In the New Yorker magazine City Journal (September 11), Adam Kirsch reviews books by Michael Sandels and Amartya Sen:
Justice and Its Critics. Two new books take fresh looks at John Rawls’s magnum opus.
Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009, 320 pp.)
The Idea of Justice (Harvard University Press, 2009, 496 pp.)
"Since John Rawls published that seminal book in 1971, its ideas and language have exercised an extraordinary hold on the imagination of political thinkers. Just look at "Justice" by Michael J. Sandel and "The Idea of Justice" by Amartya Sen—two books, coincidentally appearing at the same moment, by leading political philosophers, both of them professors at Harvard (as Rawls was). Justice is the more accessible work, based on Sandel’s popular introductory course in Harvard’s Core Curriculum, while The Idea of Justice is more ambitious, treating a range of theoretical and practical problems in political economy. Yet both books are, at heart, responses to and revisions of Rawls, and their titles deliberately allude to Rawls’s magnum opus. Just as the nineteenth-century critics of Hegel were still known as Young Hegelians, so these critics of Rawls are essentially post-Rawlsians."
Adam Kirsch is a senior editor at The New Republic.