In his highly influential book Theories of Justice, Brian Barry (1989) argues that in John Rawls's account of justice as fairness there is not just one but two distinct and irreconcilable ideas of social justice: the first one arises from a
The Liberal Agenda and the Appeal to 'Real Existing Socialism'
Political philosophers tend to notice their differences more than their similarities. I suggest that contemporary analytic political philosophy in fact exhibits a 'dominant paradigm', the main features of which are a commitment to liberal capitalism and a preference for the designing of 'just institutions.' To subscribe to this paradigm involves making a decision about how to manage the philosophical 'agenda.' In order to focus on certain issues within this paradigm, alternatives, most notably socialism, have to be excluded from prolonged consideration. A popular way of supporting this policy is by reference to the perceived failure of 'real existing socialism.' Taking the late political philosopher Brian Barry, among others, as an example, I argue that this argumentative strategy is unconvincing, and furthermore that its deployment tells a worrying story about the practice of political philosophy.