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

  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.

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  • Date:

    31 March 2011

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  • Library of Congress:

    HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    303 Social processes


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.



Rawls-Tawney theorem; digital divide; social distribution; information policy;

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