Rational life plans

Aristotle, Kant, and Rawls agree: people ought to have rational plans of life to guide their everyday efforts and activities. But what is involved in being rational about one's plan of life? And really, what is a plan of life? Is it a sketch of a lifetime goal, along with some indications of the efforts …

Mark Blaug, John Rawls, and the history of political economy

In an earlier post I spent some time trying to determine what the major sources were of Rawls's knowledge of the history of classical political economy.  I noted that Rawls refers several times in A Theory of Justice to Mark Blaug's important history of economic thought, Economic Theory in Retrospect , and speculated that this might have been an important source of …

Rawls on a property-owning democracy

John Rawls's critique of capitalism was deeper than has been commonly recognized -- this is a central thrust of quite a bit of important recent work on Rawls's theory of justice. Much of this recent discussion focuses on Rawls's idea of a "property-owning democracy" as an alternative to both laissez-faire and welfare-state capitalism. This more disruptive reading …

Rawls and classical political economy

John Rawls's A Theory of Justice is highly relevant to the ways we think about our economic system.  If we just read the citations, Rawls seems to be primarily influenced by "modern" economics -- Samuelson, equilibrium theory, game theory, and marginalist theory.  And so we might suppose that his moral worldview reflects a neoclassical vision of …

Rawls’s framework for global justice

Rawls's A Theory of Justice was immediately received as a major and progressive contribution to the theory of justice within existing societies. His Law of Peoples (1999) was intended to carry his basic ideas about justice to the international realm.  (Here is a PDF of a preliminary version of the title essay of the book as published in Critical …

Rawls on political liberalism

Long after the transformative impact Rawls brought to social and political philosophy with A Theory of Justice: Original Edition (1971), Rawls continued to wrestle with the question of how a just society ought to work.  One major part of this question is how a just society ought to encompass major disagreements among its citizens about values …

Rawls and the history of economics

What did John Rawls know about the history of political economy? In particular, how much did he know about classical political economy, including especially the theories of Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, Marx, or Mill?It appears from his writings and lectures that he was generally familiar with the most basic theoretical positions and debates in classical political …

Rawls and economics

A topic of continuing interest to me is the role that serious engagement with economic theory played in the formation and development of John Rawls's thought (link).  To what extent were important aspects of the theory of "Justice as Fairness" influenced by elements of economic theory?I'm inclined to think that we can look at Rawls's …

Rawls on Rousseau 1973, 1975

As noted in an earlier post, John Rawls delivered a fundamentally important course on the history of political philosophy at Harvard throughout much of his career. (See the earlier post for more about the course and for a set of notes on the section on Marx.) The 1973 course followed these main topics:The nature of …

A property-owning democracy

John Rawls offered a general set of principles of justice that were formally neutral across specific institutions.  However, he also believed that the institutions of a "property-owning democracy" are most likely to satisfy the two principles of justice. So what is a property-owning democracy? In Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (2001) Rawls offered a more explicit discussion …

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