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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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

How do you like your liberalism: fat or thin?

Glen Newey: John Gray, 7 June 2001

Two Faces of Liberalism 
by John Gray.
Polity, 161 pp., £12.99, August 2000, 0 7456 2259 3
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... like Wilson and Blair – by not being about anything.The prominent British political theorist John Gray has also been seen as chameleonic. His passage from Mill to Hayek to Berlin (he has written books on each of them) has prompted charges of swaying with the wind or, still less charitably, being a Vicar of Bray. The Hayek phase coincided with ...

The Sober Science

Mark Lilla, 20 April 1995

German Ideology: From France to Germany and Back 
by Louis Dumont.
Chicago, 259 pp., £25.95, March 1995, 0 226 16952 9
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... Aron’s intellectual heirs has led few of them to adopt the language of Mill, let alone that of John Rawls. Many have turned instead to the work of the anthropologist Louis Dumont, the great specialist of India now retired from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes. Dumont was a student of Marcel Mauss and a contemporary of Lévi-Strauss who was virtually ...

Happy Campers

Ellen Meiksins Wood: G.A. Cohen, 28 January 2010

Why Not Socialism? 
by G.A. Cohen.
Princeton, 83 pp., £10.95, September 2009, 978 0 691 14361 3
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... that its commitment to equality represents a threat to liberty. He also convincingly criticised John Rawls – most recently in Rescuing Justice and Equality – for fundamental weaknesses in his conception of equality. But it is not at all clear that the question posed by Cohen’s last book, ‘Why not socialism?’, can be answered in the terms in ...

Ultimate Choice

Malcolm Bull: Thoughts of Genocide, 9 February 2006

The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing 
by Michael Mann.
Cambridge, 580 pp., £17.99, January 2005, 0 521 53854 8
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Genocide in the Age of the Nation State. Vol. I: The Meaning of Genocide 
by Mark Levene.
Tauris, 266 pp., £24.50, August 2005, 1 85043 752 1
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Genocide in the Age of the Nation State: Vol. II: The Rise of the West and the Coming of Genocide 
by Mark Levene.
Tauris, 463 pp., £29.50, August 2005, 1 84511 057 9
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... of entire social groups that happen to get in the way. And then there is what Michael Walzer and John Rawls both call a ‘supreme emergency’, when direct attacks on civilian targets are required in circumstances of dire military necessity. Since, in the nuclear age, ‘supreme emergency has become a permanent condition,’ this means that it is ...

Invented Communities

David Runciman: Post-nationalism, 19 July 2001

Democracy in Europe 
by Larry Siedentop.
Penguin, 254 pp., £8.99, June 2001, 0 14 028793 0
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The Postnational Constellation: Political Essays 
by Jürgen Habermas, translated by Max Pensky.
Polity, 216 pp., £45, December 2000, 0 7456 2351 4
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... What is wrong with the idea of a world state? John Rawls, the world’s most celebrated living political philosopher, believes that the answer is relatively straightforward. ‘I follow Kant’s lead in Perpetual Peace,’ he writes, ‘in thinking that a world government – by which I mean a unified political regime with the legal powers normally exercised by central government – would either be a global despotism or else would rule over a fragile empire torn by frequent civil strife as various regions and peoples tried to gain their political freedom and autonomy ...

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