, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 397-413
Date: 23 Oct 2009

Rawls on Liberty and Domination

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Abstract

One of the central elements of John Rawls’ argument in support of his two principles of justice is the intuitive normative ideal of citizens as free and equal. But taken in isolation, the claim that citizens are to be treated as free and equal is extremely indeterminate, and has virtually no clear implications for policy. In order to remedy this, the two principles of justice, together with the stipulation that citizens have basic interests in developing their moral capacities and pursuing their conceptions of the good life, are meant to provide a more precise interpretation of what is involved in treating citizens as free and equal. Rawls’ critics, however, have argued that satisfying the two principles of justice is not the most appropriate or plausible way to respect the status of citizens as free and equal. In relation to this debate, the present paper has two aims. The first is to examine Rawls’ account of the type of freedom that a just society must guarantee equally to its citizens. I will argue that those who think of Rawls as a theorist of freedom as non-interference are mistaken, because his notion of liberty resembles in important respects the republican notion of freedom as non-domination. Second, I will consider the extent to which Rawls’ principles of justice successfully protect the freedom as non-domination of all citizens so as to effectively treat them as free and equal.