Chain Connection, Close-Knitness, and the Difference Principle

Hun Chung*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When distributing the benefits produced by social cooperation, Rawls’s difference principle targets a specific group (i.e., the least advantaged group) and requires its expectations to be maximized. One natural worry is whether the practical application of the difference principle comes with a significant cost to other groups in society. Rawls was quite aware of this potential worry and gave his earnest efforts to respond to it. His solution comes from his notions of chain connection and close-knitness. Rawls’s claim was that whenever society satisfies both chain connection and close-knitness, the practical im-plementation of the difference principle will (a) always lead to strict Pareto improvements, and, as a result, (b) the final state will be Pareto optimal. In this article, it will be shown that under close scrutiny neither of these claims holds even when society is both chain connected and close-knit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2305-2311
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Oct

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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