Can Rawls’s Nonideal Theory Save his Ideal Theory?

Social Theory and Practice 42 (1):32-56 (2016)
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Critical attention directed to John Rawls’s ideal theory has in particular leveled three charges against it: first, its infeasibility; second, its inadequacy for providing normative guidance on actual injustices; and third, its insensitivity to the justice concerns of marginalized groups. Recently, advocates for Rawls’s ideal theory have replied that problems arising at the stage of ideal theory can be addressed at the later stage of his nonideal theory. This article disputes that claim by arguing that although Rawls’s nonideal theory provides a good answer to the infeasibility charge, it does not do so for the second and third charges. To argue for this thesis, I illustrate that nonideal theory in Rawls’s Law of Peoples is unable to identify crucial injustices that emerge in the nonideal conditions of real world globalization.



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Hye-Ryoung Kang
University of Colorado, Boulder

Citations of this work

An ideology critique of nonideal methodology.Matthew Adams - 2021 - European Journal of Political Theory 20 (4).
Nonideal Justice as Nonideal Fairness.Marcus Arvan - 2019 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 5 (2):208-228.
Rawls and racial justice.D. C. Matthew - 2017 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 16 (3):235-258.

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