Friday, January 11, 2013

Henry S. Richardson reviews Rainer Forst

In "Ethics & International Affairs"(Winter 2012), Henry S. Richardson reviews "The Right to Justification: Elements of a Constructivist Theory of Justice" (Columbia University Press, 2011) by Rainer Forst:

Review: The Right to Justification

"The Right to Justification, a thoughtfully selected, tightly knit, and wide-ranging collection of Rainer Forst’s essays in moral and political theory, provides a useful introduction to the thought of one of the most exciting political philosophers working today. By lineage and position, Forst is heir to the Critical Theory school of Horkheimer and Adorno, and more recently of Jürgen Habermas and Axel Honneth. A highly systematic philosopher who has a unified moral and political theory, he is more firmly neo-Kantian than are most others of the Critical Theory school and more thoroughly engaged with work in the Anglo-American tradition.
For readers of this journal the last part of the book, devoted to human rights and transnational justice, would be of most interest. In part three, Forst explains how his unified theory provides a universal and indubitable basis for “constructing” human rights, by which he means both justifying them and generating their content. In addition, he stakes out what he calls a “transnational” position, according to which neither domestic justice (as “statists” urge) nor international justice (as “cosmopolitans” urge) has primacy; rather, each share the same moral foundation. From this foundation, which I come to shortly, he derives some definite and potentially radical implications for transnational distributive justice: Minimally, members of societies plagued by multiple types of domination have a legitimate claim on the various dominators for “the resources necessary to establish a (minimally) justified democratic order” (p. 263). Beyond that, at the “maximal” level he defends a dialogic analogue of Rawls’s Difference Principle: The transnational “basic structure” must be such that it survives the “(qualified) veto right of the worst off” (p. 265)."

Henry S. Richardson is Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University. He is the author of "Democratic Autonomy: Public Reasoning about the Ends of Policy" (Oxford University Press, 2002) and co-editor (with Melissa Williams) of "Moral Universalism and Pluralism" (New York University Press, 2008).

See my post on Rainer Forst's book here. And my post on Rainer Forst here.

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