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Justice as Fairness: A Restatement 2nd Edition
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From Library Journal
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Paperback : 240 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780674005112
- ISBN-13 : 978-0674005112
- Dimensions : 6.14 x 0.62 x 9.23 inches
- Publisher : Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press; 2nd edition (May 16, 2001)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 0674005112
- Best Sellers Rank: #115,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A last comment is that the primary audience of this work is students trying to merely understand Rawls' "Theory" and his critics (it answers many objections and modifies his Theory to accomadate his best critics). A cynical reader will be upset, but a sympathetic reader will find a hopeful and reasonable framework for a democratic society whose can be citizens free and equal.
I do wish I had googled "Stanford Encyclopedia Entry on John Rawls" and read that first and it would have made the whole book easier.
What I like about the book is that it provides a key account on how to create a utopian society my only critic is that the family model tends to make Women subjected to men hence has a gender inequality issue.
Over all I would recommend others to read.
Rawls studied at Princeton and Oxford, taught at Cornell, MIT, and for forty years at Harvard. He was teaching there when Barack Obama was a stiudent at Harvard Law School. Obama was unquestionably acquainted with the man himself and familiar with his writings and lectures. The most insightful intellectual biography of Barack Obama currently available is "Reading Obama" by Harvard professer James Kloppenberg. That book examines the influence that Rawls and other thinkers Obama encountered at Harvard must have had on Obama's political concepts, and makes a strong case that Obama's own writing, speaking, and decision-making reflect ideas that are in accord with Rawls's philosophy of Justice.
Rawls first captured the attention of the intellectual world with his 1971 book "A Theory of Justice." That book has remained the most commonly studied of his texts, an unfortunate fact, since his later books clarify, amplify, and sometimes rectify his basic philosophy. In 1993, he published "Political Liberalism" and in 1999, "The Laws of Peoples." His last book -- Justice as Fairness: a Restatement -- is based on lectures he delivered while teaching at Harvard. It is by far the clearest, most concise, most readable of his works (teaching had obviously sharpened his verbal skills) and the best choice for non-academic readers who want to know what his influence has been.
First let me simplify Rawls's thought to a single sentence: Without Fairness, there is no Justice, and without Justice there cannot be a Just Society, and an Unjust Society cannot and should not be stably sustained. [Oh boy, I can hear the howls of outrage from academic readers at such a cartoonish simplification.]
Erin Kelly, the editor of this volume, says it far better in a Foreward:
"According to justice as fairness, the most reasonable principles of justice are those that would be the object of mutual agreement by persons under fair conditions. Justice as fairness thus develops...from the idea of an [implicit] social contract. The principles it articulates affirm a broadly liberal conception of basic rights ... and only permit inequalities of wealth and income that would be of advantage [also] to the least well off."
"Under the political and social conditions of free institutions, we encounter a plurality of distinct and incompatible doctrines, many of which are not unreasonable. [Rawls's later book] Political Liberalism acknowledges and responds to this `fact of reasonable pluralism' by showing how a political conception can fit into various and even conflicting comprehensive doctrines: it is a possible object of an overlapping consensus between them."
Overlapping consensus! That's a key phrase in evaluating what pragmatic advice one might look for in Rawls's philosophy. Another pragmatic outcome of his theory of justice would be the idea of `deliberative democracy' or `discourse' as the enabler and stabilizer of the `evolving but never utopian' Just Society.
The most significant new explications to be found in Rawls's final book are focused on first clarifying that his `theory' is intended as a political and not as a moral doctrine and then on justifying his premises of `justice as fairness' in a real world of divergent and perhaps irreconcilable beliefs and values. He writes: "... I belive that a democratic society is not and cannot be a community, where by a community I mean a body of persons united in affirming the same comprehensive, or partially comprehensive, doctrine. The fact of a REASONABLE PLURALISM [capitals mine] which characterizes a society with free institutions makes this impossible. This is the fact of profound and irreconcilable differences in citizens' reasonable and comprehensive religious and philosophical conceptions of the world, and in their views of the moral and aesthetic values to be sought in human life."
Rawls's thought is obviously in the tradition of the same political philosophers -- John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, James Harrington -- who overwhelmingly influenced the "Founding Fathers" of the American revolution and the Framers of the Constitution. In fact, James Madison would have found little or nothing to disagree with in Rawls's final formulations, and one could easily trace links between the perceptions of Alexis de Tocqueville and both John Rawls and Barcak Obama.
I know that I've scarcely begun to present a coherent precis of the political philosphy of John Rawls. I can only hope that I've stirred up some interest in this book. If you need further input before committing yourself to a perhaps difficult and tedious encounter with his `theory of justice', I suggest taking a quick look at the articles about him on wikipedia and, better yet, in the Online Encyclopedia of Philsophy. The book "Reading Obama" by Professor Kloppenberg also summarizes many of Rawls's seminal ideas in the plainest and simplest language.