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  • In the Shadow of Justice: Postwar Liberalism and the Remaking of Political Philosophy by Katrina Forrester
  • Akira Inoue
Katrina Forrester. In the Shadow of Justice: Postwar Liberalism and the Remaking of Political Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019. Pp. 432. Cloth, $35.00.

In the Shadow of Justice presents a powerful reconstruction of Anglophone political philosophy. Although the central focus of the book is on the origin and influence of John Rawls's theory of justice, it also uncovers the significance of British political theories (especially Brian Barry's theory) in ways that contrast them with the Rawlsian liberal egalitarian idea. The book is, thus, a work of intellectual history that engages with the traditions of normative political theories.

By referring extensively to the literature of philosophy, political science, economics, sociology, and the archived materials of Rawls, Katrina Forrester puts forward two provocative theses. First is that the core idea of Rawls's liberalism is framed by the liberalism of postwar America, that is, antistatist, pluralist liberalism; second, it continues to survive as a dominant political ideology to this day by abstracting the intellectual building blocks away from political and socioeconomic realities.

According to the first thesis, Rawls's anti-interventionist and republican idea lurking behind his theory of justice reflects postwar liberalism. Although Rawls's thinking went through minor changes, specifically in a more egalitarian direction, the postwar-liberal idea was intact. It was reinforced by Rawls's visit to Oxford in 1952–53. At that time, he encountered the Labor revisionists who attempted to embrace both equality and decentralization in order to reconcile them with market efficiency. In addition, he proceeded to work on justice under the influence of Oxford ordinary language analysis. Since then, Rawls has treated justice implicitly or explicitly as rules of a game that are applied to social practices in an egalitarian manner. The notions of social cooperation and the basic structure exemplify this.

This way of understanding justice enabled Rawls (and his followers) to detach his framework from the realities of the 1970s and 1980s. This leads to the second thesis. Forrester provides the following evidence for it: Rawls's justification of civil disobedience in a restrictive way, his (and their) neglect of the acute problems of racism and colonialism, his marginalization of the issues of justice in international politics, his limited treatment of the interests of future generations, and his (and their) underestimation of the impact of the New Right. These issues that Rawls (and his followers) restrictively treated, neglected, marginalized, and underestimated are fundamental issues of justice and legitimacy in contemporary society. However, the Rawlsian framework cannot help sidestepping these issues in order to fend off the collapse of the fair game of a society. Forrester thus concludes that it is time to see the Rawlsian philosophy as a product of its time.

Forrester reveals the limitations of Rawlsian philosophy by contrasting it with other political theories: British political theories and the Lockean libertarian theory. Among the former, Barry's theory is pivotal. For example, Barry criticized Rawls's theory of intergenerational justice as tied too closely to moderate economic growth. To include the concerns of later generations about resource depletion and environmental destruction, Barry decoupled intergenerational justice from growth. Forrester opines, "Only Barry tried [End Page 527] to do so" (203). She thus holds Barry's fundamental challenges against Rawls's framework in high regard, but the background of Barry's challenges remains unaddressed.

The Lockean libertarian theory also plays an important role in unearthing the problematic features of Rawlsian liberal egalitarianism. Robert Nozick attacked Rawls's vision for games of fair division and presented a historical entitlement theory of justice as a better alternative to liberal egalitarianism. Forrester analyzes how Rawlsians' response to Nozick promoted the abstraction of morality from political realities so as to deny the noninstitutional claims about historical entitlements and defend the forward-looking focus on egalitarian justice in light of the ideal of Kantian moral persons. This, Forrester contends, encouraged the Rawlsian neglect of historical injustices.

However, this may be questioned for two reasons. First, Nozick's entitlement theory influenced prominent egalitarian theorists such as G. A. Cohen, his disciples, and leftlibertarians...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 527-528
Launched on MUSE
2021-07-22
Open Access
No
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