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Constitutional Democracy and Judicial Supremacy: John Rawls and the Transformation of ...

Chapter 1:  Rawls and Political Philosophy
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Constitutional Democracy and Judicial Supremacy:

Chapter 1

Rawls and Political Philosophy

John Rawls is commonly known as a political philosopher, and is often described as the most eminent of the twentieth century. Much of this is due to the fact that his work questioned the assumptions of the dominant schools of thought of the 1960s, Marxism and utilitarianism, and thereby revived an interest in liberal strains of modern political philosophy. Rawls’s posthumously published lecture notes show the extent to which he was indeed interested in the history of political philosophy and understood himself to be contributing to its development.1 My contention, however, is that this was of secondary importance for Rawls. He cared far less about influencing the way academics talk about liberalism (though he of course did care about this) than he did about shaping the practice of constitutional government in nations like America. This should be kept in mind when we refer to him as a political philosopher. He did not seek wisdom about enduring truths but rather, to borrow the apt title of his first book, a theory of justice to fit the circumstances of Western democracies today. In this regard it may be better to think of him as a political or constitutional theorist.