Justice as Fairness: A Restatement

Justice as Fairness: A Restatement

John Rawls

Language: English

Pages: 240

ISBN: 0674005112

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This book originated as lectures for a course on political philosophy that Rawls taught regularly at Harvard in the 1980s. In time the lectures became a restatement of his theory of justice as fairness, revised in light of his more recent papers and his treatise Political Liberalism (1993). As Rawls writes in the preface, the restatement presents "in one place an account of justice as fairness as I now see it, drawing on all [my previous] works." He offers a broad overview of his main lines of thought and also explores specific issues never before addressed in any of his writings.

Rawls is well aware that since the publication of A Theory of Justice in 1971, American society has moved farther away from the idea of justice as fairness. Yet his ideas retain their power and relevance to debates in a pluralistic society about the meaning and theoretical viability of liberalism. This book demonstrates that moral clarity can be achieved even when a collective commitment to justice is uncertain.

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University Press, 1993). Editor's xii Foreword Developing the idea of political liberalism has led Rawls to reformulate his presentation and defense of justice as fairness. Whereas A Theory of Justice presented justice as fairness as part of a comprehensive liberal out­ look, this restatement shows how it can be understood as a form of political liberalism. Indeed, Rawls presents justice as fairness as the most reasonable form of political liberalism. In doing so, he recasts the basic

mentions (and so do many other passages) a kind of reci­ procity between groups appropriately named. W h a t lies behind this way of talking? Ignoring the matter of names for the moment, consider what can be said to the Indians in favor of (3). Accepting the conditions of the exam­ ple, we cannot say the Indians would d o no better under any alternative ar­ rangement. Rather, we say that, in the neighborhood of (3), there is no alter­ native arrangement that by making the British worse off could

at various places it makes the points in this paragraph. See Theory, §4: i6f., i8f.; §20:104f.; §24: noX; §78: 453! §87: 514- 25. Formal Constraints 87 by limiting the parties to the same b o d y o f general facts (the presendy ac­ cepted facts of social theory (§26)) and to the same information about the general circumstances of society: that it exists under the circumstances of justice, both objective and subjective, and that reasonably favorable condi­ tions making a constitutional

are terms each participant may reasonably accept, and sometimes should accept, provided that everyone else likewise ac­ cepts them. Fair terms of cooperation specify an idea o f reciprocity, or mutuality: all w h o do their part as the recognized rules require are to benefit as specified by a public and agreed-upon standard. (c) T h e idea of cooperation also includes the idea of each participant's rational advantage, or good. T h e idea o f rational advantage specifies what it is that those

high enough for them to pay off the tax in the required period of time; it would interfere with their liberty to con­ duct their life within the scope of the principles of justice. T h e y might have great difficulty practicing their religion, for example; and they might not be able to afford to enter low-paying, though worthy, vocations and occupa­ tions. T h e point is clear and brings out a further aspect in w h i c h our native en­ dowments are ours and not society's: namely, that we cannot

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