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Contexts of Justice

Political Philosophy beyond Liberalism and Communitarianism

Rainer Forst (Author), John M. Farrell (Translator)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 358 pages
ISBN: 9780520232259
February 2002
$31.95, £27.00
Contexts of Justice, highly acclaimed when it was published in Germany, provides a significant new intervention into the important debate between communitarianism and liberalism. Rainer Forst argues for a theory of "contexts of justice" that leads beyond the narrow confines of this debate as it has been understood until now and posits the possibility of a new conception of social and political justice. This book brings refreshing clarity to a complex topic as it provides a synthesis of traditions and theories that leads to a truly original approach.

Forst makes a four-part distinction to decipher the debate between communitarianism and liberalism. These four parts concern the constitution of the self, the neutrality of law, the ethos of democracy, and the opposition between universalism and contextualism. He shows that a comprehensive theory of justice needs to take these different contexts adequately into account. He discusses recent debates about discursive democracy and feminist critiques of liberalism, and addresses such topics as multiculturalism and civil society.
Introduction: Liberalism, Communitarianism, and the Question of Justice

1. The Constitution of the Self
1.1. The Critique of the "Unencumbered Self"
1.2. Ethical Person and Legal Person

2. The Ethical Neutrality of Law
2.1. Liberalism and Neutrality
2.2. Individual Rights and Autonomy as a Good
2.3. General Law and Particular Identities
2.4. Basic Individual Rights

3. The Ethos of Democracy
3.1. Modus Vivendi and Overlapping Consensus
3.2. Substantivist and Republican Communitarianism
3.3. Civil Society and Deliberative Democracy
3.4. Citizenship and Social Justice

4. Universalism and Contextualism
4.1. A Contextualist Universalism
4.2. Constructivism and Practical Reason
4.3. Which Person? Whose Reason?
4.4. Ethical Universalism and Modern Identity

5. Contexts of Justice
5.1. Justice and the Good
5.2. Contexts of Justification
5.3. Contexts of Recognition


Rainer Forst is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Philosophy, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt.

"Contexts of Justice is a study that covers and definitely exhausts the whole range of ten years of one of the most important recent philosophical discussions, that between liberals and communitarians."—Jürgen Habermas, author of Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere

"Forst addresses with great insight and acuity the debates over justice between liberals and communitarians that animated the late '80s and '90s...He uses no jargon, he reasons well, his arguments are strong, clear, and accesssible, and he avoids political correctness as well as its opposite."—Andrew Arato, author of Civil Society, Constitution, and Legitimacy

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