•  1462
    An Introduction to Political Philosophy
    Oxford University Press. 1996.
    The revised edition of this highly successful text provides a clear and accessible introduction to some of the most important questions of political philosophy. Organized around major issues, Wolff provides the structure that beginners need, while also introducing some distinctive ideas of his own
  •  1071
    In this article, we propose the Fair Priority Model for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and emphasize three fundamental values we believe should be considered when distributing a COVID-19 vaccine among countries: Benefiting people and limiting harm, prioritizing the disadvantaged, and equal moral concern for all individuals. The Priority Model addresses these values by focusing on mitigating three types of harms caused by COVID-19: death and permanent organ damage, indirect health consequences, s…Read more
  •  421
    Political Thought (edited book)
    with Michael Rosen
    Oxford University Press. 1999.
    This Oxford Reader contains 140 essential readings covering the most important debates in the Western political tradition and presents samples of the major political ideologies. Issues discussed include; the role of human nature in determining social arrangements; the political significance of gender differences; the justification for the powers of the state; democracy and the rights of minorities; the tension between liberty and equality; the way in which resources ought to be distributed; and …Read more
  •  346
    Equality: The recent history of an idea
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 4 (1): 125-136. 2007.
  •  312
    Fairness, Respect, and the Egalitarian Ethos
    Philosophy and Public Affairs 27 (2): 97-122. 1998.
  •  244
    Marx and exploitation
    The Journal of Ethics 3 (2): 105--120. 1999.
    The discussion of the adequacy of Karl Marx''s definition of exploitation has paid insufficient attention to a prior question: what is a definition? Once we understand Marx as offering a reference-fixing definition in a model we will realise that it is resistant to certain objections. A more general analysis of exploitation is offered here and it is suggested that Marx''s own definition is a particular instance of the general analysis which makes a number of controversial moral assumptions.
  •  241
    Mill, Indecency and the Liberty Principle
    Utilitas 10 (1): 1-16. 1998.
    In this paper I want to do two things. One concerns Mill’s attitude to public indecency. In On Liberty Mill expresses the conventional view that certain actions, if conducted in public, are an affront to good manners, and can properly be prohibited. I want to come to an understanding of Mill’s position so that it allows him to defend this part of conventional morality, but does not disrupt certain of his liberal convictions: principally the conviction that what consenting adults do in private is…Read more
  •  240
    Fairness, Respect and the Egalitarian Ethos Revisited
    The Journal of Ethics 14 (3-4): 335-350. 2010.
    This paper reconsiders some themes and arguments from my earlier paper “Fairness, Respect and the Egalitarian Ethos.” That work is often considered to be part of a cluster of papers attacking “luck egalitarianism” on the grounds that insisting on luck egalitarianism's standards of fairness undermines relations of mutual respect among citizens. While this is an accurate reading, the earlier paper did not make its motivations clear, and the current paper attempts to explain the reasons that led me…Read more
  •  231
    The Social Gradient in Health: How Fair Retirement could make a Difference
    with G. Wester
    Public Health Ethics 3 (3): 272-281. 2010.
    Social inequalities in health in the UK persist despite attempts to reduce them. We argue that work and pensions constitutes an area of intervention where there is potential to make change happen. We propose that workers who are exposed to significant health risks through their occupation should be allowed to draw their state pension earlier, based on a minimum number of years in the workforce. We model this proposal on similar policies in other European countries. In our modification, the pensi…Read more
  •  215
    Exchange is one thing, economic competition another. Exchange is possible without competition; and economic competition (of sorts) is possible without exchange. Put exchange and competition together and, roughly, you get the free market. There are many philosophical discussions of the free market; a sizeable number about free exchange; but - - aside from in the context of consequentialist defences of the market - - who this century has had much to say about economic competition?
  •  202
    This paper surveys the current philosophical discussion of the ethics of risk imposition, placing it in the context of relevant work in psychology, economics and social theory. The central philosophical problem starts from the observation that it is not practically possible to assign people individual rights not to be exposed to risk, as virtually all activity imposes some risk on others. This is the ‘problem of paralysis’. However, the obvious alternative theory that exposure to risk is justifi…Read more
  •  168
    In a paper published in this journal we proposed a method for resolving disputed land claims between two parties (Steiner and Wolff: 2003). In essence the proposal is to hold an auction between the disputants in which the land is given to the higher bidder, but the receipts of the auction to the under-bidder. We claimed that under such circumstances both parties can walk away happy: the higher bidder happy to pay the price bid for the land; the under-bidder happier to have the receipts of the au…Read more
  •  150
  •  147
    Rational, Fair, and Reasonable
    Utilitas 8 (3): 263. 1996.
    There can be no doubt that Brian Barry has made an enormous contribution to the clarification of the ideas of justice current in contemporary political thought. In Barry’s Justice as Impartiality he explicitly distinguishes and sets in competition three models of justice: justice as mutual advantage; justice as reciprocity; and justice as impartiality, and he argues that we should prefer the last of these. What I want to do here is to consider four questions. First, what is this competition a co…Read more
  •  145
    Hume, Bentham, and the Social Contract
    Utilitas 5 (1): 87-. 1993.
    Hume famously argues that Social Contract theory collapses into a form of utilitarianism. Bentham endorses Hume's argument. I show that, if Hume's argument refutes Social Contract theory, it equally undermines Bentham's own utilitarian account of political obligation. This discussion is used to illustrate a more general thesis that there is no single problem of political obligation, but different problems for different theorists
  •  143
    Scanlon on Social and Material Inequality
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 10 (4): 406-425. 2013.
  •  129
    In the first section the problem of political obligation is motivated, and in Section 2 the core structure of the problem is laid bare. A recognition ofthis structure prompts reflection that the problem will appear very different to different thinkers, depending on their moral theories. It also invites the speculation that the problem will be incapable of solution on some moral theories while trivial on others. This polarity does reflect the state of much of the literature until fairly recently.…Read more
  •  107
    Making the World Safe for Utilitarianism
    Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 58 1-22. 2006.
    Utilitarianism has a curious history. Its most celebrated founders—Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill—were radical progressives, straddling the worlds of academic philosophy, political science, economic theory and practical affairs. They made innumerable recommendations for legal, social, political and economic reform, often described in fine detail. Some of these recommendations were followed, sooner or later, and many of their radical ideas have become close to articles of faith of western li…Read more
  •  101
    Freedom, liberty, and property
    Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 11 (3): 345-357. 1997.
    If one values freedom, what sort of regime of property should one favor: libertarianism, socialism, or something else again? Debate on this topic has been hampered by a failure to distinguish freedom and liberty, which are both of great value, but can come into conflict. Furthermore there are many similar concepts?distinct from both liberty and freedom, yet each representing something we rightly value?which may also come into conflict with each other and with freedom and liberty. Consequently th…Read more
  •  99
    Disability, status enhancement, personal enhancement and resource allocation
    Economics and Philosophy 25 (1): 49-68. 2009.
    It often appears that the most appropriate form of addressing disadvantage related to disability is through policies that can be called “status enhancements”: changes to the social, cultural and material environment so that the difficulties experienced by those with impairments are reduced, even eradicated. However, status enhancements can also have their limitations. This paper compares the relative merits of policies of status enhancement and “personal enhancement”: changes to the disabled pers…Read more
  •  94
    Philosophical disagreement about justice ranges over at least two questions. The most immediate is a substantial question, concerning the conditions under which particular distributive arrangements can be said to be just or unjust. The second, deeper, question concerns the nature of justice itself. What is justice? Here we can distinguish three views. First, justice as mutual advantage sees justice as essentially a matter of the outcome of a bargain. There are times when two parties can both be …Read more
  •  93
    I—The Demands of the Human Right to Health
    Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 86 (1): 217-237. 2012.
    The human right to health has been established in international law since 1976. However, philosophers have often regarded human rights doctrine as a marginal contribution to political philosophy, or have attempted to distinguish ‘human rights proper’ from ‘aspirations’, with the human right to health often considered as falling into the latter category. Here the human right to health is defended as an attractive approach to global health, and responses are offered to a series of criticisms conce…Read more
  •  92
    Why Read Marx Today?
    Oxford University Press. 2002.
    The fall of the Berlin Wall had enormous symbolic resonance, marking the collapse of Marxist politics and economics. Indeed, Marxist regimes have failed miserably, and with them, it seems, all reason to take the writings of Karl Marx seriously. Jonathan Wolff argues that if we detach Marx the critic of current society from Marx the prophet of some never-to-be-realized worker's paradise, he remains the most impressive critic we have of liberal, capitalist, bourgeois society. The author shows how …Read more
  •  88
    Hobbes and the motivations of social contract theory
    International Journal of Philosophical Studies 2 (2). 1994.
    No abstract
  •  86
    Cognitive disability in a society of equals
    Metaphilosophy 40 (3-4): 402-415. 2009.
    This paper considers the range of possible policy options that are available if we wish to attempt to treat people with cognitive disabilities as equal members of society. It is suggested that the goal of policy should be allow each disabled person to establish a worthwhile place in the world and sets out four policy options: cash compensation, personal enhancement, status enhancement and targeted resource enhancement. The paper argues for the social policy of targeted resource enhancement for i…Read more
  •  85
    The regulation of drugs presents a challenge for liberalism: how can punishing a person for an action that harms only himself or herself be justified? For public policy a related difficulty is to justify the differential treatment of drugs and alcohol. Philosophical arguments suggest that current regulations are unjustified, and that some currently illegal drugs should be treated no more harshly than alcohol. However, such arguments make little or no impact in public policy discussions. This gen…Read more
  •  83
    What Is the Problem of Political Obligation?
    Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 91. 1991.