Assesses critically the work of Rawls, Walzer, and Habermas and
presents a theory of justice that responds to two senses of
"Shane O'Neill's book is an interesting analysis of Rawl's and
Waltzer's theories of justice and Habermas's discourse ethics. Its
major contribution is to defend the superiority of Habermas's
approach against those of Rawls and Walzer and to bring the
feminist literature into the discussion of the connections between
these three theorist". -- Georgia Warnke, University of California,
In this book, Shane O'Neill argues that the theory of justice
must take seriously two dimensions of pluralism in the modern
world. While it must acknowledge the plurality of individual
conceptions of the good that is characteristic of every modern
society, it must also reckon with the plurality of historically
unique, culturally specific, political societies.
O'Neill offers a distinctive perspective on an extremely
significant current debate about universalism and particularlism in
political philosophy. Justice, he maintains, must be understood
both in terms of an impartial point of view that respects differing
conceptions of the good and in relation to the particular contexts
in which disputes about norms and principles arise. Liberals, most
notably John Rawls, have tended to privilege the former aspect of
justice, while communitarians, especially Michael Walzer, have
stressed the latter. O'Neill shows how Habermas's discourse ethics
can overcome the limitations of these alternatives by providing
theoretical tools that allow us to ground impartiality in
particular contexts. This position is developed through an
exploration of the complementary roles of moraland ethical
discourses and an application of the theory to the political
conflict in Northern Ireland.
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