Beyond Primary Goods

How should we distribute atypical goods of justice?

The Third Munich Workshop in the Philosophy of Institutions

February 14th – 16th, 2018

International Graduate Student Workshop at the Technical University of Munich/ Bavarian School of Public Policy, Munich, Germany

*Deadline: November 1st 2017

*Keynote Speaker: Kimberley Brownlee (University of Warwick)

Primary goods, resources, capabilities, (opportunities for) welfare – this is what most debates on distributive justice focus on as objects of distribution, as “currencies” of justice. Some contributions, however, aim at broadening our understanding of the currencies of justice, such as Richard Arneson’s work on the fair distribution of employment (1990), Julie Rose’s writings on free time (2016), and Anca Gheaus’ arguments on love and distributive justice (2017). The concern with atypical currencies of justice also calls into doubt whether formal political institutions are the only institutions with a duty to deliver on claims of justice.

But what exactly is different when we turn to the distribution of atypical goods – such as love, attention or power? What about respect, care, votes, information, education (at elite universities) or parliamentary seats? And what changes when we distribute “bads” – like bad work, risks or onerous responsibilities? What distributive principles apply in such cases? Which formal and informal institutions can and should be tasked with administering particular non-typical goods or “bads” of justice? How might allocation problems of specific goods affect our overall conception of distributive justice?

In political theory, these issues open up a number of important questions:

  • What, if anything, distinguishes the distributive principles for conventional goods from those for atypical goods? What are the difficulties and limits in applying principles of justice to other objects of distribution?
  • Which principles should be used if “bads” are to be distributed? How do the distribution of “bads” and the distribution of goods differ from each other?
  • How can we enrich our current understanding of distributive justice? Which goods and “bads” should it cover? For example, what difference do new technologies make?
  • What are the practical problems of redistribution? What are the limits of rectification and compensation? How can distributive schemes for atypical currencies of justice be institutionalised?

These are the main questions that we propose to explore in a workshop for advanced students and PhD candidates. To do so we invite contributions that discuss the allocation of alternative currencies of justice, namely atypical goods and “bads”.

If you would like to propose a paper for this workshop, please send an abstract of approximately 300 words to, by November 1st 2017. Presenters with accepted proposals will be informed by December 1st 2017. Papers will be circulated before the workshop, so presenters must send their papers to the organizers at the latest by January 15th 2018.

Unfortunately, we cannot cover costs for travel and accommodation, but snacks and drinks will be provided at the venue.