John Rawls’s The Law of Peoples

analytical Essay
2627 words
2627 words

John Rawls’s The Law of Peoples From its beginnings, Edward Said's Orientalism (1978) has produced conflict in post-colonial studies. Does Professor Said’s theory suggest global implications and/or strategies as Culture and Imperialism (1993) argues? Or does the East of Orientalism belong only to the Middle East and particularly to Middle Eastern studies? Is there a monolithic "Othering" at work? Or do resistive pockets exist within Western imperial discourse? Perhaps the thorniest issue, however, concerns the stance from which to view global issues of imperialism and colonization. Ethical decisions—judgments, in a word—should play a large part in post-colonial theorizing and critiques. But on what basis can judgments be made? Where should accountability lie? And if there is accountability, how can it be enforced? Moreover, there has been a recent shift in the major players in the 21st century version of the Great Game. Said and Bhabha have, in characteristically fine ways, questioned the stability of the term “nation.” “National identity” may now be seen more as a “notional identity.” But does it matter any more? Does national identity even count? These questions come on the heels of global political reactions to global capitalist institutions (multinational corporations) and the global political institutions wholly owned and operated by them. By global capitalist institutions, I mean organizations like Bertelsmann, Aramco, Merck, Sony, Microsoft, Daimler-Benz, and so on. By global political institutions, I refer to the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, and the various protectors of Intellectual Property. Imperialism and colonization must now be looked at in terms of these global institutions, rather than in political or even cultural terms. The dichotomies first world/third world, east/west, north/south, developed/underdeveloped do not hold the relevance they once had. There are thus two issues to be faced: first, how to establish a foundational basis for ethical judgments, and second, how to theorize resistance to the new economic imperialism which has changed rather radically from the old imperialism of nation-state or region and which has rendered Samuel Huntington’s “clashes of culture” obsolete. Critics of both of these situations must ask where to look for guiding principles upon which to base judgments within a global context. I want to avoid both the hegemonic “westernization” of democratic/capitalist values and the seemingly benign cultural relativism that avoids any standards of ethical or political judgment.

In this essay, the author

  • Opines that environmental principles are valuable in imagining the future of our world, but there are limitations in the extent to which they can be used as a basis for analyzing human systems.
  • Introduces rawls, a political philosopher from harvard, for his work has been surprisingly ignored by our discipline.
  • Opines that each person should have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system for all.
  • Describes the positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.
  • Analyzes rawls' argument that a reasonable law of peoples based upon the tenets of political liberalism is both possible and realistic.
  • Opines that the fundamental division is not between democratic and non-democratic peoples, but between decent, nondecent, or outlaw people. decent people allow toleration and subscribe to eight principles.
  • Explains that peoples have the right of self-defense but no right to instigate war for reasons.
  • Argues that rawls's theory of justice is based on the performance of social actions.
  • Opines that we need better articulations of the social contract as it is performed or abused. rawls poses a danger to democratic governments and thus to liberal politics.
  • Opines that if not civilizations, what? paradigms of the post-cold war world. foreign affairs.
  • Analyzes how edward said's orientalism has produced conflict in post-colonial studies. ethical decisions should play a large role in theorizing and critiques of imperialism and colonization.
  • Argues that the veil of ignorance facilitates the enactment of social primary goods unless unequal distribution is to the advantage of the least favored.
  • Argues that rawls's book is both a work of discourse and of situatedness.
  • Cites benhabib, seyla, habermas, jurgen, hayward, malcolm, and lenhardt on moral consciousness and communicative action.
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