An empirically informed European theory of justice and fairness

Specific Challenge

The ongoing financial, economic and social crises in Europe have brought the issue of rising inequalities to the fore. Whilst increases in inequalities vary between (Member) States and have evolved at different speeds at different times, it is clear that inequalities have been on the rise generally over the last three decades, both in Europe and globally. There is increasing evidence and awareness that rising inequalities have both contributed to the crises and been a consequence of them. The spatiality of institutions and the socio-economic context have contributed to the financial crises differently, while banking systems – e. g. decentralized versus centralised systems – have also played a major role. Despite evidence showing that more equal societies fare better on core quality of life indicators, there continue to be differences in perceptions of inequality. It is therefore high time to address, and possibly reappraise, the concepts and realities of equality, justice and fairness at a fundamental level, both normatively and empirically. The specific challenge is to formulate a theory of justice and fairness which is normatively sound, reflective of European values and at the same time rests on solid empirical ground with regard to citizens' attitudes and views.


The research to address this challenge should in particular focus on the following key dimensions. It is expected to either comprehensively address one of these dimensions or to combine them. The research may also cover other issues relevant for addressing the specific challenge.

1) Towards a European Theory of Justice and Fairness

2) How Europeans perceive, experience, relate to and contest inequalities

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the order of EUR 2.5 million for each dimension would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. This does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

Research under this topic is expected to provide comprehensive data and analysis on the extent to which inequalities are regarded as acceptable across a range of dimensions and Member States. Research will lead to a greater understanding and reassessment of the notions of justice and fairness and should aspire to formulate a European theory of justice which is conducive to providing political guidance for the political challenge of reversing inequalities. In particular, research is envisaged to considerably enhance and deepen the knowledge base on the foundations of the concepts of justice and fairness. Research should inform policy makers at various levels on how to implement policies.

Date de candidature
Sciences sociales