John Rawls

Rawls, John Bordley

John Bordley Rawls, 1921–2002, American philosopher and political theorist, b. Baltimore, grad. Princeton (A.B., 1943; Ph.D., 1950). He taught at Princeton (1950–52), Cornell (1953–59), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1960–62) before becoming (1962) professor of philosophy at Harvard. Rawls's chief work, A Theory of Justice (1971, 2d ed. 1999), has been called the 20th century's most influential work of liberal political philosophy. In it, he attempts, within the social contract tradition of Locke, Rousseau, and Kant, to offer an alternative to utilitarian political philosophy (see utilitarianism). His system was developed from two basic principles: Each person has a right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with like liberty for others, and inequalities in the distribution of wealth and power are just only when they can be reasonably expected to work to the advantage of those who are worst off. For Rawls, justice does not require equality in social position, but it does require that people share one another's fate.

Providing the social contract tradition with a formidable philosophic defense by balancing the claims of liberty and equality, Rawls's book revived interest in systematic political theory. His other works include The Law of Peoples (1999) and Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy (2000). He restated and enlarged the arguments of his 1971 magnum opus, replying to his critics and correcting what he perceived as mistakes in the original work while aiming at a broader audience, in his Justice as Fairness (2001). Rawls's liberalism has often been compared to the conservatism of his fellow Harvard philosophy professor, Robert Nozick.

See studies by B. M. Barry (1973), R. P. Wolff (1977), D. L. Schaefer (1979), A. Pampapathy Rao (1979, 1981, and 1998), R. Martin (1985), T. W. Pogge (1989), C. Kukathas and P. Pettit (1990), J. A. Corlett, ed. (1991), R. Alejandro (1998), D. A. Dombrowski (2001), and R. B. Talisse (2001).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Cambridge Companion to Rawls
Samuel Freeman.
Cambridge University Press, 2003
Free and Equal: Rawls' Theory of Justice and Political Reform
Joseph Grcic.
Algora, 2011
Political Liberalism
John Rawls.
Columbia University Press, 1996
Illiberal Justice: John Rawls vs. the American Political Tradition
David Lewis Schaefer.
University of Missouri Press, 2007
Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy
John Rawls; Samuel Freeman.
Belknap Press, 2007
John Rawls, 'Political Liberalism.'
Hittinger, Russell.
The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 47, No. 3, March 1994
Rawls "A Theory of Justice" and Its Critics
Meikle, Victoria.
McGill Law Journal, Vol. 46, No. 2, April 2001
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Justice and the Social Contract: Essays on Rawlsian Political Philosophy
Samuel Freeman.
Oxford University Press, 2007
Confucius, Rawls, and the Sense of Justice
Erin M. Cline.
Fordham University Press, 2013
Reasonable Democracy: Jürgen Habermas and the Politics of Discourse
Simone Chambers.
Cornell University Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "John Rawls and the Freedom and Equality of Citizens"
Boundaries and Allegiances: Problems of Justice and Responsibility in Liberal Thought
Samuel Scheffler.
Oxford University Press, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Rawls and Utilitarianism"
The Political Classics: Green to Dworkin
Murray Forsyth; Maurice Keens-Soper.
Oxford University Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "John Rawls: A Theory of Justice"
In Memoriam
Sterba, James P.
The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 56, No. 3, March 2003
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