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Cover Political Thinkers

32. Rawls  

Rex Martin

This chapter examines the main arguments for John Rawls's ideas about justice. Rawls identified two principles as central to political liberalism: the principle of equal basic rights and liberties, and a principle of economic justice, which stresses equality of opportunity, mutual benefit, and egalitarianism. In Rawls's interpretation, these two principles take place ultimately in an ideal arena for decision-making, which he calls the ‘original position’. In time, Rawls became dissatisfied with this approach and began to reconfigure his theory, moving the focus towards a ‘family’ of liberal principles. The chapter begins by discussing Rawls's first and second principles before considering his concept of ‘original position’ as well as his views on overlapping consensus. It concludes with an analysis of the main ideas contained in Rawls's 1999 book, The Law of Peoples.