Customer Reviews: The Law of Peoples: with "The Idea of Public Reason Revisited"
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on March 7, 2000
John Rawls is indisputably the most honorable spokesman of political liberalism of the past twenty-five years. His theoretical committment to and devlopment of liberalism is an inspiring attempt to reconcile the difficulties inherent in a heterogenous society in which different conceptions of the good life and varied value systems, beliefs, and principles can coexist and yet affirm the political conception of a constitutional regime. How can a nation entreat its inhabitants to carve out their conception of the good life and their own value systems and yet achieve agreement on a set of principles that all citizens may abide by? It is the answer to this question that Rawls's works have sought to answer. The Law of Peoples is no less concerned with this question. Rawls's attempts to extend a social contractarian approach to human existence on the international level is thorough and nuanced. Liberal peoples, he argues, have three basic features. They possess a reasonably just constitutional democractic government that serves their fundamental interests; they are united by common sympathies; and above all, they have a morally mature nature. Critics who claim that Rawls's brand of liberalism invites a form of moral agnosticism had better think twice. Moral maturity and its genetic antecedent--human moral nature, are the preconditions that underly the moral basis of liberalism in general: deep respect for human beings and the necessity of treating them as ends in themselves. Rawls's development of a Just War Doctrine should force us to re-think traditional concepts of sovereignty and undermines the claims to legitimacy that outlaw states seek to impose on moral communities in the name of cultural authenticity. In this respect Rawls' work is indispensible to young liberal scholar's such as myself. In fact I have depended on his theoretical approach to ground much of my highly controversial and hotly contested book, "Becoming a Cosmopolitan: What It Means To be a Human Being in the New Millennium." I argue, however, for a more pugnacious form of liberalism by rejecting outright, as conceptions of the good, all forms of tribal (racial/ethnic and national)identities and argue for the obliteration of all cultural practices that undermine human rights. For those who believe that moral progress is possible and who wish to further advance the idea that liberal democracies represent a superior and more evolved form of social and political living, The Law of Peoples is a detailed and rigorous application of this idea.
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on May 4, 2000
John Rawls believes that we can achieve something akin to a utopia. Although precious few utopian thinkers have escaped the disreputable taint of astonishing naiveté, Rawls has thought hard about the moral, religious, cultural, and historical nuances that so often make utopic claims tragically optimistic. His own vision of a realistic political utopia rests in his faith in the idea of a social contract; the essays collected in these volumes present Rawls' lifework as a consistent project of extending and radicalizing this venerable idea.
Earlier Rawls articulated several general principles--for example, "justice as fairness," and "public reason"--that he thinks justify political relations between members of constitutional democracy. In this book he presents an even more general principle, "the law of peoples," that he thinks would extends the social contract to include members of certain illiberal societies.
Readers interested in Rawls' latest views about the real-world prospects of his realistic utopia will welcome this short book. In addition to presenting a long essay about his most general political principle, that of the "law of peoples," this book also includes a shorter new essay on Rawls' influential conception of "public reason" within liberal democracy. In both, Rawls is very much concerned with showing how his lifelong project-to bring into fruitful synthesis our deepest communal insights about reasonableness and justice-justify his faith in a realistic utopia. Rawls' congenial prose style makes his dazzling vision accessible to all conscientious readers.
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on December 3, 2007
My 'phenom' daughter recommended this book to me. She read it as a poli-sci/pre-med undergrad at UC Berkeley, and having noticed my growing cynicism regarding the direction our country has been headed, this was her 'philosophical lifesaver'. What Prof. Rawls offers is nothing less than a roadmap of hope, not only for our country but for the world. And that's a mouthful of praise, coming from a cynical Vietnam-vet.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon January 15, 2008
This concise book consists of 2 essays, The Idea of Public Reason Revisited and The Law of Peoples. While The Idea... essay is second in the book, I would read it first because it is a good review of a crucial concept in Rawls' thought and very useful for grasping the argument in The Law of Peoples. The Idea... explicates Rawls emphasis on mutual justification and the somewhat separate nature of political conduct in formulating the basis of polities.

Some of Rawls' last work, The Law of Peoples is an attempt to extend Rawls contractarian approach to international relations. Rawls uses the same approach here used in prior work proposing a reasonable basis for political organization of individual polities. In international relations, Rawls proposes a contract between Peoples (or their representatives) who meet on equal terms behind an analogue of his famous "veil of ignorance" to guarantee a free and equal status. This leads to rational (promotion of self interest) and reasonable (mutually and publicly justifiable) formulation of standards for international conduct. These include many standard tenets of international law such as war only for self-defense. Rawls includes both liberal societies (essentially all forms of functioning modern democracies) and what he terms decent peoples. The latter will not meet all the criteria for a liberal state but will respect human rights and have some measures for broad political participation. Something like the type of state envisioned by 18th century theorists like Montesquieu or a state with an state religion and tolerance of other faiths would be decent societies. Rawls basic point is that the values upheld by liberal or decent societies extend logically via the mechanisms he proposes to a reasonable ideal formulation of international relations. Rawls does propose this as an assembly of Peoples, rather than states. This distinction is not perfectly clear but may be that state for Rawls implied too much about the powers of the entity and may not satisfy the veil of ignorance criteria.

After formulating and justifying his ideal theory, Rawls discuses some non-ideal issues, such as conduct of war and the obligations favored states have towards less fortunate states.

Like much of Rawls work, this work is rigorously formulated and written very carefully. Rawls is never a sparking stylist but this work is perhaps more easily read than some of this work. Rawls feels this work is realistically utopian, the purpose of which is to define some of the bounds of what might be possible in international relations by systematic exercise of reason and good faith. In this case, this is actually realistic. Rawls is on firm ground in the sense that some of the foundations for developing his system, like the existence of democractic pluralistic societies and absence of war between democracies, are real phenomena.
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on May 12, 2014
Well, I needed this book for my Theories of Justice college level course, this is the book I need, It was in mint condition, One little crease on the cover page but no matter, the content is and will be amazing, I suggest you read Rawl's original "Theory of Justice" , then "Political Liberalism" before indulging yourself in this book. There are many references to the previous two books that I just mentioned. You will be lost otherwise.

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on May 20, 2007
This is a must-read book. This treatise analyses how peoples of diverse cultures and religions can find a path towards living cooperatively together in peace. If the peoples of the world want to find a "government" that can lead them all and be respected, this book will be of enormous assistance in understanding the way it may be done.
The discussion views a variety of disparate forms of societies and describes their pros and cons to underscore his arguments, and as a result Laws could easily be quoted out of context. This however is the strength of his discourse, as he takes the reader along in his line of thought, while at the same time answering his anticipated critics.
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on August 15, 2015
Great product. Works perfect!! :)
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on August 3, 2001
John Rawl's "Law of People" is divided into two parts: "The Law of Peoples" (a paper based on Rawl's article by the same name published in 1993), and "The Idea of Public Reason Revisited" (1997).
First of all, don't make the same mistake as I did by thinking that this short book (200+ pages) would be "a quick summer reading" - because it's not.
John Rawl's book is on a very high reading level. The amount of research that went into "Law of peoples" is quite evident from both its extensive endnotes, and the general wordiness.
I find the topic itself interesting, but I found the reading of this book as achingly dry as the Sahara desert at high noon. This is certainly not the book to bring for your weekend trip.
Still, "Law of peoples" contains much interesting stuff, and I imagine it would be a valuable read for the hard-core student of political liberalism/liberal democracy/related topics...
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on March 20, 2010
This book is for college purposes only. Very hard to read but was required for a reading material. Plus was way cheaper to buy from Amazon than the school book store. =)
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on November 9, 2003
First, some disclosure regarding my opinion of Rawls (may he rest in peace). I am no fan of Rawls' work, be it this work or his others. As such, my own views will no doubt influence my opinion, so keep that in mind as you read on.
This book is divided into two parts, the first dedicated to the "Law of Peoples," the second to public reason. In the interests of space, I will only concentrate on the first portion.
The Law of Peoples is Rawls' attempt to bring his notions of justice as fairness and the like into the international scene. Using a modified "original position," Rawls discusses the way the international scene would run, not only with liberal societies, but also "decent" and "outlaw" states (among others). Fine and good.
The problem lies (as it does with "Theory of Justice" and "Political Liberalism") in the acceptance of what the "original position" would result in. The original position requires that "comprehensive doctrines" be left to the side (read "Theory" for more on that). In other words, your (or a people's) worldview (or deep notion of the good) must be cast aside. This is problematic enough, but it gets worse. Rawls wants a "political, not metaphysical" notion of justice to prevail. By happy chance, that "political" notion just happends to be liberal, of a moderate left variety. Rawls would deny that he is slipping in his "comprehensive doctrine" into the works, but it does make things difficult.
So, say a people decides that they prefer their own comprehensive doctrine (a religion, an ideology of one type or another, etc.) to the "political" version of Rawls. Rawls argues that "reasonable" peoples will accept it, at least on some level, thanks to an "overlapping consensus" (very basically, that the political notion will overlap enough with the comprehensive doctrine, making it acceptable at some level). Both "reasonable" and "overlapping consensus" are argued at length in "Political Liberalism." The consensus idea has some merit. But who are "reasonable"? Why, they are the peoples who follow the original position's precepts, of course. How....convenient.
While Rawls would not agree, this system (like his national systems in "Theory" and "PL") is in practice the imposition of comprehensive liberalism by other means. When reading Rawls, it isn't a bad idea to have some critiques on his work handy (for instance: Michael Sandel, Robert P. George, perhaps Gutmann & Thompson, among others). Rawls is a giant in the field, whether one agrees with him or not. If one wants to understand contemporary political theory, he should be read - but read "Theory" or "PL". If you are interested in political theory as it involves international relations, read "PL", then read this, not because it's great, but it's popular.
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