The article examines Pareto's reflections on the concept of justice. While some economists argue that the principle of Pareto-Optimality can be used as a criterion of just distribution, Pareto himself thought that the correct balance of benefits and burdens in society was a philosophical rather than an economic question. However, as an advocate of Machiavellian 'realism', he argued that this question could never be answered objectively. What we call justice will always vary with the cultural and historical context. Pareto attempts to prove this proposition by showing that the different philosophical approaches to justice - utilitarian, natural law, social contract - all fail to make the case for a universal and timeless understanding of the concept. The article will conclude that Pareto was basically right. While all societies require visions of justice, these will necessarily depend on particular cultural traditions and subjective value judgments.
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