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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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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

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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Hampton, Jean, , . Hobbes and the Social Contract Tradition
1986, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Publisher’s Note: This major study of Hobbes’s political philosophy draws on recent developments in game and decision theory to explore whether the thrust of the argument in Leviathan, that it is in the interests of the people to create a ruler with absolute power, can be shown to be cogent. Professor Hampton has written a book of vital importance to political philosophers, political and social scientists, and intellectual historians.

Comment: Hampton offers a ‘rational reconstruction’ of Hobbes’s argument, arguing that it fails in a way which shows that the alienation model in social contract theory suffers from some fundamental flaws. The book offers an interesting insights which can inspire student essays and dissertations, and can be a good further or advanced reading for Hobbes.

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Hampton, Jean, , . Political Philosophy
1996, Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Publisher’s Note: Political philosophy, perhaps even more than other branches of philosophy, calls for constant renewal to reflect not just re-readings of the tradition but also the demands of current events. In this lively and readable survey, Jean Hampton has created a text for our time that does justice both to the great traditions of the field and to the newest developments. In a marvelous feat of synthesis, she links the classical tradition, the giants of the modern period, the dominant topics of the twentieth century, and the new questions and concerns that are just beginning to rewrite contemporary political philosophy.Hampton presents these traditions in an engaging and accessible manner, adding to them her own views and encouraging readers to critically examine a range of ideas and to reach their own conclusions. Of particular interest are the discussions of the contemporary liberalism-communitarianism debates, the revival of interest in issues of citizenship and nationality, and the way in which feminist concerns are integrated into all these discussions. Political Philosophy is the most modern text on the topic now available, the ideal guide to what is going on in the field. It will be welcomed by scholars and students in philosophy and political science, and it will serve as an introduction for readers from outside these fields.

Comment: Many of the chapters would make for good introductory readings to standard topics in political philosophy, including: social contract theories, political authority, distributive justice, liberalism vs communitarianism, nationalism.

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Midgley, Mary, , . Individualism and the Concept of Gaia
2001, Science and Poetry, chapter 17. Routledge.
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Added by: Anne-Marie McCallion, Contributed by:

Abstract: The idea of Gaia—of life on earth as a self-sustaining natural system—is not a gratuitous, semi-mystical fantasy. It is a really useful idea, a cure for distortions that spoil our current world-view. Its most obvious use is, of course, in suggesting practical solutions to environmental problems. But, more widely, it also attacks deeper tangles which now block our thinking. Some of these are puzzles about the reasons why the fate of our planet should concern us. We are bewildered by the thought that we might have a duty to something so clearly non-human. But more centrally, too, we are puzzled about how we should view ourselves. Current ways of thought still tend to trap us in the narrow, atomistic, seventeenth-century image of social life which grounds today’s crude and arid individualism, though there are currently signs that we are beginning to move away from it. A more realistic view of the earth can give us a more realistic view of ourselves as its inhabitants.

Comment: This is an easy text to read and so would be fine for less experienced philosophers. Midgley argues that Lovelock’s Gaia constitutes a way of seeing the world (or myth) that has important consequences for multiple aspects of our lives (social, political, moral, etc.) by combating the unhelpful individualism she sees as stemming from the social contract myth. Whilst this text is easy to read, there is a lot going on under the surface which arguably conflicts with standard assumptions about philosophical practice (in particular, Midgley’s pluralism and account of myths). As such, it is a great text for bringing these things to the fore and exploring a different view of what philosophy is for. It would be suitable for courses pertaining to environmental ethics, animal ethics or interdisciplinary discussions regarding the environment and ecology.

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Mills, Charles, , . The Racial Contract
1997, Ithaca, Cornell University Press.
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Added by: John Baldari, Contributed by:

Introduction: White supremacy is the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today. You will not find this term in introductory, or even advanced, texts in political theory. A standard undergraduate philosophy course will start off with Plato and Aristotle, perhaps say something about Augustine, Aquinas, and Machiavelli, move on to Hobbes, Locke, Mill, and Marx, and then wind up with Rawls and Nozick. It will introduce you to notions of aristocracy, democracy, absolutism, liberalism, representative government, socialism, welfare capitalism, andlibertarianism. But though it covers more than two thousand years of Western political thought and runs the ostensible gamut of political systems, there will be no mention of the basic political system that has shaped the world for the past several hundred years. And this omission is not accidental. Rather, it reflects the fact that standard textbooks and courses have for the most part been written and designed by whites, who take their racial privilege so much for granted that they do not even see it as political, as a form of domination. Ironically, the most important political system of recent global history-the system of domination by which white people have historically ruled over and, in certain important ways, continue to rule over nonwhite people-is not seen as a political system at all. It is just taken for granted; it is the background against which other systems, which we are to see as political are highlighted. This book is an attempt to redirect your vision, to make you see what, in a sense, has been there all along.

Comment: This text should be a primary early introduction to philosophy of race and critical race studies. Due to the Marxist undertones, this text would be well suited to secondary reading in a political philosophy course or module.

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Okin, Susan Moller, , . Forty acres and a mule’ for women: Rawls and feminism
2005, Politics, Philosophy and Economics 4 (2):233-248.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Lizzy Ventham

Abstract: This article assesses the development of Rawls’s thinking in response to a generation of feminist critique. Two principle criticisms are sustainable throughout his work: first, that the family, as a basic institution of society, must be subject to the principles of justice if its members are to be free and equal members of society; and, second, that without such social and political equality, justice as fairness is as meaningful to women as the unrealized promise of ‘Forty acres and a mule’ was to the newly freed slaves.

Comment: I would use this piece to accompany any teaching on John Rawls and his political philosophy. It provides some good summary of a number of different feminist critiques of Rawls and his responses to them, as well as providing new ideas for why Rawls still misses the mark. It can be a good basis for discussion on a number of different feminist criticisms of Rawls’ philosophy.

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