Conference on the ‘Historical Rawls’

2017 marks fifteen years since the death of John Bordley Rawls (1921-2002), author of a Theory of Justice, Political Liberalism, and The Law of Peoples. As a professor of Philosophy at Harvard, Rawls fundamentally transformed the discipline of political theory, and yet the nature—and the effects—of that transformation remain hotly contested. In Oxford, where Rawls’s influence is particularly strong, the tension has been framed as a commitment to contemporary normative theory in an analytic vein, over and against the history of political thought. Now that Rawls is, himself, an unquestionably historical figure, this conference will revisit the question of his impact on the discipline and political theory at Oxford in particular—both in its defining preoccupations and approach.

This one-day conference on ‘The Historical Rawls’ will bring together scholars across the disciplines of political theory, philosophy, history, African American studies, and theology to discuss Rawls, the man and his seminal contributions in context, while reflecting more broadly on the Rawlsian legacy for how political theory is understood and practiced today. The conference will culminate in a panel discussion on the Historical Rawls and the Nature of Political Theory.