John Rawls & Justice
Helen McCabe considers the arguments over Rawls’ theory of justice.
Justice, Harvard philosopher John Rawls (1921-2002) claimed, is the first virtue of institutions. Certainly justice seems to be the first concern of contemporary political theorists, and has been since Rawls published A Theory of Justice in 1971. A great deal has been written about it, and the on-going nature of the investigation shows how difficult it is to see the wood for the trees. Justice is ‘an essentially contested concept’, to borrow Michael Freeden’s phrase: philosophers disagree about what goes into justice, what weighting the different components of justice should have, and where justice sits in relation to other concepts. This makes justice a very difficult topic to get a handle on.