Positional goods typically serve to ration access to some distinct good whose supply cannot easily be increased. A standard example is the rationing of educational credentials as a means of allocating competitive advantage in the labor market. Political philosophy tends to recognize that positional goods gain their instrumental value from certain facts about how relevant scarce goods are made accessible. Our contention is that the significance of this fact has been insufficiently explored, particularly with respect to education. In general, the focus of philosophers has been somewhat one sided: Much has been said about the role of children and their parents where educational competition is concerned, with little said about the role of players on the ‘other side’, principally employers and educational institutions. Our aim in this paper is to develop a more sophisticated understanding of positional competition that is more balanced with respect to the role of players on both sides. We use the analysis developed to evaluate some influential claims about justice in the distribution of educational resources.



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