DRL facebook

Brake, Elizabeth, and . Rawls and Feminism: What Should Feminists Make of Liberal Neutrality?

2004, Journal of Moral Philosophy 1 (3):293-309.

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.

Chambers, Clare, and Phil Parvin. Teach Yourself Political Philosophy: A Complete Introduction

2012, Hodder & Stoughton

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)

Hampton, Jean, and . Contracts and Choices: Does Rawls Have a Social Contract Theory?

1980, Journal of Philosophy 77(6): 315-338.

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.

Hsieh, Nien-he, and . The Obligations of Transnational Corporations: Rawlsian Justice and the Duty of Assistance

2004, Business ethics quarterly, 14 (4), pp. 643-661.

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.

Nussbaum, Martha, and . Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership

2006, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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.

O'Neill, Onora, and . Constructivism vs. Contractualism

2003, Ratio 16(4): 319-331.

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.

Okin, Susan Moller, and . Justice, gender, and the family

2008, New York: Basic Books.

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.

Shelby, Tommie, and . Justice, Deviance, and the Dark Ghetto

2007, Philosophy & Public Affairs 35(2): 126-160.

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.

Stark, Cynthia A., and . How to Include the Severly Disabled in a Contractarian Theory of Justice

2007, Journal of Political Philosophy 15 (2): 127-145.

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.