decades before, when the welfare state was expanding, social and political injustice were experienced less strongly, as presumably those who benefited less were still able to get a piece of an ever larger pie; often, new, compensating social measures defused upcoming tensions. Today, in contrast, public support, or at the very least public acceptance, of cutbacks and burdens can only be obtained if both 1 See Kersting (2003), p. 23. – I would like to thank Jeffrey Verhey for doing a fine job in...

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