Cover image for Justice as fairness : a restatement
Justice as fairness : a restatement
Rawls, John, 1921-2002.
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Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, [2001]

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xviii, 214 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
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JC578 .R3693 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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This book originated as lectures for a course on political philosophy that Rawls taught regularly at Harvard in the 1980s. In time the lectures became a restatement of his theory of justice as fairness, revised in light of his more recent papers and his treatise Political Liberalism (1993). As Rawls writes in the preface, the restatement presents "in one place an account of justice as fairness as I now see it, drawing on all [my previous] works." He offers a broad overview of his main lines of thought and also explores specific issues never before addressed in any of his writings.

Rawls is well aware that since the publication of A Theory of Justice in 1971, American society has moved farther away from the idea of justice as fairness. Yet his ideas retain their power and relevance to debates in a pluralistic society about the meaning and theoretical viability of liberalism. This book demonstrates that moral clarity can be achieved even when a collective commitment to justice is uncertain.

Author Notes

John Rawls, professor of philosophy at Harvard University, had published a number of articles on the concept of justice as fairness before the appearance of his magnum opus, A Theory of Justice (1971). While the articles had won for Rawls considerable prestige, the reception of his book thrust him into the front ranks of contemporary moral philosophy. Presenting a Kantian alternative to conventional utilitarianism and intuitionism, Rawls offers a theory of justice that is contractual and that rests on principles that he alleges would be accepted by free, rational persons in a state of nature, that is, of equality. The chorus of praise was loud and clear. Stuart Hampshire acclaimed the book as "the most substantial and interesting contribution to moral philosophy since the war."H. A. Bedau declared: "As a work of close and original scholarship in the service of the dominant moral and political ideology of our civilization, Rawls's treatise is simply without a rival." Rawls historically achieved two important things: (1) He articulated a coherent moral philosophy for the welfare state, and (2) he demonstrated that analytic philosophy was most capable of doing constructive work in moral philosophy. A Theory of Justice has become the most influential work in political, legal, and social philosophy by an American author in the twentieth century. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Rawls set out his contractualist conception of justice in A Theory of Justice and revised it in a later edition. From 1974 to 1989, he published articles whose theses varied somewhat from the detailed account of that work. In this self-contained attempt to reconcile the differences, he reorganizes his "original position" argument; revises his liberty principle to emphasize that there is not a single "liberty" that governments should aim at, but a set of liberties that ground citizens' powers to form and act from conceptions of justice and of a fully worthwhile life; and reanalyzes justice as fairness, so as to emphasize its political aspects. This book is the capstone to a half-century's deep thinking about its subject and will reward careful study. Recommended for most libraries. Robert Hoffman, York Coll., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Rawls is one of the two or three most important political thinkers of the 20th century. His accounts of "justice as fairness" and of "political liberalism" are among the most widely discussed and cited in the field of political philosophy. The former was presented in his A Theory of Justice (CH, Sep'72), which was subsequently revised in important ways. Political liberalism was developed in a series of articles in the 1980s and 1990s (now republished in his Collected Papers, 1999) and fully set out in Political Liberalism (CH, Dec'93; 1996). It is difficult to present his ideas to students because until now there has been no single source setting out his main lines of argument. The current text provides an integrated statement of his political theory, drawing together and presenting in a unified way, and for the first time, the major arguments and both strands of his work. Even though it is a challenging volume, it will no doubt be the principal introduction to his thinking; it will be of great value to upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and scholars because of its restatements of his ideas and his responses to criticism. An essential text. J. D. Moon Wesleyan University

Table of Contents

Editor's Forewordp. xi
Prefacep. xv
Part I Fundamental Ideasp. 1
1. Four Roles of Political Philosophyp. 1
2. Society as a Fair System of Cooperationp. 5
3. The Idea of a Well-Ordered Societyp. 8
4. The Idea of the Basic Structurep. 10
5. Limits to Our Inquiryp. 12
6. The Idea of the Original Positionp. 14
7. The Idea of Free and Equal Personsp. 18
8. Relations between the Fundamental Ideasp. 24
9. The Idea of Public Justificationp. 26
10. The Idea of Reflective Equilibriump. 29
11. The Idea of an Overlapping Consensusp. 32
Part II Principles of Justicep. 39
12. Three Basic Pointsp. 39
13. Two Principles of Justicep. 42
14. The Problem of Distributive Justicep. 50
15. The Basic Structure as Subject: First Kind of Reasonp. 52
16. The Basic Structure as Subject: Second Kind of Reasonp. 55
17. Who Are the Least Advantaged?p. 57
18. The Difference Principle: Its Meaningp. 61
19. Objections via Counterexamplesp. 66
20. Legitimate Expectations, Entitlement, and Desertp. 72
21. On Viewing Native Endowments as a Common Assetp. 74
22. Summary Comments on Distributive Justice and Desertp. 77
Part III The Argument from the Original Positionp. 80
23. The Original Position: The Set-Upp. 80
24. The Circumstances of Justicep. 84
25. Formal Constraints and the Veil of Ignorancep. 85
26. The Idea of Public Reasonp. 89
27. First Fundamental Comparisonp. 94
28. The Structure of the Argument and the Maximin Rulep. 97
29. The Argument Stressing the Third Conditionp. 101
30. The Priority of the Basic Libertiesp. 104
31. An Objection about Aversion to Uncertaintyp. 106
32. The Equal Basic Liberties Revisitedp. 111
33. The Argument Stressing the Second Conditionp. 115
34. Second Fundamental Comparison: Introductionp. 119
35. Grounds Falling under Publicityp. 120
36. Grounds Falling under Reciprocityp. 122
37. Grounds Falling under Stabilityp. 124
38. Grounds against the Principle of Restricted Utilityp. 126
39. Comments on Equalityp. 130
40. Concluding Remarksp. 132
Part IV Institutions of a Just Basic Structurep. 135
41. Property-Owning Democracy: Introductory Remarksp. 135
42. Some Basic Contrasts between Regimesp. 138
43. Ideas of the Good in Justice as Fairnessp. 140
44. Constitutional versus Procedural Democracyp. 145
45. The Fair Value of the Equal Political Libertiesp. 148
46. Denial of the Fair Value for Other Basic Libertiesp. 150
47. Political and Comprehensive Liberalism: A Contrastp. 153
48. A Note on Head Taxes and the Priority of Libertyp. 157
49. Economic Institutions of a Property-Owning Democracyp. 158
50. The Family as a Basic Institutionp. 162
51. The Flexibility of an Index of Primary Goodsp. 168
52. Addressing Marx's Critique of Liberalismp. 176
53. Brief Comments on Leisure Timep. 179
Part V The Question of Stabilityp. 180
54. The Domain of the Politicalp. 180
55. The Question of Stabilityp. 184
56. Is Justice as Fairness Political in the Wrong Way?p. 188
57. How Is Political Liberalism Possible?p. 189
58. An Overlapping Consensus Not Utopianp. 192
59. A Reasonable Moral Psychologyp. 195
60. The Good of Political Societyp. 198
Indexp. 203