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The Rawls-Tawney theorem and the digital divide in postindustrial society

Duff, Alistair


Alistair Duff


The digital divide continues to challenge political and academic circles worldwide. A range of policy solutions is briefly evaluated, from laissez-faire on the right to “arithmetic” egalitarianism on the left. The article recasts the digital divide as a problem for the social distribution of presumptively important information (e.g., electoral data, news, science) within postindustrial society. Endorsing in general terms the left-liberal approach of differential or “geometric” egalitarianism, it seeks to invest this with greater precision, and therefore utility, by means of a possibly original synthesis of the ideas of John Rawls and R. H. Tawney. It is argued that, once certain categories of information are accorded the status of “primary goods,” their distribution must then comply with principles of justice as articulated by those major 20th century exponents of ethical social democracy. The resultant Rawls-Tawney theorem, if valid, might augment the portfolio of options for interventionist information policy in the 21st century.


Duff, A. (2011). The Rawls-Tawney theorem and the digital divide in postindustrial society. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62, 604-612.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2011-03
Deposit Date Mar 21, 2011
Print ISSN 1532-2882
Electronic ISSN 1532-2890
Publisher Association for Information Science and Technology
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 62
Pages 604-612
Keywords Rawls-Tawney theorem; digital divide; social distribution; information policy;
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