First Advisor

Craig L. Carr

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Political Science


Political Science




John Rawls (1921-2002) -- Criticism and interpretation, Individuality, Feminist theory, Gender identity in literature, Liberalism in literature



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, iv, 149 p.)


John Rawls's theory of justice, which he calls "justice as fairness," has proven to be most influential with regard to the course of contemporary political theory. In both of Rawls's books, A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism, his aim was to present a theoretically-compelling defense of deontological liberalism, and to present a set of principles by which to fairly order a just society. While Rawls's project has attracted a fair number of proponents over the years, it has also been a popular target for liberal and nonliberal critics alike. A recurrent theme among these criticisms has been an objection with Rawls's conception of the self as presented in A Theory of Justice. This thesis will focus on feminists' criticisms of Rawls's conception of persons. In general, feminists contend that Rawlsian liberalism suffers a structural gender bias resulting from Rawls's conception of the self. Rawls's notion of the self, feminists argue, rests on male or masculine attributes. I will demonstrate in the course of this thesis that feminists' charges fail on two accounts. First, feminists do not present an accurate reading of Rawls's conception of persons in either A Theory of Justice or Political Liberalism. Second, in reviewing feminist approaches to gendering the self (which is integral to their critique), it will be shown that feminists are unable to gender the self in a theoretically defensible manner. Thus, feminists cannot make the claim that the Rawlsian self is a male or masculine concept. It follows from these twin defects that feminist contentions fail to prove that Rawls's theory is gender biased.


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