Abstract

A life without liberty and material resources is not a good life. Equally, a life devoid of meaningful social relationships—such as friendships, family attachments, and romances—is not a good life. From this it is tempting to conclude that just as individuals have rights to liberty and material resources, they also have rights to access meaningful social relationships. I argue that this conclusion can be defended only in a narrow set of cases. ‘Pure’ social relationship deprivation—that is, deprivation that is not caused, or accompanied, by deficits in liberties and material resources— mostly generates demands of private beneficence. I suggest that social relationship deprivation is unjust, hence a rights violation, only when it is due to factors—such as one’s race—that are irrelevant to one’s being a good participant in social relationships. I thus conclude that access to meaningful social relationships is not a fundamental concern for theories of (personal or political) justice.

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