Social justice, long-term welfare recipients, work first, Rawls


This paper sketches social workers' understanding of social justice and reliance on Rawls (1971), highlights findings about "hard to employ" welfare recipients facing welfare reform, and articulates the parameters of Rawlsian justice (Rawls, 1999a; 2001) with particular emphasis on people who have been on welfare for long. The paper shows that social workers do not have any space to maneuver in Rawlsian justice to uphold justice for long-term welfare recipients, and welfare reform's "work first" stipulation does not violate Rawlsian justice. The paper raises some questions about social workers' continued reliance on Rawls. It suggests social workers update the literature to reflect Rawls's revised and clarified vision of justice and apply it appropriately.

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