International Justice and Human Rights in the Political Philosophy of John Rawls

Dissertation, University of South Africa (South Africa) (1999)

Abstract
This thesis provides a critical examination of John Rawls's political philosophy as it relates to international justice and human rights. Rawls's theory of justice as fairness has made an enormous impact on contemporary political and ethical theory, yet it has been criticized by some for failing to address the extra-domestic aspects of social justice, including universal human rights. In Chapter One I describe the theory of rights developed in the social contract tradition and how this theory has influenced the modern discourse of human rights. In Chapter Two I discuss Rawls's theory of justice as fairness, the basic rights and liberties, and the idea of political liberalism. In Chapter Three I analyze Rawls's account of international justice and argue that it fails to uphold the same rigorous principles of justice as found in his account of domestic justice. Finally, in Chapter Four I discuss Rawls's more recent attempts to theorize international justice and human rights. I conclude that Rawls is not justified in limiting the set of human rights available to persons in different societies, and that this limitation is an unnecessary feature of his theory of justice. In contrast I argue for a more cosmopolitan system of social justice that is strongly normative and grounded in Rawlsian ideal theory.
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