The Limits of John Rawls' Pluralism

in Theoria

This article argues that John Rawls' liberal philosophising is an inadequate means of facing today's varied social and political challenges, both domestic and international, because it is incapable of grasping the antagonistic dimension which is constitutive of the political. Focusing first on Rawls' conception of politics in a well-ordered liberal society, and thereafter on his arguments pertaining to the field of international politics, it is shown how Rawls forecloses the recognition of the properly political moment by postulating that the discrimination between what is legitimate and what is not legitimate is dictated by morality and rationality. With exclusions presented as rationally justified and with the antagonistic dimension of politics whisked away, liberalism appears as the truly moral and rational solution to the problem of how to organise human coexistence, and its universalisation becomes the aim of all those who are moved by moral and rational considerations. Against this conception, it is suggested that a future, more peaceful world would be less a cosmopolitan and more a pluralist one.

Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

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