A Theory of Justice

– John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971. Revised 1999).
Summary from Publisher: Since it appeared in 1971, John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice has become a classic. The author has now revised the original edition to clear up a number of… More

Political Liberalism

– John Rawls, Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993; Revised 1996, 2005).
Summary from Publisher: This book continues and revises the ideas of justice as fairness that John Rawls presented in A Theory of Justice but changes its philosophical interpretation in a… More

Collected Papers

– John Rawls, edited by Samuel Freeman, Collected Papers (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999).
Summary from Publisher: John Rawls’s work on justice has drawn more commentary and aroused wider attention than any other work in moral or political philosophy in the twentieth century.… More

The Law of Peoples

– John Rawls, The Law of Peoples, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), including the paper “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited.”
Summary from Publisher: This book consists of two parts: the essay “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,” first published in 1997, and “The Law of Peoples,” a major… More

Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy

– John Rawls, edited by Barbara Herman, Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000).
Summary from Publisher: The premier political philosopher of his day, John Rawls, in three decades of teaching at Harvard, has had a profound influence on the way philosophical ethics is… More

Justice as Fairness: A Restatement

– John Rawls, edited by Erin Kelley, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001).
Summary from Publisher: This book originated as lectures for a course on political philosophy that Rawls taught regularly at Harvard in the 1980s. In time the lectures became a restatement… More

Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy

– John Rawls, edited by Samuel Freeman, Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).
Summary from Publisher: This last book by the late John Rawls, derived from written lectures and notes for his long-running course on modern political philosophy, offers readers an account… More

A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin & Faith

– John Rawls, edited by Thomas Nagel, A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin & Faith (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010).
Summary from Publisher: A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith is Rawls’s undergraduate senior thesis, submitted in December 1942, just before he entered the army. At that… More


Outline of a Decision Procedure for Ethics

– John Rawls, "Outline of a Decision Procedure for Ethics," Philosophical Review 60 (1951): 177–97.
The question with which we shall be concerned can be stated as follows: Does there exist a reasonable decision procedure which is sufficiently strong, at least in some cases, to determine… More

Two Concepts of Rules

John Rawls, "Two Concepts of Rules," Philosophical Review 64 (1955): 3–32.
In this paper I want to show the importance of the distinction between justifying a practice and justifying a particular action falling under it, and I want to explain the logical basis of… More

Justice as Fairness

John Rawls, "Justice as Fairness," Journal of Philosophy (October 24, 1957), 54 (22): 653-662.
The fundamental idea in the concept of justice is that of fairness. It is this aspect of justice for which utilitarianism, in its classical form, is unable to account, but which is… More

Justice as Fairness (Expanded Version)

John Rawls, "Justice as Fairness" (Expanded Version), Philosophical Review 67 (1958): 164–94.
It might seem at first sight that the concepts of justice and fairness are the same, and that there is no reason to distinguish them, or to say that one is more fundamental than the other.… More

The Sense of Justice

John Rawls, "The Sense of Justice," Philosophical Review 72 (1963): 281–305.
In Emile Rousseau asserts that the sense of justice is no mere moral conception formed by the understanding alone, but a true sentiment of the heart enlightened by reason, the natural… More

Distributive Justice

The first version of this paper was published in Philosophy, Politics, and Society. Third Series. eds., P. Laslett and W.G. Runciman, pp. 58–82. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell, 1967. This essay and the essay “Distributive Justice: Some Addenda” were combined to form a second “Distributive Justice” in Economic Justice, ed., E. Phelps, pp. 319–62. London: Penguin Books, 1973.

Distributive Justice: Some Addenda

John Rawls, "Distributive Justice: Some Addenda," Natural Law Forum 13 (1968): 51–71.
On this occasion I wish to elaborate further the conception of distributive justice that I have already sketched elsewhere. This conception derives from the ideal of social justice… More

Some Reasons for the Maximin Criterion

John Rawls, "Some Reasons for the Maximin Criterion," American Economic Review 64 (1974): 141–6.
Excerpt: “Recently the maximin criterion of distributive equity has received some attention from economists in connection with the problem of optimal income taxation…What I… More

The Independence of Moral Theory

John Rawls, "The Independence of Moral Theory," Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 48 (1975): 5–22.
Excerpt: I wish to sketch a point of view towards moral philosophy and express a conviction as to how I think a central part of this subject is, for the present anyway, best pursued. For… More

A Kantian Conception of Equality

John Rawls, "A Kantian Conception of Equality," Cambridge Review (1975): 94–9. Reprinted as “A Well-Ordered Society,” in Philosophy, Politics, and Society, Vol.5, edited by P. Laslett and J. Fishkin (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1979) pp. 6–20.
Excerpt: When fully articulated, any conception of justice expresses a conception of the person, of the relations between persons, and of the general structure and ends of social… More

Fairness to Goodness

John Rawls, "Fairness to Goodness," Philosophical Review 84 (1975): 536–54.

The Basic Structure as Subject

The first version was published in the American Philosophical Quarterly 14 (1977): 159–65 after it was read before the meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Pacific Division, 1977. A revised and expanded version appears in Values and Morals: Essays in Honor of William Frankena, Charles Stevenson, and Richard B. Brandt, pp. 47–71. ed., A. Goldman and J. Kim. Dordrecht, Holland: Reidel, 1978.

Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory: The Dewey Lectures

John Rawls, "Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory: The Dewey Lectures," Journal of Philosophy 77 (1980): 515–72.
In these lectures I examine the notion of a constructivist moral conception, or, more exactly, since there are different kinds of constructivism, one Kantian variant of this notion. The… More

Social Unity and Primary Goods

in Utilitarianism and Beyond, ed., Amartya Sen and Bernard Williams, pp. 159–85. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical

John Rawls, "Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical," Philosophy and Public Affairs 14 (1985): 223–51.
In this discussion I shall make some general remarks about how I now understand the conception of justice that I have called “justice as fairness” (presented in my book… More

On the Idea of an Overlapping Consensus

John Rawls, "On the Idea of an Overlapping Consensus," Oxford Journal for Legal Studies 7 (1987): 1–25.
The aims of political philosophy depend on the society it addresses. In a constitutional democracy one of its most important aims is presenting a political conception of justice that can… More

The Priority of Right and Ideas of the Good

John Rawls, "The Priority of Right and Ideas of the Good," Philosophy and Public Affairs 17 (1988): 251–76.
“The idea of the priority of right is an essential element in what I have called political liberalism, and it has a central role in justice as fairness as a form of that view. That… More

The Domain of the Political and Overlapping Consensus

– John Rawls, "The Domain of the Political and Overlapping Consensus," New York University Law Review 64 (1989): 233–55.
Excerpt: In a society marked by a pluralism of comprehensive moral views the ability of a constitutional regime to maintain widespread allegiance is due to “overlapping… More

The Law of Peoples

– in On Human Rights: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures, 1993, ed., Steven Shute and Susan Hurley (New York: Basic Books, 1993), pp. 41–82.
One aim of this essay is to sketch in a short space—I can do no more than that—how the law of peoples may be developed out of liberal ideas of justice similar to but more general than… More

Reply to Habermas

– John Rawls, "Reply to Habermas," Journal of Philosophy, 93:3 (March 1995).

Burton Dreben: A Reminiscence

– in Juliet Floyd and Sanford Shieh, eds., Future Pasts: Perspectives on the Place of the Analytic Tradition in Twentieth-Century Philosophy, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.)


A New Philosophy of the Just Society

– Stuart Hampshire, "A New Philosophy of the Just Society," New York Review of Books, February 24, 1972.
Excerpt: I think that this book is the most substantial and interesting contribution to moral philosophy since the war, at least if one thinks only of works written in English. It is a very… More

The Original Position

– Ronald Dworkin, “The Original Position,” University of Chicago Law Review 40 (Spring 1973).

Rawls on Justice

– Thomas Nagel, “Rawls on Justice,” Philosophical Review 87 (April 1973).

Distributive Justice

– Robert Nozick, “Distributive Justice,” in his Anarchy, State, and Utopia (New York: Basic Books, 1974).

Rawls on Justice by Victor Gourevitch

– Victor Gourevitch, “Rawls on Justice,” The Review of Metaphysics 28 (1975).
Victor Gourevitch examines Rawls’ concept of justice and compares it to other understandings in the history of political philosophy.

Rawls, Nozick, and Educational Equality by James Coleman

– James Coleman, "Rawls, Nozick, and Educational Equality," The Public Interest, Spring: 1976.
Excerpt: Two recent treatises on moral philosophy have attracted far more general attention than is ordinarily given to works in academic philosophy: A Theory of Justice, by John Rawls,… More

Understanding Rawls

– Robert Paul Wolff, Understanding Rawls (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977).
According to Professor Wolff, Rawls’ device of a bargaining game among self-interested parties is designed to solve Kant’s problem of deriving substantive moral and political principles… More

Equality of What?

– Amartya Sen, "Equality of What?" Tanner Lecture on Human Values, May 22, 1979.

Liberalism and the Limits of Justice by Michael Sandel

– Michael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982; second edition, 1998).
From the publisher: A liberal society seeks not to impose a single way of life, but to leave its citizens as free as possible to choose their own values and ends. It therefore must govern… More

Defending Liberalism

– William Galston, “Defending Liberalism,” American Political Science Review 76 (September 1982).

John Rawls

– Alan Ryan, “John Rawls,” in Quentin Skinner, ed., The Return of Grand Theory in the Human Sciences (Cambridge University Press, 1985).
From the Publisher: The past quarter of a century has seen dramatic developments in social and political thought. These essays offer an indispensable introduction to some of the most… More

Rawls and Rights

– Rex Martin, Rawls and Rights, (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 1985).

The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy

– Richard Rorty, "The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy," in Merrill Peterson and Robert Vaughn, eds., The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: Its Evolution and Consequences in American History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

Realizing Rawls

Thomas Pogge, Realizing Rawls (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989).

Rawls: A Theory of Justice and Its Critics

– Chandran Kukathas and Pettit Philip, eds., Rawls: A Theory of Justice and Its Critics (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990).
From the publisher: John Rawls’ “A Theory of Justice” has been influential in philosophy, political theory, welfare economics and jurisprudence. This book is thought to be… More

Justice Lite

– Robert Bork, “Justice Lite,” First Things 37 (November 1993).

Political Liberalisms

– Bruce Ackerman, “Political Liberalisms,” The Journal of Philosophy 91 (7) (July 1994).

Political Liberalism

– Michael Sandel, “Political Liberalism,” Harvard Law Review 107 (1994).

John Rawls et la Theorie de la Justice

– Jacques Bidet, John Rawls et la Theorie de la Justice (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1995).
This book was important in introducing Rawls, a thinker squarely in the Anglo-American tradition, to the Francophone world.

Justice and Justification

– Norman Daniels, Justice and Justification (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996).
From the publisher: This wide-ranging collection of essays explores the claim that justification in ethics, whether of matters of theory or practice, involves achieving coherence or… More

The Idea of a Political Liberalism: Essays on Rawls

– Victoria Davion and Clark Wolf, eds., The Idea of a Political Liberalism: Essays on Rawls (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999).
From the publisher: “In this unique volume, some of today’s most eminent political philosophers examine the thought of John Rawls, focusing in particular on his most recent… More

Natural Law and Public Reason

– Robert P. George and Christopher Wolfe, “Natural Law and Public Reason,” in Robert P. George and Christopher Wolfe, eds., Natural Law and Public Reason (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2000).

The Enduring Significance of John Rawls

– Martha Nussbaum,“The Enduring Significance of John Rawls,” Chronicle of Higher Education, July 20, 2001.
Excerpt: John Rawls is the most distinguished moral and political philosopher of our age. Initially isolated in a world of Anglo-American philosophy preoccupied with questions of logic and… More

Dangerous Egalitarian Dreams

– John Kekes, "Dangerous Egalitarian Dreams," City Journal, Autumn 2001.
Excerpt: The most celebrated public philosophers of our time—our Rousseau and Voltaire, so to speak—are John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin. Prophets of a non-Marxist socialism, they provide… More

John Rawls, Historian

– Michael Zuckert, "John Rawls, Historian," Claremont Review of Books, Summer, 2002.

New York Times Obituary

New York Times, November 26, 2002.
John Rawls, the American political theorist whose work gave new meaning and resonance to the concepts of justice and liberalism, died on Sunday at his home in Lexington, Mass. He was 82.… More

John Rawls, Theorist on Justice, Is Dead at 82

– Douglas Martin, "John Rawls, Theorist on Justice, Is Dead at 82," New York Times, November 26, 2002.
Excerpt: John Rawls, the American political theorist whose work gave new meaning and resonance to the concepts of justice and liberalism, died on Sunday at his home in Lexington, Mass. He… More

The Guardian Obituary

The Guardian, November 27, 2002.
With the death of John Rawls, from heart failure at the age of 81, the English-speaking world lost its leading political philosopher. An exceptionally modest and retiring man, with a… More

Bringing Logic to Bear on Liberal Dogma

– Michael M. Weinstein,“Bringing Logic to Bear on Liberal Dogma,” New York Times, December 1, 2002.
Excerpt: THE most influential political philosopher of his generation died last week. But Prof. John Rawls of Harvard, who was 82, was decidedly not a man of the current era. At least not… More

Making Philosophy Matter to Politics

– Martha Nussbaum,“Making Philosophy Matter to Politics,” New York Times, December 2, 2002
Excerpt: John Rawls, who died last week at the age of 82, was the most distinguished political philosopher of the 20th century. His is not a household name, in part because he disliked… More

The Academic Liberal

– Peter Berkowitz, "The Academic Liberal," The Weekly Standard, December 16, 2002.
Excerpt: The influence of Rawls’s work has been massive. One quickly saw professors doing nothing but elaborating or applying ideas from Rawls’s theory. And those who did not… More

The Economist Obituary

The Economist, December 5, 2002.
WHEN young, John Rawls was a talented athlete. Instead of becoming one of America’s most distinguished political thinkers, he could have been a baseball player. Thin, quick and… More

The Privilege of a Lifetime: Studying with John Rawls

– Amy Gutmann, "The Privilege of a Lifetime: Studying with John Rawls," Princeton Independent, January 29, 2003.
Excerpt: Is justice possible in light of the apparent evil in the world? This question animated John Rawls’s passion for philosophy back when he was a Princeton undergraduate and… More

The Endless Party

– William Voegeli, "The Endless Party," Claremont Review of Books, December 2004.

Justice and the Social Contract: Essays on Rawlsian Political Philosophy

– Samuel Freeman, Justice and the Social Contract: Essays on Rawlsian Political Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
Summary: John Rawls (1921-2002) was one of the 20th century’s most important philosophers and continues to be among the most widely discussed of contemporary thinkers. His work,… More

Rawls’s Law of Peoples: A Realistic Utopia?

– Rex Martin and David Reidy, ed., Rawls's Law of Peoples: A Realistic Utopia? (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006).
From the publisher: “This volume examines Rawls’s theory of international justice as worked out in his controversial last book, The Law of Peoples.”

A Rawlsian View of Inequality in Contemporary U.S. Politics

– David Lewis Shaefer, "Justice and Inequality," Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2007.
Excerpt: In other words, the absolute economic well-being of most Americans matters less than their relative position. Legitimizing this spirit of envy is the work of philosophers unknown… More

John Rawls

– Catherine Audard, John Rawls (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2007).
From the publisher: This book introduces Rawls’s central ideas and examines their contribution to contemporary political thought. In the first part of the book Catherine Audard… More


– Samuel Freeman, Rawls (London: Routledge, 2007).
From the publisher: “In this superb introduction, Samuel Freeman introduces and assesses the main topics of Rawls’ philosophy. Starting with a brief biography and charting the… More

John Rawls: His Life and Theory of Justice

– Thomas Pogge, John Rawls: His Life and Theory of Justice (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007).
Summary: This book is about the philosopher John Rawls and about his largest body of work in social justice. The book opens with a comprehensive biography of Rawls, which is the result of… More

Nozick and Rawls

– David Lewis Schaefer, "Robert Nozick and the Coast of Utopia," New York Sun, April 30, 2008.
In 1971, a previously obscure Harvard philosophy professor, John Rawls, published a book that ultimately brought him acclaim as “America’s greatest political philosopher.”… More

Nussbaum and Rawls on Religion and “Public Reason”

– Richard Neuhaus, "Review of 'Liberty of Conscience,' by Martha Nussbaum", New York Sun, February 27, 2008.
Martha Nussbaum straddles several disciplines, holding appointments in the philosophy department, the law school, and the divinity school at the University of Chicago. In her new book,… More

Going off the Rawls

– David Gordon, "Going off the Rawls," The American Conservative, July 28, 2008.

Rawls’ Utopianism

– William Galston, "Rawls' Utopianism," New Republic, April 7, 2009.
It had been known for some time that during his last two undergraduate years at Princeton, John Rawls had immersed himself in Christian theology and considered studying for the Episcopal… More

Rawls’s A Theory of Justice: An Introduction

– John Mandle, ed., Rawls's A Theory of Justice: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).
From the publisher: “A Theory of Justice, by John Rawls, is widely regarded as the most important twentieth-century work of Anglo-American political philosophy. It transformed the… More

God and Rawls

– Peter Berkowitz, "God and Rawls," Hoover Institution Policy Review, June and July 2009.
Excerpt: It is commonly supposed that liberalism — the political theory that holds that all human beings are by nature free and equal, that government derives its just powers from the… More

Rawls on Wall St.

– Steven Mazie, "Rawls on Wall St." New York Times, October 11, 2011.
Whether it fizzles with the first snowfall or develops into a true counterweight to the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street will go down as the first protest movement in recent memory to shine a… More

Why Political Liberalism?: On John Rawls’s Political Turn

– Paul Weithman, Why Political Liberalism?: On John Rawls's Political Turn (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011).
From the publisher: In Why Political Liberalism? , Paul Weithman offers a fresh, rigorous, and compelling interpretation of John Rawls’s reasons for taking his so-called… More

The Veil of Opulence

– Benjamin Hale, "Veil of Opulence," New York Times, August 12, 2012.
More than 40 years ago the philosopher John Rawls, in his influential political work “A Theory of Justice,” implored the people of the world to shed themselves of their selfish… More

John Rawls, Friend and Teacher

– Samuel Freeman, "John Rawls, Friend and Teacher," Chronicle of Higher Education, December 13, 2012.
Excerpt: The philosopher John Rawls has died at 81. It’s well known that he had an enormous influence on academic discussions of social, political, and economic justice: His 1971… More

“Obama’s Rawlsian Vision”

– Steven Mazie, "Obama's Rawlsian Vision," The Economist, February 19, 2013.
LAST week’s state-of-the-union address received unexpectedly low marks from some commentators. For Paul Krugman, it was “not very interesting”. For countless other observers, it was… More

Thomas Picketty and Rawls

– Cass Sunstein, "Why Worry About Inequality?" Bloomberg View, May 13, 2014.
What, exactly, is wrong with economic inequality? Thomas Piketty’s improbable best-seller, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” has put that question in sharp relief. As just about… More

Theorist of Modern Liberalism by Jerome C. Foss

– Jerome C. Foss, "John Rawls: Theorist of Modern Liberalism," The Heritage Foundation, Makers of American Political Thought Series.
Jerome Foss offers an introduction to the liberalism of John Rawls, and focuses particularly on the differences of that liberalism with the thought of the American founding. Excerpt:… More


Professor Ian Shapiro: The Rawlsian Social Contract

– Yale Courses, YouTube, uploaded on April 6, 2011.
Moral Foundations of Politics (PLSC 118) The next and final Enlightenment tradition to be examined in the class is that of John Rawls, who, according to Professor Shapiro, was a hugely… More

Thomas Pogge on John Rawls

– Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, YouTube, uploaded on January 19, 2012.
Thomas Pogge describes what it was like to study under John Rawls.

Professor Tamar Gendler: Equality

– YaleCourses, YouTube, uploaded September 26, 2012.
In a Yale Open Course lecture, Professor Gendler explores John Rawls’ central claims: that “justice is the first virtue of social institutions,” and that the just society is that… More


Notable Students of Rawls

David Lyons, Boston University Thomas Nagel, NYU Thomas Scanlon, Harvard University Onora O’Neill, UK House of Lords Allan Gibbard, University of Michigan Norman Daniels, Harvard… More