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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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... posture, like Plato after his early political disappointments, who views concern with this-worldly affairs as (at best) a conscientious return from the heights to ‘the cave’? Jürgen Habermas and JohnRawls 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. JohnRawls’s ...

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 JohnRawls’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 ...

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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... impossible ideal. What use is a Platonic idea of the truly just society which exists only in a disillusioned Marxist’s heaven? For Miller, the aim of a theory of justice should be to present what JohnRawls called a ‘realistic utopia’. Political philosophers should be ‘contextualists’ as opposed to ‘universalists’ and their prescriptions ‘fact-based’ in the sense of acknowledging ...

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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... public good at all) agree that our own present sense of what, exactly, these two more lively kinds of argument for justice now are, and of how we might decide between them, owes almost everything to JohnRawls. 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 range of ...
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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... texts is done impressively in Pateman’s discussions of Locke and Hobbes, in Linda Nicholson’s discussion of Marx in Feminism as Critique, as well as in Susan Miller Okin’s recent discussion of JohnRawls 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 ...

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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... stated here, but referred to as appearing elsewhere) he rejects utility as the measure of what he calls ‘basal equality’. He also rejects as the measure of equality the ‘primary goods’ that JohnRawls 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 ...
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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... we don’t like? On this question the Oxford moral and legal philosopher Joseph Raz is a distinguished 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 ...
20 December 1979
Western Political Thought in the Face of the Future 
by John​ Dunn.
Cambridge, 120 pp., £8.50
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... hypothesis in explaining the cloud-cuckooland behaviour of contemporary politicians and governments, 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 ...

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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... in answer to these questions, as long as they treat a lot of social life as given, and resist the temptations 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 ...
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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... problem of political philosophy, and his preferred solution to it, Habermas’s position is similar to that of many recent liberals writing in the analytical tradition, such as Brian Barry, JohnRawls and Charles Larmore. These writers argue that, by their nature, conceptions of the good – theocratic, secularist, vegan, carnivorous, lesbian, polygamous, socialist, libertarian or whatever – ...

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? JohnRawls, 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 ...

What Philosophers Dream Of

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Bernard Williams

1 July 2015
Essays and Reviews 1959-2002 
by Bernard Williams.
Princeton, 435 pp., £24.95, January 2014, 978 0 691 15985 0
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... ancestors were benighted or wrong; that’s to start from within liberalism itself. Williams welcomed the revival of liberal political philosophy in the United States in the 1960s, and his reviews of JohnRawls and Ronald Dworkin remain some of the most acute there are. But these philosophers started from within. They may have been prompted to write by the establishment of civil rights in the 1960s ...

Rock Bottom

Thomas Nagel: Legislation

14 October 1999
The Dignity of Legislation 
by Jeremy Waldron.
Cambridge, 210 pp., £35, July 1999, 0 521 65092 5
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... will like Henry Hyde and Trent Lott. But that doesn’t prove they’re right. The question concerns the relation between theories of justice and conceptions of institutional design. Waldron faults JohnRawls for treating the institutional question only for the case of a ‘well-ordered society’, one whose members are agreed on the fundamental principles of justice and committed to supporting ...

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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... is that the task of philosophy consists in identifying fundamental principles and deriving laws and public policy from them. This is the opinion of many who practise philosophy in the manner of JohnRawls 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 ...

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