Liberals and Communitarians

This module examines the central debates about politics and justice between liberals and communitarians in contemporary Anglo-American analytic philosophy. Whereas liberals stress the importance of the individual and the need for them to pursue their own good in their own way, communitarians stress the embedded, interconnected, and social nature of the persons and politics.

The module asks three major questions. Firstly what it means to be engaged in political theory. Secondly, how the idea of justice should be understood, and finally, what implications does our view of justice have for our political arrangements?

The module is divided into two main sections. Concentrating first on the central figure of this debate: John Rawls and his seminal work A Theory of Justice. Then looking at how the debate has widened, initially looking at the libertarian criticisms raised by Nozick before moving on to consider the communitarian positions advanced by Sandel, Walzer, Okin, and Pateman; finally considering alternative forms of liberalism offered by Raz, Rorty, and Gray.