Fall/Winter Timetable

POL2027H1S L0101

Undergraduate Course Code: POL485H1S L0101

Topics in Political Thought II

Social Justice


The political theorist John Rawls is widely credited with the revitalization of political philosophy in North America. His famous heuristic device – the veil of ignorance – modernized Kantian moral philosophy for a democratic age. Recently, however, there has been a growing chorus of voices pointing out the limits of ideal theory. If our society doesn’t look like Rawls’ reasonably just society, do the attendant principles provide useful guidance for political judgement? More forceful critics suggest that the main problem with this mode of theorizing is not its limited utility but its ideological effects: it presents a deeply misleading picture of society. The latter argument was originally made by Karl Marx, who proposed a very different approach to political theory, one built on a descriptive account of society rather than a set of abstract principles. Are the idealist and material approaches to politics compatible with one another? How does social theory bring them together? This course explores this question. It is divided into three parts. The first part introduces social theory; the second part focuses on neo-republicanism, and considers how this influential approach uses social analysis; the final section examines other contemporary approaches to social justice (care ethics, social rights, etc).


Texts: Marx, Durkheim, Habermas, Foucault, Donzelot, Pettit, Tronto

Format and Requirements

Texts: Marx, Durkheim, Habermas, Foucault, Donzelot, Pettit, Tronto