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Brake, Elizabeth, , . Rawls and Feminism: What Should Feminists Make of Liberal Neutrality?
2004, Journal of Moral Philosophy 1 (3):293-309.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Abstract: I argue that Rawls’s liberalism is compatible with feminist goals. I focus primarily on the issue of liberal neutrality, a topic suggested by the work of Catharine MacKinnon. I discuss two kinds of neutrality: neutrality at the level of justifying liberalism itself, and state neutrality in political decision-making. Both kinds are contentious within liberal theory. Rawls’s argument for justice as fairness has been criticized for non-neutrality at the justificatory level, a problem noted by Rawls himself in Political Liberalism. I will defend a qualified account of neutrality at the justificatory level, taking an epistemic approach to argue for the exclusion of certain doctrines from the justificatory process. I then argue that the justification process I describe offers a justificatory stance supportive of the feminist rejection of state-sponsored gender hierarchy. Further, I argue that liberal neutrality at the level of political decision-making will have surprising implications for gender equality. Once the extent of the state’s involvement in the apparently private spheres of family and civil society is recognized, and the disproportionate influence of a sexist conception of the good on those structures—and concomitant promotion of that ideal—is seen, state neutrality implies substantive change. While—as Susan Moller Okin avowed—Rawls himself may have remained ambiguous on how to address gender inequality, his theory implies that the state must seek to create substantive, not merely formal, equality. I suggest that those substantive changes will not conflict with liberal neutrality but instead be required by it.

Comment: A sympathetic treatment of Rawls’s Political Liberalism from a feminist perspective. It introduces the alleged clash between liberalism and feminism in a clear way and goes on to argue that (political) liberalism’s commitment to substantive rather than merely formal equality makes it compatible with core feminist concerns.

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Chambers, Clare, , Phil Parvin. Teach Yourself Political Philosophy: A Complete Introduction
2012, Hodder & Stoughton.
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Publisher’s Note: Written by Phil Parvin and Clare Chambers, who are current political philosophy lecturers and leading researchers, Political Philosophy – The Essentials is designed to give you everything you need to succeed, all in one place. It covers the key areas that students are expected to be confident in, outlining the basics in clear jargon-free English, and then providing added-value features like summaries of key thinkers, and even lists of questions you might be asked in your seminar or exam. The book’s structure follows that of most university courses on political philosophy, by looking at the essential concepts within political philosophy (freedom, equality, power, democracy, rights, the state, political obligation), and then looking at the ways in which political philosophers have used these fundamental concepts in order to tackle a range of normative political questions such as whether the state has a responsibility to alleviate inequalities, and what interest liberal and democratic states should take in the cultural or religious beliefs of citizens.

Comment: ‘Phil Parvin and Clare Chambers have produced a state of the art textbook, which provides students with a comprehensive and bang up-to-date introduction to contemporary political philosophy. Topics are introduced in a clear and eminently readable fashion, using accessible real world examples whilst drawing on sophisticated scholarly literature. There is no comparable book which covers such a wide range of topics in such a student-friendly manner.’ (Dr Daniel Butt, Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Bristol.)‘A lively, accessible and engaging read. Comprehensive and well organized, it provides an updated account of key concepts in contemporary political philosophy, and highlights their relevance to political life in the 21st century. A valuable book for anyone taking their first steps in the world of political philosophy, or anyone who seeks to understand the normative challenges faced by our society today.’ (Dr Avia Pasternak, Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Essex.)‘Written in a clear and accessible style, it is an engaging introduction for those who are new to political philosophy and wish to think through some of its most important questions. In addition to offering outlines of key arguments, each chapter also contains a summary of main concepts, self-test questions, a wonderful selection of quotations and some attention-grabbing ‘nuggets” (Dr Zosia Stemplowska, University Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Oxford)

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Finlayson, Lorna, , . The Political is Political: Conformity and the Illusion of Dissent in Contemporary Political Philosophy
2015, London: Rowman and Littlefield International
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by: Emily Dyson

Publisher’s Note: Nobody should really have to point out that political philosophy is political. Yet in this highly original and provocative book Lorna Finlayson argues that in fact it is necessary to do so. Offering a critique of mainstream liberal political philosophy through close, critical engagement with a series of specific debates and arguments, Finlayson analyzes the way in which apparently neutral methodological devices such as ‘charitable interpretation’ and ‘constructive criticism’ function so as to protect against challenges to the status quo.
At each stage, Finlayson demonstrates that political philosophy is suffering from a complex process of ‘depoliticization.’ Even in cases where it appears that the dominant framework of liberal political philosophy is being strongly challenged – as, for example, in the case of the ‘realist’ critique of ‘ideal theory’ – this book argues that the debate is set up in such a way as to impose strict limits on the kind of dissent that is possible. Only by dragging these hidden presuppositions into the foreground can we arrive at a clear-eyed appreciation of such debates, and perhaps look beyond the artificially constricted landscape in which they seek to confine us.

Comment: Good further or advanced reading on the methodology of political philosophy, and an incredibly illuminating critical complement to a Rawls-heavy syllabus. Finlayson provides an interesting and challenging critique of liberal presuppositions that are widespread in political philosophy. Individual chapters would also make very good further or advanced reading in their own right, especially the chapters on Rawls, the norm of philosophical charity, speech acts and silencing, and political realism.

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Hampton, Jean, , . Contracts and Choices: Does Rawls Have a Social Contract Theory?
1980, Journal of Philosophy 77(6): 315-338.
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Introduction: In A Theory of Justice John Rawls tells us he is presenting a social contract theory: “My aim,” he writes, “is to present a conception of justice which generalizes and carries to a higher level of abstraction the familiar theory of the social contract as found in say, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant”. And indeed his many and various critics have generally assumed he has a contractarian position and have criticized him on that basis. However, it will be my contention in this paper that a contractual agreement on the two principles not only does not but ought not to occur in the original position, and that, although Rawls uses contract language in his book, there is another procedure outlined in Part One of A Theory of Justice through which the two principles are selected.

Comment: Questions the nature of the Rawlsian contract and asks whether it really belongs in the same tradition as Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. Useful if engaging with Rawls’s methodology at a deep level. Would make good further reading for a module on either Rawls specifically or the social contract tradition more generally.

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Hartley, Christie, Watson, Lori , . Equal Citizenship and Public Reason. A Feminist Political Liberalism
2018, New York: Oxford University Press
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by:

Publisher’s Note: This book is a defense of political liberalism as a feminist liberalism. The first half of the book develops and defends a novel interpretation of political liberalism. It is argued that political liberals should accept a restrictive account of public reason and that political liberals’ account of public justification is superior to the leading alternative, the convergence account of public justification. The view is defended from the charge that such a restrictive account of public reason will unduly threaten or undermine the integrity of some religiously oriented citizens and an account of when political liberals can recognize exemptions, including religious exemptions, from generally applicable laws is offered. In the second half of the book, it is argued that political liberalism’s core commitments restrict all reasonable conceptions of justice to those that secure genuine, substantive equality for women and other marginalized groups. Here it is demonstrated how public reason arguments can be used to support law and policy needed to address historical sites of women’s subordination in order to advance equality; prostitution, the gendered division of labor and marriage, in particular, are considered.

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Hsieh, Nien-he, , . The Obligations of Transnational Corporations: Rawlsian Justice and the Duty of Assistance
2004, Business ethics quarterly, 14 (4), pp. 643-661.
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Abstract: Building on John Rawls’s account of the Law of Peoples, this paper examines the grounds and scope of the obligations of transnational corporations that are owned by members of developed economies and operate in developing economies. The paper advances two broad claims. First, the paper argues that there are conditions under which TNCs have obligations to fulfill a limited duty of assistance toward those living in developing economies, even though the duty is normally understood to fall on the governments of developed economies. Second, by extending Rawls’s account to include a right to protection against arbitrary interference, the paper argues that TNCs can be said to have negative and positive obligations in the areas of human rights, labor standards, and environmental protection, as outlined in the U.N. Global Compact. More generally, the paper aims to further our understanding of the implications of Rawls’s account of justice.

Comment: This paper is particularly useful in teaching on international business ethics and as further reading on Rawls. It also offers interesting insights into wider issues related to duty of assistance and moral relativism.

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Mills, Charles W., , . “Ideal Theory” as Ideology
2005, Hypatia 20 (3):165-183.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Kei Hiruta

Abstract: Recent surveys of the development of feminist ethics over the last three decades have emphasized that the exclusive and unitary focus on ‘care’ with which it is still sometimes identified has long been misleading. While paying tribute to the historic significance and continuing influence of Carol Gilligan’s and Nel Noddings’s pathbreaking work (1982; 1984), commentators such as Samantha Brennan, Marilyn Friedman, and Alison Jaggar point to ‘the increasing connections between feminist ethics and mainstream moral theory’ (Brennan 1999, 859), the ‘number of diverse methodological strategies’ adopted (Friedman 2000, 211), and the ‘controversy and diversity’ rather than ‘unity’ within feminism, marking ‘the shift from asserting the radical otherness of feminist ethics to seeing feminist philosophers as making a diverse range of contributions to an ongoing [larger] tradition of ethical discussion’ (Jaggar 2000, 452-53). Indeed, Samantha Brennan’s 1999 Ethics survey article suggests that there is no ‘one’ feminist ethic, and that the distinctive features of a feminist approach are simply the perception of the wrongness of women’s oppression, and the resulting construction and orientation of theory – based on women’s moral experiences – to the goal of understanding and ending that oppression (1999, 860). Obviously, then, this minimalist definition will permit a very broad spectrum of perspectives. In this respect, feminist ethics has interestingly come to converge with feminist political philosophy, which, at least from the ‘second wave’ onward, also encompassed a wide variety of approaches whose common denominator was simply the goal of ending female subordination (Jaggar 1983; Tong 1998). In this paper, I want to focus on an ethical strategy best and most selfconsciously developed in feminist theory in the writings of Onora O’Neill (1987; 1993), but that can arguably be traced back, at least in implicit and schematic form, to Marxism and classical left theory, and that would certainly be congenial to many people working on race. (I have found it very useful in my own work: Mills 1997; Mills 1998.) I refer to the distinction between idealizing and non?idealizing approaches to ethical theory, and the endorsement of the latter. I will argue that this normative strategy has the virtue of being potentially universalist in its application – able to address many, if not all, of the concerns not only of women, but also of those, men as well as women, subordinated by class, race, and the underdevelopment of the ‘South’ – and reflecting the distinctive experience of the oppressed while avoiding particularism and relativism. Moreover, in certain respects it engages with mainstream ethics on what are nominally its own terms, thereby (at least in theory) making it somewhat harder to ignore and marginalize. Correspondingly, I will argue that the so?called ideal theory more dominant in mainstream ethics is in crucial respects obfuscatory, and can indeed be thought of as in part ideological, in the pejorative sense of a set of group ideas that reflect, and contribute to perpetuating, illicit group privilege. As O’Neill argues, and as I agree, the best way of realizing the ideal is through the recognition of the importance of theorizing the nonideal.

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Nussbaum, Martha, , . Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership
2006, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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Publisher: Theories of social justice are necessarily abstract, reaching beyond the particular and the immediate to the general and the timeless. Yet such theories, addressing the world and its problems, must respond to the real and changing dilemmas of the day. A brilliant work of practical philosophy, Frontiers of Justice is dedicated to this proposition. Taking up three urgent problems of social justice neglected by current theories and thus harder to tackle in practical terms and everyday life, Martha Nussbaum seeks a theory of social justice that can guide us to a richer, more responsive approach to social cooperation. The idea of the social contract–especially as developed in the work of John Rawls–is one of the most powerful approaches to social justice in the Western tradition. But as Nussbaum demonstrates, even Rawls’s theory, suggesting a contract for mutual advantage among approximate equals, cannot address questions of social justice posed by unequal parties. How, for instance, can we extend the equal rights of citizenship–education, health care, political rights and liberties–to those with physical and mental disabilities? How can we extend justice and dignified life conditions to all citizens of the world? And how, finally, can we bring our treatment of nonhuman animals into our notions of social justice? Exploring the limitations of the social contract in these three areas, Nussbaum devises an alternative theory based on the idea of capabilities. She helps us to think more clearly about the purposes of political cooperation and the nature of political principles–and to look to a future of greater justice for all.

Comment: This excellent book is valuable in teaching for two main reasons: (1) it extends and expands on the application of the capability approach to non-human animals, the disabled and the global poor; and (2) it offers a valuable critique of Rawls’ theory of justice.

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O’Neill, Onora, , . Constructivism vs. Contractualism
2003, Ratio 16(4): 319-331.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Introduction: Are Constructivism and Contractualism different, and if so how? Seemingly they are not wholly different, and certainly not incompatible, since some writers have described themselves as both. As a first shot one might suggest that contractualists ground ethical or political justification in agreement of some sort, whereas constructivists ground them in some conception of reason. This will not provide any neat separation of the two approaches to justification, since agreement may provide a basis for reasons, and reasoning a way of achieving agreement. In opening up these questions a bit further I shall consider some of the moves John Rawls and Tim Scanlon make in talking about their own methods of ethics, and in particular, some of the connections they draw between their methods and the scope of their accounts of ethical reasoning.

Comment: Would be a good further reading for any teaching that touches on Rawls’s Kantian constructivism in particular.

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Okin, Susan Moller, , . Justice, gender, and the family
2008, New York: Basic Books.
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Publisher: In the first feminist critique of modern political theory, Okin shows how the failure to apply theories of justice to the family not only undermines our most cherished democratic values but has led to a major crisis over gender-related issues.

Comment: This book offers a feminist discussion of various theories of justice, arguing that they should include a more comprehensive account on issues related to the formation and functioning of families. In teaching, it is particularly useful as a critique of Rawls’ theory.

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Shelby, Tommie, , . Justice, Deviance, and the Dark Ghetto
2007, Philosophy & Public Affairs 35(2): 126-160.
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Added by: Helen Morley, Contributed by:

Introduction: The problems I will focus on lie in the domain of the theory of justice. Specifically, my concern is to determine what kinds of criticisms of the ghetto poor’s behavior and attitudes are or are not appropriate given that the social circumstances under which they make their life choices are, at least in part, the result of injustice. If the overall social arrangement in which the ghetto poor live is unjust, this requires that we think about what their obligations are quite differently than we should if the society were judged to be just. In particular, I will argue that it is necessary to distinguish the civic obligations citizens have to each other from the natural duties all persons have as moral agents, both of which are affected, though in different ways, by the justness of social arrangements. In addition, among the natural duties all persons possess is the duty to uphold, and to assist in bringing about, just institutions, a political duty that has important, though generally overlooked, consequences for the debate about ghetto poverty.

Comment: Focuses on the moral obligations of subject to systemic and long term injustice, using a Rawlsian framework. Enhances a discussion of justice by considering the implications of justice on those treated unjustly.

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Stark, Cynthia A., , . How to Include the Severly Disabled in a Contractarian Theory of Justice
2007, Journal of Political Philosophy 15 (2): 127-145.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Content: Modifies and then defends a Rawlsian theory of justice from the charge that it cannot adequately account for the claims of severely disabled individuals who cannot participate fully in schemes of cooperation.

Comment: Best suited as specialised or further reading on disability and Rawlsian theories of justice.
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