Posts Tagged ‘John Rawls’

Justice is a living thing: not something set out in a book

19/10/2011, 07:49:19 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor, recently called the Mormonism of Mitt Romney, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, “a cult”. In contrast, Jeffress endorsed Rick Perry, one of Romney’s rivals, as a “real Christian”.

Similarly, fears about a Catholic president were traded upon during John F. Kennedy’s White House run. As religion is a private matter, he retaliated; his religion would have no bearing on his presidential conduct. The philosopher Michael Sandel argues that Kennedy’s response was more than tactical.

“It reflected a public philosophy that would come to full expression during the 1960s and 70s – a philosophy that held that government should be neutral on moral and religious questions, so that each individual could be free to choose his or her own conception of the good life”.

This neutrality was central to John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice. Forty years on from its publication this remains one of the dominant texts in Anglo-American liberal philosophy. Tony Crosland conceded, shortly before his death in 1977, that the notion of equality advocated by Rawls was the same as that advanced in The Future of Socialism.

The first series of The Hour (a BBC attempt to go HBO about a BBC news show) opened a window on an ancient world. This series was set in the same year, 1956, as The Future of Socialism was published. Yet this book remains an integral part of any Labour thinker’s bookshelf. Given this centrality and the claimed agreement between Crosland and Rawls, it is curious that the communitarian critique of Rawls, led by Sandel, has made minimal impact on Labour thinking. (more…)

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