Thursday, June 05, 2014

John Rawls, Hegel and Rousseau

John Rawls and the History of Political Thought

The Rousseauvian and Hegelian Heritage of Justice as Fairness

by Jeffrey Bercuson

(Routledge, 2014)

150 pages


In this book, Jeffrey Bercuson presents the immense, and yet for the most part unrecognized, influences of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel on John Rawls, the most important political philosopher of the 20th century. While the well-documented influence of Immanuel Kant on Rawls is deep and profound, Kantian features and interpretation of justice as fairness do not tell the whole story about that doctrine.
Drawing on Rawls’s Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy and his Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy, Bercuson presents the reader with a more nuanced, accurate account of the moral and political philosophy of Rawls in light of these under-appreciated influences. This new, richer image of Rawls’s political philosophy shows that Rawls’s notion of reasonableness – his notion of the kind and extent of our obligations to those fellows with whom we are engaged in social cooperation – is conspicuously more demanding, and therefore more attractive, than most interpreters and critics assume. Rawls turns to Rousseau and to Hegel, both of whom provide attractive images of engaged citizenship worthy of emulation.

Contents [preview]


1. Beyond Kant 
2. The Hegelian Dimensions of Justice as Fairness 
3. The Rousseauvian Dimensions of Justice as Fairness 
4. Bringing Robust Reasonableness into View 
5. The Width of Public Reason 


Jeffrey Bercuson is an Instructor of Political Science at the University of Toronto, Mississauga.

The book is based on his PhD thesis: "Reconsidering Rawls: The Rousseauvian and Hegelian Heritage of Justice as Fairness" [pdf].

See also Bercuson's paper "An Ethical Community? Kant and Hegel on Cultural and National Particularity".

His master's thesis on "Patriotism, Self-respect and the Limits of Cosmopolitanism" (2007) is available here. An abstract here.

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