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John Rawls

In 1971 a reclusive American academic revived liberal political philosophy with "A Theory of Justice." Why did he write it? And why was it applauded and then ignored by the left?

By Ben Rogers   June 1999

I have before me a copy of a new book called Collected Papers, by John Rawls. It does not have the feel of an important book. Its language is often blunt and lifeless; certain phrases—”a well-ordered constitutional democracy,” “the fact of reasonable pluralism,” “the criterion of reciprocity”—seem to crop up again and again, as if part of a strangely unpoetic mantra. For the most part its headings are dry and academic: Chapter 12: “Reply to Alexander and Musgrave”; Chapter 13: “A Kantian Conception of Equality.” Its arguments seem remote; they are certainly difficult.

Yet the publication of this book is…

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