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am 7. März 2000
John Rawls is indisputably the most honorable spokesman of political liberalism of the past twenty-five years. His theoretical committment to and devlopment of liberalism is an inspiring attempt to reconcile the difficulties inherent in a heterogenous society in which different conceptions of the good life and varied value systems, beliefs, and principles can coexist and yet affirm the political conception of a constitutional regime. How can a nation entreat its inhabitants to carve out their conception of the good life and their own value systems and yet achieve agreement on a set of principles that all citizens may abide by? It is the answer to this question that Rawls's works have sought to answer. The Law of Peoples is no less concerned with this question. Rawls's attempts to extend a social contractarian approach to human existence on the international level is thorough and nuanced. Liberal peoples, he argues, have three basic features. They possess a reasonably just constitutional democractic government that serves their fundamental interests; they are united by common sympathies; and above all, they have a morally mature nature. Critics who claim that Rawls's brand of liberalism invites a form of moral agnosticism had better think twice. Moral maturity and its genetic antecedent--human moral nature, are the preconditions that underly the moral basis of liberalism in general: deep respect for human beings and the necessity of treating them as ends in themselves. Rawls's development of a Just War Doctrine should force us to re-think traditional concepts of sovereignty and undermines the claims to legitimacy that outlaw states seek to impose on moral communities in the name of cultural authenticity. In this respect Rawls' work is indispensible to young liberal scholar's such as myself. In fact I have depended on his theoretical approach to ground much of my highly controversial and hotly contested book, "Becoming a Cosmopolitan: What It Means To be a Human Being in the New Millennium." I argue, however, for a more pugnacious form of liberalism by rejecting outright, as conceptions of the good, all forms of tribal (racial/ethnic and national)identities and argue for the obliteration of all cultural practices that undermine human rights. For those who believe that moral progress is possible and who wish to further advance the idea that liberal democracies represent a superior and more evolved form of social and political living, The Law of Peoples is a detailed and rigorous application of this idea.
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am 4. Mai 2000
John Rawls believes that we can achieve something akin to a utopia. Although precious few utopian thinkers have escaped the disreputable taint of astonishing naiveté, Rawls has thought hard about the moral, religious, cultural, and historical nuances that so often make utopic claims tragically optimistic. His own vision of a realistic political utopia rests in his faith in the idea of a social contract; the essays collected in these volumes present Rawls' lifework as a consistent project of extending and radicalizing this venerable idea.
Earlier Rawls articulated several general principles--for example, "justice as fairness," and "public reason"--that he thinks justify political relations between members of constitutional democracy. In this book he presents an even more general principle, "the law of peoples," that he thinks would extends the social contract to include members of certain illiberal societies.
Readers interested in Rawls' latest views about the real-world prospects of his realistic utopia will welcome this short book. In addition to presenting a long essay about his most general political principle, that of the "law of peoples," this book also includes a shorter new essay on Rawls' influential conception of "public reason" within liberal democracy. In both, Rawls is very much concerned with showing how his lifelong project-to bring into fruitful synthesis our deepest communal insights about reasonableness and justice-justify his faith in a realistic utopia. Rawls' congenial prose style makes his dazzling vision accessible to all conscientious readers.
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