Reflections on Rawls: An Assessment of His Legacy

Reflections on Rawls: An Assessment of His Legacy

Reflections on Rawls: An Assessment of His Legacy

Reflections on Rawls: An Assessment of His Legacy

Synopsis

The late John Rawls was one of the most inspiring, provocative and influential political philosophers of the twentieth century. In this collection a panel of distinguished political philosophers critically explore the intellectual legacy of Rawls. The essays herein engage Rawls's political theorizing from his earliest published writings in the 1950s to his final publication in 2001, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement and explore a diversity of issues related to his arguments, such as the attractiveness of his methodology/methodologies, and the normative coherence and empirical validity of his claims. In turn, the effectiveness both of his arguments and those of various supporters and critics are evaluated from the perspective of a variety of analytical approaches, including cosmopolitanism, communitarianism, perfectionism, liberalism, and legal theory. This book is an edifying and engaging dialogue with ideas and arguments that have provided the theoretical framework for much of contemporary political philosophy, and a thoughtful assessment of their continuing significance and place within the pantheon of political philosophy.

Excerpt

The work of John Rawls cast an immense shadow over the discipline of political philosophy. That fact is more than amply demonstrated by the volume of scholarship that is devoted to analyzing his arguments. Yet, statistics alone do not adequately convey the degree of Rawls’s influence. Arguably, a more meaningful indication is provided by noting that it is now impossible to engage in a serious discussion of the concept of justice without reference – whether positive or negative – to his work.

One might reasonably ask: What is it about Rawls’s work that could generate such an impact? Though it possesses many qualities that could help explain its phenomenal reception, I would like to suggest that the most important feature of Rawls’s work is its sincere and passionate concern with the question of justice. Despite their often demanding character, Rawls’s arguments clearly exhibit a fervent desire to contribute to the realization of a world characterized by equal respect and reasonableness, a world in which all citizens possess a meaningful possibility of living a decent, fulfilling life.

The principal stimulus for this collection is a wish to contribute to the recognition of the value of Rawls’s project and his related efforts. Importantly, one need not agree with Rawls’s conclusions in order to acknowledge the value of his work. In a world increasingly troubled by political conflict, instability, and violence, Rawls’s work offers a foundation upon which to develop an effective framework for productive dialogue, for those “who will but consult it” (as Locke would say); and, insofar as people remain willing to attempt to resolve their differences through respectful dialogue, the emergence of Rawls’s “realistic utopia” remains a possibility. Rawls has bequeathed a valuable legacy, and the onus now rests with those who remain and those to follow to continue his work.

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