Justice and the Public Sphere: A Critique of John Rawls’ Political Liberalism


  • Wanpat Youngmevittaya University of York


Rawls, political liberalism, public sphere, comprehensive, metaphysical, unencumbered self


This article criticizes John Rawls’ conception of political liberalism, which insists that political sphere governed by his two principles of justice can be separated from any comprehensive moral doctrines, and that the validity of his conception of justice is political, not metaphysical nor comprehensive. I argue that Rawls’ project is flawed by showing that his two principles of justice and political liberalism are presupposed by the very comprehensive/ metaphysical doctrines which he denies. Whether he realizes it or not Rawls chooses a particular comprehensive theory of the good/person, specifically that of an unencumbered self. I discuss Rawls’ political liberalism from two points of view. First, I discuss Rawls’ political liberalism from political economy points of view, which I argue that the foundation of Rawls’ principles of justice lies in his particular theory of the person. Second, I discuss Rawls’ political liberalism from philosophical points of view, which I argues that Rawls’ political liberalism and theory of the person are comprehensive, and that political sphere cannot be separated from private sphere.

Author Biography

Wanpat Youngmevittaya, University of York

I am currently a postgraduate of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE) at the University of York, UK. Before coming to York, I graduated my first Master degree in Politics at the University of Essex, UK, and my Bachelor's Degree in Economics at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, Thailand. My academic interests lie in the field of moral and political philosophy, especially the liberal-communitarian debate and social justice.