The family's threat to justice

Inheritance, private education and bedtime stories

From as early as Plato’s Republic, philosophers have pointed out that family relations pose a threat to justice. Today those concerns have mostly to do with equality: Some parents are able to offer their children advantages such as a private education, social connections, and a handsome inheritance, therefore contributing to the propagation of inequality across generations. These advantages however also come in other softer, forms such as the reading of bedtime stories, or the instilling of a passion for learning. It would seem, therefore, that our concern for justice and equality can lead us to endorse Plato’s solution: the abolition of the family altogether. We would be wrong to do so, however, argues Adam Swift.


The family presents a deep challenge to any theory of social justice. The evidence on social (im)mobility shows that children born into different families face unequal prospects. But few deny that we have a right to family life, which includes

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