Rawlsian theory and the circumstances of politics
Political Theory, 38, (5), . (doi:10.1177/0090591710372862).
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Can Rawlsian theory provide us with an adequate response to the practical question of how we should proceed in the face of widespread and intractable disagreement over matters of justice? Recent criticism of ideal theorizing might make us wonder whether this question highlights another way in which ideal theory can be too far removed from our non-ideal circumstances to provide any practical guidance. Further reflection on it does not show that ideal theory is redundant, but it does indicate that there is a need for a nonideal theory that does not consist simply in an account of how to apply the principles which are yielded by ideal theory to non-ideal circumstances in the light of what is feasible and an assessment of the costs of implementation. Indeed any non-ideal theory that can adequately address this question will have to be partially autonomous, drawing on a notion of legitimacy that is rather different to the one which lies at the heart of Rawlsian ideal theory.
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