The implicit assumptions of dividing a cake: Political or comprehensive? [Book Review]

Human Studies 27 (3):307-334 (2004)
Abstract
Rawls''s recent modification of his theory of justice claims that political liberalism is free-standing and falls under the category of the political. It works entirely within that domain and does not rely on anything outside it In this article I pursue the metatheoretical goal of obtaining insight into the anthropological assumptions that have remained so far unacknowledged by Rawls and critics alike. My argument is that political liberalism has a dependence on comprehensive liberalism and its conception of a self-serving subjectivity that is far more binding as well as undesirable than it has been so far acknowledged. I proceed with a heuristic approach that introduces us to the possibility that political liberalism presupposes tacitly the Occidental metanarrative of reason harnessing rampant self-interest and subordinating it to a higher-order interest. As the presuppositions of political liberalism emerge, I draw from the debate between Rawls and Habermas in order to illustrate my argument for the existence of a dependence on these presuppositions. I outline some implications of the anthropological basis of political liberalism and conclude by exemplifying them with reference to Rawls''s comments on the division of a cake.
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