This chapter examines the impact of John Rawls's A Theory of Justice on the liberal audience that took it up. In A Theory of Justice, Rawls offers a defense of civil disobedience that would make politically motivated disobedience a much more acceptable part of our political life than either the U.S. Supreme Court or the English judiciary seems likely to contemplate. Furthermore, his views about the subservience of economic institutions to “social justice” place him firmly on one side of what is currently the most fiercely contested dividing line in politics in Britain today. The chapter also considers Rawls's use of the theory of the social contract to support his arguments; his principle of “the priority of liberty”; and his “difference principle.” It asserts that Rawls is safe from those critics who maintain that what purports to be a defense of liberalism actually collapses into a wholesale collectivism.
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