New book on Rawls and Habermas

Rawls and Habermas
Reason, Pluralism, and the Claims of Political Philosophy

by Todd Hedrick

(Stanford University Press, 2010)

256 pages


This book offers a comprehensive evaluation of the two preeminent post-WWII political philosophers, John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas. Both men question how we can be free and autonomous under coercive law and how we might collectively use our reason to justify exercises of political power. In pluralistic modern democracies, citizens cannot be expected to agree about social norms on the basis of common allegiance to comprehensive metaphysical or religious doctrines concerning persons or society, and both philosophers thus engage fundamental questions about how a normatively binding framework for the public use of reason might be possible and justifiable. Hedrick explores the notion of reasonableness underwriting Rawls's political liberalism and the theory of communicative rationality that sustains Habermas's procedural conception of the democratic constitutional state. His book challenges the Rawlsianism prevalent in the Anglo-American world today while defending Habermas's often poorly understood theory as a superior alternative.



1. Freestanding Political Theory and the Descriptivist Critique of Rawls
2. The Rawlsian Apparatus of Justification
3. Rawls between Metaphysics and Proceduralism
4. Procedure and Substance, Construction and Reconstruction
5. Discourse Theory and the Constitutional Democratic State
6. Proceduralism and Functionalism in Habermas's Theory of Law and Democracy
7. Rawls and the Critique of Constitutional Contractarianism
8. Habermasian Constitutional Theory
9. Conclusion: Idealizations and Power

See a preview of the chapters here.

Todd Hedrick is Assistant Professor of philosophy at Michigan State University.

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