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The Plight of the Poor in the Midst of Plenty

Jeremy Waldron: John Rawls, 15 July 1999

Collected Papers 
by John Rawls, edited by Samuel Freeman.
Harvard, 627 pp., £24.95, June 1999, 0 674 13739 6
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... John Rawls is best known as the author of a large book of ‘grand theory’, A Theory of Justice, that changed the face and refreshed the spirit of political philosophy when it was published in 1971. He is also the author of about forty scholarly articles, beginning with a chapter on ethics from his Princeton dissertation in 1951 and culminating with a short piece on Hiroshima, published in Dissent on the 50th anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons against civilian targets ...

The New Restoration

Onora O’Neill, 22 November 1990

The New Conservatism: Cultural Criticism and the Historians’ Debate 
by Jürgen Habermas, translated by Shierry Weber Nicholsen.
Polity, 270 pp., £29.50, February 1990, 0 7456 0679 2
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... as (at best) a conscientious return from the heights to ‘the cave’? Jürgen Habermas and John Rawls are surely the two most distinguished political philosophers of our day, and their work exhibits many parallels: but on this deeply political matter they are worlds apart. John Rawls’s writing is ...

A Fair State

Bernard Williams, 13 May 1993

Political Liberalism 
by John Rawls.
Columbia, 416 pp., £19.95, June 1993, 0 231 05248 0
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... It is over twenty years since John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice was published. It was recognised at once as an immensely significant contribution to modern political philosophy, and its reputation has only grown since. There are many questions, about social justice, toleration and the stability of a modern state, that can scarcely be discussed unless one starts from ideas that have been shaped by Rawls ...

Friends of Difference

Onora O’Neill, 14 September 1989

Women and Moral Theory 
edited by Eva Kittay and Diana Meyers.
Rowman and Littlefield, 336 pp., $33.50, May 1989, 0 8476 7381 2
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Feminism as Critique 
edited by Seyla Benhabib and Drucilla Cornell.
Polity, 200 pp., £25, September 1987, 0 7456 0365 3
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The Sexual Contract 
by Carole Pateman.
Polity, 280 pp., £25, June 1988, 0 7456 0431 5
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Feminist Perspectives in Philosophy 
edited by Morwena Griffiths and Margaret Whitford.
Indiana, 244 pp., $35, June 1988, 0 253 32172 7
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... of Marx in Feminism as Critique, as well as in Susan Miller Okin’s recent discussion of John Rawls in Philosophy and Public Affairs. They leave us in no doubt that the persons, individuals, workers and citizens whom political theorists presuppose must at times be construed specifically as male. They point to theoretical evasions in the heart of ...

The kind of dog he likes

W.G. Runciman: Realistic Utopias, 18 December 2014

Justice for Earthlings: Essays in Political Philosophy 
by David Miller.
Cambridge, 254 pp., £18.99, January 2013, 978 1 107 61375 1
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... Marxist’s heaven? For Miller, the aim of a theory of justice should be to present what John Rawls called a ‘realistic utopia’. Political philosophers should be ‘contextualists’ as opposed to ‘universalists’ and their prescriptions ‘fact-based’ in the sense of acknowledging the findings of empirical psychology and ...

Someone else’s shoes

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 23 November 1989

A Treatise on Social Justice. Vol. I: Theories of Justice 
by Brian Barry.
Harvester, 428 pp., £30, May 1989, 0 7450 0641 8
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Innocence and Experience 
by Stuart Hampshire.
Allen Lane, 195 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 7139 9027 9
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... argument for justice now are, and of how we might decide between them, owes almost everything to John Rawls. Barry, certainly, has no doubt: Rawls is simply ‘the greatest political philosopher of the century’. But Rawls’s qualities, as Barry describes them, his sense of the ...

Ruck in the Carpet

Glen Newey: Political Morality, 9 July 2009

Philosophy and Real Politics 
by Raymond Geuss.
Princeton, 116 pp., £11.95, October 2008, 978 0 691 13788 9
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... of grandiose theory. The new book’s jacket image, a striking black and white photo by John Sadovy, shows a young man almost literally biting the dust. Only after turning the book over to look at the back does one notice his presumed killer, reloading his rifle. This example already poses questions beyond the ken of liberal orthodoxy. The dead ...

Freer than others

Bernard Williams, 18 November 1993

Inequality Examined 
by Amartya Sen.
Oxford, 207 pp., £19.95, September 1992, 0 19 828334 2
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... equality’. He also rejects as the measure of equality the ‘primary goods’ that John Rawls has specified as the objects of distribution in his political theory. Rawls described these as multi-purpose goods that any reasonable human being in most social circumstances would want: they include money and ...

Getting on with each other

Thomas Nagel, 22 September 1994

Ethics in the Public Domain: Essays in the Morality of Law and Politics 
by Joseph Raz.
Oxford, 374 pp., £40, June 1994, 0 19 825837 2
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... defender of a view that, in its logical structure and basic values, adheres to the tradition of John Stuart Mill. Raz believes that liberal institutions are justified because, for those civilisations capable of sustaining them, they provide the best way of promoting human well-being: their value, in other words, is instrumental. The argument depends both on ...
Western Political Thought in the Face of the Future 
by John Dunn.
Cambridge, 120 pp., £8.50
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... only because an even more plausible explanation has recently been provided. One source for it is John Dunn’s new book. Let me hasten to say that the explanation of contemporary political behaviour is not the primary task that he sets himself. What he is explicitly concerned with is the exhaustion of the resources provided by traditional Western political ...

Cameron’s Crank

Jonathan Raban: ‘Red Tory’, 22 April 2010

Red Tory: How Left and Right Have Broken Britain and How We Can Fix it 
by Phillip Blond.
Faber, 309 pp., £12.99, April 2010, 978 0 571 25167 4
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... triumph of a perverted and endlessly corrupting liberalism’. After a drive-by shooting of John Rawls (‘he had no convincing vision of the good society or the good life’), and a wildly constructive misreading of Rawls’s famous ‘veil of ignorance’, Blond ties himself in verbal knots as he tries to ...

Gassing and Bungling

Glen Newey, 8 May 1997

Between Facts and Norms 
by Jürgen Habermas, translated by William Rehg.
Polity, 631 pp., £45, July 1996, 0 7456 1229 6
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... similar to that of many recent liberals writing in the analytical tradition, such as Brian Barry, John Rawls and Charles Larmore. These writers argue that, by their nature, conceptions of the good – theocratic, secularist, vegan, carnivorous, lesbian, polygamous, socialist, libertarian or whatever – give us insufficient reason to conclude that any ...

Local Justice

T.M. Scanlon, 5 September 1985

Morality and Conflict 
by Stuart Hampshire.
Blackwell, 175 pp., £18.50, September 1984, 0 631 13336 4
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Spheres of Justice: A Defence of Pluralism and Equality 
by Michael Walzer.
Blackwell, 343 pp., £15, September 1984, 0 631 14063 8
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... sort found in the writings of Spinoza and Kant and represented in our own day by the theories of John Rawls, Robert Nozick and others (though these writers differ in how ‘universal’ they intend their principles to be). The essays collected in Morality and Conflict chronicle a movement in the author’s thought from philosophical theory of this kind ...

Famine and Fraternity

Amartya Sen, 3 July 1986

Is that it? 
by Bob Geldof and Paul Vallely.
Sidgwick, 352 pp., £10.95, May 1986, 0 283 99362 6
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... approach. The most notable example is the great contribution to the theory of justice presented by John Rawls, who pioneered the revival of the contractarian approach, but has increasingly stressed the universalist concerns of a Kantian concept of ‘the person’ (especially in his 1980 Dewey Lectures*). The recent emergence of the so-called ‘Bob ...

Sensitivity isn’t enough

Peter Berkowitz: The theory of toleration, 7 September 2000

Virtue, Reason and Toleration: The Place of Toleration in Ethical and Political Philosophy 
by Glen Newey.
Edinburgh, 208 pp., £50, November 1999, 0 7486 1244 0
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... and public policy from them. This is the opinion of many who practise philosophy in the manner of John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin. Philosophical reflection on the nature of toleration, Newey contends, shows that this is wrongheaded. It is, Lord knows, not the abstraction that Newey objects to, but – quite rightly – the conceit that philosophical ...

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