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Rawls and the Practice of Political Equality Open Access


Other title
Equality of opportunity
Political Equality
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Makarenko, Jay
Supervisor and department
Carmichael, Don (Political Science)
Examining committee member and department
Urquhart, Ian (Political Science)
Cooper, Wesley (Philosophy)
Thorlakson, Lori (Political Science)
Kellogg, Catherine (Political Science)
Laycock, David (Political Science)
Whitson, Dave (Political Science)
Department of Political Science

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The purpose of this work was to develop a greater understanding of Rawls’s liberal-egalitarianism within the context of political participation. In A Theory of Justice, his first comprehensive statement of his theory of justice, Rawls introduced the idea of fair opportunity, which holds all citizens are entitled to play an equal role in the political life of their society. In his later works, Political Liberalism and Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, Rawls made significant changes to this idea. What does Rawls’s later notion of political equality entail? In addressing this question, several conceptions of political equality are developed, which are referred to as liberal non-egalitarian, moderate egalitarian and radical egalitarian. The practical implications of these conceptions are highlighted by examining Canadian and American jurisprudence on freedom of expression and campaign finance laws. These conceptions are used to unpack Rawls’s own writings on political equality, as well as secondary literature. This included Norman Daniels’s early critique of A Theory of Justice, which led Rawls to later clarify his notion of political equality, as well as recent commentary on Rawls’s revisions. This recent commentary presented two sorts of views. The first interpreted Rawls’s in a highly ambiguous manner, leaving it unclear whether he supported a moderate or radical form of egalitarianism. The second interpreted Rawls as adopting a very radical notion of political equality in his later works. This work challenges these interpretations. It is argued that Rawls developed a clear sense of political equality in his later works, which rejected radical egalitarianism in favour of a moderate view of equality in political participation.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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