Social justice: Defending Rawls' theory of justice against Honneth's objections

Philosophy and Social Criticism 37 (1):95-118 (2011)
This article argues that Honneth’s ‘plural conception of justice’, founded on a theory of recognition, does not succeed in distancing itself from Rawls’ liberal theory of justice. The article develops its argument by evaluating three major objections to Rawls’ liberalism raised by Honneth in his recent articles on justice: namely, first, that the parties responsible for choosing principles of justice are too individualistic and their practical reasoning too instrumentalist; second, that by taking as its ‘object-domain’ the negative liberty of persons, Rawls’ theory fails to promote the actual realization of liberty; and finally, that Rawls’ method of principle justification undermines the ‘priority’ of its Kantian ‘formality’ by presupposing a substantive commitment to a conception of individual good. Arguing that Honneth’s interpretation of Rawls’ theory contains important errors, the article concludes that both theories share the basic intention of securing for all citizens the material and institutional conditions for the actualization of otherwise merely formal liberties or, in Honneth’s terms, mutual self-realization
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DOI 10.1177/0191453710384363
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