Shaping a Just World: Reinterpreting Rawls’s Approach to Global Justice

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Shaping a Just World: Reinterpreting Rawls’s Approach to Global Justice

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Title: Shaping a Just World: Reinterpreting Rawls’s Approach to Global Justice
Author: Huang, Jiahui
Citation: Jiahui Huang, Shaping a Just World: Reinterpreting Rawls’s Approach to Global Justice (Harvard Law School, Laylin Student Writing Prize, June 2015).
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Abstract: This paper discusses the question of global justice through the lens of the theories of justice expounded by John Rawls in "A Theory of Justice, Political Liberalism, and The Law of Peoples". In any theory of justice, some features of the world we know are held fixed; such constraints may be genuinely unchangeable facts about the world, or they may be contingent facts assumed to be fixed for the purposes of the theory. I argue that a fully adequate theory of justice (‘ideal theory’) should free itself of contingent constraints wherever possible. At the same time, ideal theory will require a complementary theory which does admit contingent constraints (‘non-ideal theory’) and which is therefore realistic enough to explain how ideal theory can be attained given the present state of society. This two-theory approach I call a ‘realistic utopia’. I suggest that in "Justice as Fairness", Rawls’s confinement of the theory to a domestic society is one such contingent constraint, and that it cannot be justified. Meanwhile, when Rawls extended his theory to international justice in the "Law of Peoples", a number of unjustifiable contingent constraints emerged, particularly the assumption that states exist as we know them. My argument is that "Justice as Fairness" can be an ideal theory if its scope is made global; then its complementary nonideal theory can be derived from the "Law of Peoples". This, I suggest, is the realistic utopia that Rawls sought, and that we should seek.
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:16388002
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