Saturday, September 02, 2017

John Rawls - Reticent Socialist

John Rawls: Reticent Socialist

by William A. Edmundson

(Cambridge University Press, 2017)

220 pages


This book is the first detailed reconstruction of the late work of John Rawls, who was perhaps the most influential philosopher of the twentieth century. Rawls's 1971 treatise, A Theory of Justice, stimulated an outpouring of commentary on 'justice-as-fairness,' his conception of justice for an ideal, self-contained, modern political society. Most of that commentary took Rawls to be defending welfare-state capitalism as found in Western Europe and the United States. Far less attention has been given to Rawls's 2001 book, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement. In the Restatement, Rawls not only substantially reformulates the 'original position' argument for the two principles of justice-as-fairness but also repudiates capitalist regimes as possible embodiments. Edmundson further develops Rawls's non-ideal theory, which guides us when we find ourselves in a society that falls well short of justice.

Contents [preview]


1. Conceptions of Property in the Original Position
2. Property-Owning Democracy versus Liberal Socialism
3. Fair Value and the Fact of Domination
4. The Four-stage Sequence
5. The Circumstances of Politics
6. Rescuing the Difference Principle
7. The Special Psychologies
8. Socialism and Stability
9. The Common Content
10. The Property Question
11. Religion and Reticence
12. Non-ideal Theory: The Transition to Socialism

William A. Edmundson is Professor of Law and Philosophy at Georgia State University College of Law. He is the author of "An Introduction to Rights" (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and co-editor of "The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory" (Blackwell, 2004).

See my blog posts on "Property-Owning Democracy":

* "Property-Owning Democracy. Rawls and Beyond", ed. by Martin O'Neill & Thad Williamson (2012). [+ article in Boston Review here]

* "Republic of Equals. Predistribution and Property-Owning Democracy", by Alan Thomas (2016) [+ Alan Thomas's blog here]

* "Property-Owning Democracy: A Short History", paper by Ben Jackson.

See also also Samuel Freeman's paper: "Property-Owning Democracy and the Difference Principle" [pdf]

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