CRF Blog

‘A Theory of Justice’ by John Rawls

by Bill Hayes

As part of its series on the greatest works in philosophy, Arc Digital examines “A Theory of Justice” by John Rawls.

A Theory of Justice, by Harvard philosophy professor John Rawls (1921–2002), has been widely hailed ever since its 1971 publication as a classic of liberal political philosophy — earning its author such praise as being called the most important political philosopher of the twentieth century, and receiving the National Humanities Medal in 1999. In presenting the award, President Clinton acclaimed Rawls for having “helped a whole generation of learned Americans revive their faith in democracy itself.”

Yet in comparison with the tradition of political philosophy from antiquity to at least the late nineteenth century, both Rawls’ aims and methods — indeed, his very conception of political philosophy — are quite novel. And his account of justice represents a considerable departure from the one embodied in the American constitutional tradition. [more]

For a free classroom lesson on Rawls, see “ ‘Justice and Fairness’: John Rawls and His Theory of Justice.” Available from CRF’s Bill of Rights in Action Archive, it is currently only in PDF and you will have to register (if you haven’t already), which is free.