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John RawlsDebating the Major Questions$
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Jon Mandle and Sarah Roberts-Cady

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190859213

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190859213.001.0001

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The Indeterminacy of Rawls’s Principles for Gender Justice

The Indeterminacy of Rawls’s Principles for Gender Justice

(p.237) 13 The Indeterminacy of Rawls’s Principles for Gender Justice
John Rawls

M. Victoria Costa

Oxford University Press

Feminists disagree about whether or not Rawls’s account of free and equal citizenship is an emancipatory ideal for women, and whether or not the application of the two principles of justice would suffice to dismantle relationships of domination that affect women’s lives. This chapter argues that there is no clear and uncontroversial application of Rawls’s principles of justice that supports those feminists who give affirmative answers to these questions. Regarding the first principle, one unsettled question is whether it protects sexual and reproductive rights, including the right to abortion. Regarding the second principle, there is indeterminacy due to the need to balance the requirements of fair equality of opportunity with parental rights. Moreover, the difference principle’s focus on the maximization of income and wealth for the worst off makes room for policies that do this while still leaving some women exposed to the arbitrary power of others.

Keywords:   domination, feminism, principle of justice, division of labor, republicanism, political liberalism

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