Liberalism and Community: Communitarian Criticisms of John Rawls' Liberal Theory of Justice

Dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1989)
Liberal political philosophy is often accused of being excessively individualistic and of failing to provide an adequate conception of political community. The purpose of this study is to evaluate such criticisms as they have been most recently advanced against the liberal theory of John Rawls by Michael Sandel and Alasdair MacIntyre. ;Chapters I and II examine the individualist and communitarian dimensions and Rawls' theory of justice as fairness. I attempt to demonstrate that justice as fairness provides an especially good test case for the communitarian potential of liberalism, since Rawls strives as much or more than any other contemporary liberal to accommodate the values of community within the liberal paradigm. ;Chapters III and IV evaluate the central thrust of the criticisms advanced by Sandel and MacIntyre. I argue that the communitarian perspective behind their criticisms are either unable or unwilling to accommodate the social pluralism characteristic of modern societies. This defect renders their concepts of political community either unattainable or undesirable. ;Chapters V and VI examine the prospects that two virtues of political community, civic friendship and patriotism, could be cultivated in a society well-ordered by Rawls' two principles of justice. I argue that admirable forms of each could be realized within such a society. ;Chapters VII and VIII consider the internal consistency and coherence of Rawls' communitarianism. The most important issue is whether the difference principle would allow such great disparities in income, wealth, social position, and the "social bases of self-respect" as to provoke the socially destructive form of envy that could undermine the harmony and stability of a well-ordered society. I argue that a full understanding of the requirements of the two principles of justice suggests that justice as fairness could be most consistently and effectively implemented in a fairly egalitarian, liberal, democratic socialist system. ;Chapter IX organizes and elaborates the communitarian themes of justice as fairness in what I call the "Rousseauan reading," which shows how a Rawlsian well-ordered society would satisfy the conditions for establishing a just political community as the expression of the general will of its citizens
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Michael Sandel (2003). Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. In Derek Matravers & Jonathan E. Pike (eds.), Journal of Philosophy. Routledge, in Association with the Open University. pp. 336-343.
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