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Feminist Interpretations of John Rawls

Edited by Ruth Abbey

Publication Year: 2013

In Feminist Interpretations of John Rawls, Ruth Abbey collects eight essays responding to the work of John Rawls from a feminist perspective. An impressive introduction by the editor provides a chronological overview of English-language feminist engagements with Rawls from his Theory of Justice onwards. She surveys the range of issues canvassed by feminist readers of Rawls, as well as critics’ wide disagreement about the value of Rawls’ corpus for feminist purposes. The eight essays that follow testify to the continuing ambivalence among feminist readers of Rawls. From the perspectives of political theory and moral, social, and political philosophy, the essayists address particular aspects of Rawls’ work and apply it to a variety of worldly practices relating to gender inequality and the family, to the construction of disability, to the justice in everyday relationships, to human rights on an international level. The overall effect is to give a sense of the broad spectrum of possible feminist critical responses to Rawls, ranging from rejection to adoption. Aside from the editor, the contributors are Amy R. Baehr, Eileen Hunt Botting, Elizabeth Brake, Clare Chambers, Nancy J. Hirschmann, Anthony Simon Laden, Janice Richardson, and Lisa H. Schwartzman.

Published by: Penn State University Press

Series: Re-Reading the Canon


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv

Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-ix

Take into your hands any history of philosophy text. You will fi nd compiled therein the “classics” of modern philosophy. Since these texts are often designed for use in undergraduate classes, the editor is likely to offer an introduction in which the reader is informed that these selections represent the perennial questions of philosophy. The student is to assume that ...

List of Abbreviations

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p. xi-xi

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Introduction: Biography of a Bibliography: Three Decades of Feminist Response to Rawls

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pp. 1-23

By providing a chronological overview of English-language feminist engagements with Rawls from A Theory of Justice (TJ) onward,1 this “biography of a bibliography” displays the range of issues canvassed by feminist readers of Rawls as well as their wide disagreement about the value of his corpus for feminist purposes. As we shall see, feminist responses to Rawls’s ...

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Chapter 1: Radical Liberals, Reasonable Feminists: Reason, Power, and Objectivity in MacKinnon and Rawls

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pp. 24-39

As the introduction to this volume shows, John Rawls’s turn, if that is what it was, to political liberalism from the comprehensive liberalism of TJ was not generally greeted as a welcome turn of events by many feminists. According to the standard interpretation, Rawls, buffeted by the criticisms of communitarians and conservative religious attacks on liberalism, ...

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Chapter 2: Feminism, Method, and Rawlsian Abstraction

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pp. 40-56

As indicated in the introduction to this volume, Rawls has been enormously infl uential in contemporary political philosophy, and his ideas and methods continue to shape philosophical debates about justice, liberty, equality, autonomy, and democracy. Given the centrality of Rawlsian concepts to these debates, feminist political theorists must consider how and ...

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Chapter 3: Rereading Rawls on Self-Respect: Feminism, Family Law, and the Social Bases of Self-Respect

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pp. 57-74

In TJ, Rawls famously wrote that self-respect is “perhaps the most important primary good” (440). Indeed, he adduced its primacy to defend his theory of justice in a number of places. But as subsequent discussion has shown, he was imprecise in defi ning “self-respect,” using the term interchangeably with “self-esteem.” Moreover, he failed to examine systematically ...

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Chapter 4: “The Family as a Basic Institution: ”A Feminist Analysis of the Basic Structure as Subject

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pp. 75-95

In Section 50 of JFR, titled “The Family as a Basic Institution,” Rawls replies to Okin’s feminist critique of TJ. He states, “If we say the gender system includes whatever social arrangements adversely affect the equal basic liberties and opportunities of women, as well of those of their children as future citizens, then surely that system is subject to critique by the ...

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Chapter 5: Rawls, Freedom, and Disability: A Feminist Rereading (Nancy J. Hirschmann)

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pp. 96-114

When political theorists and philosophers take up the question of disability, they generally do so with regard to questions of justice: allocation of resources to disabled people (whether directly through accommodation, subsidy, or health care, or indirectly, say, through scientifi c research); distribution of resources (which disabilities or illnesses should receive more dollars, ...

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Chapter 6: Rawls on International Justice

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pp. 115-132

In Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership (2006), Martha Nussbaum advances a feminist critique of Rawls’s theory of international justice. While she identifi es herself as a student of Rawls and dedicates the book to his memory, Nussbaum seeks to show the insuffi ciency of his theory of international justice, particularly as found in his LP, when it ...

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Chapter 7: Jean Hampton’s Reworking of Rawls: Is “Feminist Contractarianism” Useful for Feminism?

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pp. 133-149

In this chapter, I look at Jean Hampton’s “feminist contractarianism” to explore what she means by the term “contractarian” and to evaluate the extent to which her work can provide resources for feminism. I start by considering Hampton’s proposed contract in order to draw out some critical distinctions between her Kantianism and that of Rawls. Crucially, ...

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Chapter 8: Liberal Feminism: Comprehensive and Political

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pp. 150-166

As we have seen in the introduction to this volume, in PL Rawls argues for a turn in political philosophy from conceiving liberalism as a comprehensive moral doctrine to conceiving it as a public political philosophy. This refl ects the conviction that coercive state action is justifi ed—when constitutional essentials and basic justice are at stake—only if supported by ...


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pp. 167-176

List of Contributors

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pp. 177-178


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pp. 179-181


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p. 195-195

E-ISBN-13: 9780271061146
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271061795
Print-ISBN-10: 0271061790

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Re-Reading the Canon