A Stability Interpretation of Rawls’s The Law of Peoples

Political Theory 43 (4):473-499 (2015)

Hyun-Seop Kim
Seoul National University
In this essay, I propose an interpretation of John Rawls’s The Law of Peoples that puts the stability of liberal societies as the central organizing idea of its principles. I start by critically examining other interpretations currently found in the literature. I observe two characteristics of Rawls’s conception of stability from his political turn: stability for the right reasons and in the right way. In the main body of the essay, I argue that the absence of a global egalitarian principle is compatible with the stability of liberal peoples, that the toleration of decent peoples is conducive to the stability of liberal peoples, and that the universal enforcement of human rights and assistance to burdened societies are rationally required for the stability of liberal peoples. I clarify the meaning of the centrality of peace and stability, and explain why it is not conspicuous but still unsurprising given Rawls’s personal history and the development of his theory of international justice. I conclude by suggesting how the stability interpretation paves the way for further extensions of Rawls’s theory of justice and assessing the practical value of The Law of Peoples.
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DOI 10.1177/0090591713516150
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