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ABSTRACT. John Rawls’ 1993 book Political Liberalism represents a major development of the ideas first worked out in his A Theory of Justice in 1971. The earlier book dealt primarily with issues of distributive justice, of how best to divide up the various goods a society has at its disposal. Political Liberalism adapts some of the methods A Theory of Justice used to address conflicts over economic interests to address conflicts over values and habits of life. Chiefly, it seeks to address issues of cultural or ideological conflict by using the thought experiment in which imagined parties are asked to design a society from behind a veil of ignorance which prevents them from knowing what their particular position in that society will be. Rawls adds to the family of ideas from his earlier book an important distinction between comprehensive liberalism, a term which refers to liberalism as a world view which includes religious, cultural, and economic aspects, and political liberalism, a term which describe how adherents of different world views or “comprehensive doctrines,” many of them non-liberal, recognizing that they must share the public square with adherents of other comprehensive doctrines, can develop a political order based on a fair scheme of cooperation. Rawls makes the distinction between comprehensive and political liberalism in order to argue that adherents of non-liberal comprehensive doctrines may embrace political liberalism without being required to make fatal sacrifices of value, and in doing so they honor very great values they hold in common with adherents of other comprehensive doctrines. Rawls’ argument is a response to the claim that adherents of traditional comprehensive doctrines such as evangelical Christianity or conservative Islam cannot find a place in a liberal political order. Rawls’ argument also answers some objections to liberalism common in contemporary ideological critique. (pp. 27–46)

JOHN BURT
Brandeis University
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