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John Rawls's A Theory of Justice

The book which gave birth to modern political philosophy? Anne McElvoy asks why John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice is still so influential, 50 years after it was first published.

In his 1971 book, A Theory of Justice, John Rawls argued that just societies should allow everyone to enjoy basic liberties while limiting inequality and improving the lives of the least well off. He argued that "the fairest rules are those to which everyone would agree if they did not know how much power they would have". Anne McElvoy discusses how his case for a liberal egalitarianism has fared since.

Teresa Bejan is Associate Professor of Political Theory and Fellow of Oriel College at the University of Oxford. Her current work focuses on equality. Her first book, Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration was published in 2017.

Jonathan Floyd is Senior Lecturer in Political Theory at the University of Bristol. His work focuses on he way in which we justify political principles and reflective equilibrium - the relationship between political theory and practical reason. His book include: Political Philosophy versus History? (2011); and, Is Political Philosophy Impossible? (2017); What's the point of political philosophy? (2019).

Rupert Read is Professor of Philosophy at the University of East Anglia. He has written about environmental ethics, scientism and the precautionary principle. In addition to his academic work he is an environmental activist and a former national spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion. His latest book is Parents for a Future.

Producer: Ruth Watts

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45 minutes