Rawls and beyond

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For more than 50 years, the work of John Rawls has been at the center of normative theories of social justice. This is not to say that his theory has been universally accepted – far from it – but his work has established the framework within which contemporary theorizing proceeds. In this course, we will begin by reading excerpts from various works by Rawls, as well as some secondary literature clarifying his approach and some of its implications. We will discuss key ideas of his theory such as reflective equilibrium, the original position, the basic structure of society, and public reason. We will then proceed to read some of the debates that his work has spurred, beginning with the libertarian critique of Rawls’s egalitarianism. Next, we will consider the more recent idea of “luck egalitarianism” as an interpretation and as a critique of his theory. Depending on time and interest, we may conclude with units on feminist perspectives on his theory and whether it has the resources to address implicit, but deeply entrenched, racism.