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Chapter

Cover Contemporary Political Philosophy

1. Introduction  

This edition provides an introduction to the major schools of thought that dominate contemporary debates in political philosophy. The focus is on theories which have attracted a certain allegiance, and which offer a more or less comprehensive vision of the ideals of politics. The text examines the notion, advanced by Ronald Dworkin, that every plausible political theory has the same ultimate value, which is equality. It considers another, more abstract and more fundamental, idea of equality in political theory — namely, the idea of treating people ‘as equals’. It also explores what it might mean for libertarianism to have freedom as its foundational value, or for utilitarianism to have utility as its foundational value. Finally, it analyses the relationship between moral and political philosophy and argues that the ultimate test of a theory of justice is that it should be concordant with, and help illuminate, our convictions of justice.

Chapter

Cover Contemporary Political Philosophy

3. Liberal Equality  

This chapter examines the notion of liberal equality by considering John Rawls’s alternative to utilitarianism. In his A Theory of Justice, Rawls complains that political theory was caught between two extremes: utilitarianism on the one side, and what he calls ‘intuitionism’ on the other. The chapter presents Rawls’s ideas, first by discussing the two arguments he gives for his answer to the question of justice: the intuitive equality of opportunity argument and the social contract argument. It also analyses Ronald Dworkin’s views on equality of resources, focusing on his theory that involves the use of auctions, insurance schemes, free markets, and taxation. Finally, it explores the politics of liberal equality, arguing that liberals need to think seriously about adopting more radical politics.