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7. John Rawls’ Theory of Justice

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In this module, we focus on “the most important work of political philosophy in the last fifty years” – John Rawls’ Theory of Justice (1971). In particular, we think about: (i) Rawls’ concept of the original position, the fair and impartial view that is to be adopted in one’s reasoning about fundamental principles of justice; (ii) Rawls’ three Principles of Justice: the Liberty Principle, the Difference Principle, and the Fair Opportunity Principle; and (iii) the confidence in liberal democracy that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 (epitomised by books such as Francis Fukuyama’s End of History and the Last Man) and the challenges faced by liberalism in the twenty-first century.


In this course, Professor Jeremy Jennings (King’s College, London) provides an overview of Liberalism from its origins to the present day. In the first module, we provide a broad introduction to liberalism as a political philosophy, focusing in particular on its origins in the sixteenth century and its evolution between the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries. In the second module, we look more closely at the development of liberalism in the 17th and 18th centuries, focusing in particular on the works of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Mary Wollstonecraft. In the third module, we think about the contribution to liberalism of John Stuart Mill, before turning in the fourth module to the application of liberalism to the economic sphere. In the fifth module, we think about the emergence of new liberalism at the beginning of the twentieth century, focusing especially on the work of John Maynard Keynes, J. A. Hobson, and Leonard Hobhouse, before turning in the sixth module to consider the development of liberalism in the post-war period and the works of Raymond Aron, Karl Popper, Isaiah Berlin and (especially) Friedrich Hayek. Finally, in the seventh module, we focus on one of the most important work of political philosophy in the last fifty years – John Rawls’ Theory of Justice.


Jeremy Jennings is Professor of Political Theory at King's College, London. His research focuses upon the history of political thought in France. He is presently finishing a book provisionally entitled Travels with Tocqueville and is acting as co-editor of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of French Thought. A larger, long-term project is to write a history of the concept of liberty.

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APA style

Jennings, J. (2020, February 11). Liberalism - John Rawls’ Theory of Justice [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Jennings, J. "Liberalism – John Rawls’ Theory of Justice." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 11 Feb 2020,

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