The Economic Principle of Political Liberalism: A Comparison of Rawls and Sugden

Federica Nalli, Paolo Santori*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


In his 2018 book, The Community of Advantage, economist Robert Sugden sets out his Principle of Mutual Benefit. This paper investigates the role that Sugden's principle occupies in Rawls' Political Liberalism. Would it be chosen by contracting parties in the Original Position and with what implications? We firstly show the potential complementarities of Rawls' and Sugden's approaches, integrating them in a broad philosophical framework. Second, we describe three scenarios in which Sugden's principle could be integrated into Rawls's system- (1) as a second order principle of the Difference Principle, (2) as a replacement of the whole Second Principle, or (3) as a substitute for the Difference Principle. We test each hypothesis through Rawls's artificial device of the Original Position. We suggest that the Principle of Mutual Benefit can be understood as a substitute for the Difference Principle, reaffirming the importance of social justice in guaranteeing the stability of a market society.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalReview of Political Economy
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Principle of mutual benefit
  • rawls
  • sugden
  • political liberalism
  • second principle
  • TEAM


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