Andrew Robinson - Theory Blog

Monday, November 15, 2004

RAWLS AND RATIONALITY (notes - work in progress)


Persons, it is to be recalled, are assumed to be free, equal, reasonable and rational. Hence, ‘any workable political conception of justice… that citizens may be reasonably expected to acknowledge must… endorse rationality as a basic principle of political and social organisation’ (CW 452; c.f. PL 177, JAFAR 141). Of all the terms of which “the person” is composed, the “rational” is perhaps the least likely to be criticised as an ethical concept. Rawls claims that it is an unimportant assumption, ‘insensitive’ to the different ways in which people conceive rationality (TJ 393). However, like most of Rawls’s concepts, it has a precise meaning which belies the apparent obviousness of its inclusion. “Persons as rational” is an exclusionary category which includes a demand that people conform to a particular model of what I shall term the “planner self”, as well as having a particular structure of desire with a reference to external ends. It is also a category he admits is philosophical in origin (TJ 79). The “rational plan” in particular is a mode of form-imposition which limits inclusion. Further, like most of Rawls’s concepts, “the rational” is built on the implication that those who do not conform to the model it presupposes are irrelevant and can be ignored in formulating an ethical theory. A political theory can ‘safely assume’ that everyone endorses his concept of rationality, since otherwise, familiar political problems would not arise (CW 452, PL 177). He denies that there is much alternative to adopting his assumptions regarding rationality (TJ 127), claiming that it must arise in ‘any political conception of justice’ (JAFAR 141). Rawls simply assumes that everyone has a ‘desire to act on rational principles’ (TJ 365). The original position only takes into account ‘rational persons concerned to advance their interests’ (TJ 102); it does not take into account any other kind of person. As a result, people who do not conform to Rawls’s model of rationality would be subject to “principles” which are irrelevant to them. In his discussion of the rational, as in his discussion of the person, Rawls uses an apparently descriptive “we” (e.g. TJ 365), as well as formulae of the “are considered to be…” type, to cover up the extensive exclusions involved in his theory.

Rawlsian rationality should not be considered a merely formal requirement. As Onora O’Neill explains, this ‘[r]ationality is not merely the capacity to follow means-ends and component-composite reasoning, but a matter of pursuing, so of having, ends of one’s own’ (Political Liberalism and Public Reason 414). The rational is related to Rawls’s concept of a person’s “good”. This concept operates as a substitute for a concrete engagement with issues of desire and belief. For Rawls, ‘a person’s good is determined by what is for him the most rational long-term plan of life’ in decent circumstances. ‘A man is happy when he is more or less successfully [sic] in the way of carrying out this plan’ (TJ 79). A good is a system of ends which it is rational for one to pursue, as determined by rational reflection (TJ 10-11). Someone’s good can be defined externally (TJ 351), and therefore, it can be deduced a priori that (among other things) it takes the form of a plan, conforms to the principles of justice and includes a desire for primary goods (TJ 347-8). It is possible to know, from the outside and via deliberative rationality, what someone else’s ‘real good’ or ‘objectively rational plan’ is (TJ 366-7) (NOTE: He does, however, specify that such knowledge should not be used as a basis to criticise those who fall short of their “objective” good via their own subjective rationality). Indeed, individuals do not normally know their good, but only have a ‘reasonable belief’ about what it is (TJ 366). One is rational if one pursues one’s good, i.e. if one does what is best for one (TJ 357). The good (i.e. the focus of Rawls’s theory as regards what it offers to people) is the satisfaction, not of desire, but of rational desire (TJ 27). Someone can be open to criticism for failing to be rational - for instance, by ignoring the future (TJ 371). Thus, happiness is assumed to be reducible to an externally inferred category, and a list of things people desire is assumed to be detachable from specific desiring subjects. (This is perhaps why - ?CW or LN 47 - he assumes liberal peoples to be satisfied, even if they are not in fact cheerful or happy). Rawls writes as if people are sufficiently well-understood that desire can be read off in this way. This is a naïve conception of the psyche which sets the framework for substitutionism. As a result, Rawls can bypass discussion of people, passing straight to discussion of their “good” or “interests”. These, conveniently enough, can be deduced analytically, via a ‘strictly deductive’ method (TJ 103), without any need for dialogue. It is because of this assumption that Rawls can decide which principles ‘it would be rational to adopt’ in the original position, even though this construct is avowedly nonhistorical (TJ 16). When someone feels regret, this proves that her or his plan is “objectively” irrational (TJ 320).

Once this “good” is inferred, it is for Rawls above criticism. If someone’s good, and therefore her or his plan of life, is rational, one should stop making judgements when one reaches these ‘interests and aims’ (TJ 358). Someone who is rational, and has a molar conception of self, is ‘above reproach’ (TJ 371). ‘A person quite properly acts, at least when others are not affected, to achieve his own greatest good, to advance his rational ends as far as possible’ (TJ 21). Justice as fairness does not assess why people act the way they do, or to evaluate their actions, but simply assumes that people are rational and so are ‘able to adjust their conceptions of the good to their situation’ (TJ 80-1). The role of justice is to ‘frame our choice of a rational plan’ so as to ‘incorporate the regulative element of our good’ (TJ 480), not to undermine such rationality. In other words, the rational functions as a dogma, insulated from ethical critique. It is assumed to operate, even in relation to beliefs which do not fit neatly with it. For instance, every interest is taken to be an interest of the self, regardless of whether its value to the self in question lies in personal gain or not (PL 51). This is an archetypal form-impositional operation, cramming specificities into a preconceived model. Worse still, this model is not even subject to the critique of the original position, since ‘the principles of rational choice and the criteria of deliberative rationality are not chosen at all’. These principle are, rather, something the theory itself must take as a limit and with which it must prove itself congruent (TJ 392; c.f. TJ 451).

Rawls’s model of the rational draws heavily (though inconsistently) on rational choice theory. ‘At any given time, rational persons decide between plans of action… [in line with] the principles of rational choice’ (TJ 365). For some reason, Rawls treats this theory as a matter of fact, when actually it is just the type of controversial general theory which is not supposed to be allowed into Rawls’s discussions of justice. He terms it the ‘standard’ model of rationality ‘familiar in social theory’ (TJ 124), even though it is familiar only in some versions of some social-scientific disciplines. (It does not arise in sociology, ethnography or social psychology, for instance). He admits that it is what he terms a “general fact”, i.e. a contingent outcome of social science, and he asserts his hope that this ‘received doctrine’ is not ‘itself mistaken’. He also hopes it is not mistaken to apply it in ethics. However, even if it proves to be ‘inaccurate and oversimplified’, he thinks this does not matter if it yields the right principles of justice (TJ 234). This is a strange argument, since its being right is surely dependent on the rightness of the premises on which it is based.

One of the core elements of Rawls’s model of rationality, which one must endorse to pass over the hurdles to inclusion in his ideal society, is what one might term an accountant’s mentality as regards desire. This is reminiscent of what Foucault terms the “disciplinary” mentality and what Barthes terms “petty-bourgeois” (****). Rationality is for Rawls a system of internal controls. It involves balancing, ordering, scheduling, adjusting and maximising (PL 83). A rational person has ‘a coherent set of preferences’ between pre-existing options (conceived as external), ‘ranks’ these options and follows a ‘plan’ to maximise satisfaction (TJ 124). ‘We’ are supposed to be involved constantly in counting and ranking desires (TJ 364). The core of rationality is counting or weighing (LN 88). It also includes what he terms ‘competence’: people are assumed to know their present and future wants and ends and the intensity and ordering of their desires and plans. Competence also includes an ability to resist ‘temptations and distractions’ in sticking to a plan. These are, Rawls claims, ‘aspects of being rational’ according to the ostensibly ‘familiar notion’ Rawls employs (TJ 367-8). Also, there must be a degree of structural egoism, since, while people are ‘not assumed to be egotistic and selfish’, interests ‘must always be interests of a self’ (TJ 111).

Rationality includes a specific kind of means-ends reasoning, assumed to be part of “persons” and therefore admitted into the original position. ‘We suppose that the parties [in the original position] are rational… in the way familiar from economics. Thus the parties are rational in that they can rank their final ends consistently; they deliberate guided by such principles as: to adopt the most effective means to one’s ends; to select the alternative most likely to advance those ends; to schedule activities so that, ceteris paribus, more rather than less of those ends can be fulfilled’ (JAFAR 87). Rationality includes concerns such as fit between means and ends, attempting to include several ends if possible and maximising likelihood of success (TJ 361-2). Such “rationality” is taken to have a status superior to the desires it orders. There is, for instance, a particular attitude to risk which is “rational”, which is different from preferences for or against risk (TJ 149). People who do not fit Rawls’s model are presumably excluded, because lacking what he sees as central to “the person”. (One should place his elimination of “the special psychologies” in this context). This is the case even though Rawls later weakens his claim, made in A Theory of Justice (149), that moral philosophy is part of the theory of rational choice. This modification mainly takes the form of the addition of the “reasonable” as a characteristic of persons. The “rational” remains present also; it is merely constrained somewhat by this new concept, as it was even in Rawls’s early work (e.g. by the “veil of ignorance”).

Rawls implicitly assumes that “reason” is unitary, and explicitly states that it is common to all the people and associations he includes in his theory. It is not mere ‘discourse’, ‘rhetoric’ or ‘persuasion’, involving concepts of judgement, inference and evidence, ‘standards of correctness and criteria of justification. A capacity to master these ideas is part of common human reason’ (PL 220). In other words, “mastery” of a specific discourse which defines itself above discourse is a criterion for inclusion in Rawls’s theory. It should be recalled, however, that his own argument is not exactly awash with evidence, and also that its “inference” often takes the form of assertion. Presumably, it is similarity to Rawls’s model which defines something as “rational”, even when the articulation of the two is unclear.

According to Rawls, rationality has a ‘natural structure’ (JAFAR 142), and the general form of aims can be known in the original position (TJ 476). This structure involves a ‘plan of life which is sufficient for itself’ (TJ 125). Rawls is so committed to this image that it is assumed to be known in the original position (PL 123, 310). The image of what I shall term the “planner self” - an individual who relates to the world mainly through the device of planning - is central to Rawls’s model. ‘[E]very reasonable and rational agent… has a way of formulating its plans, of putting its ends in an order of priority and of making its decisions accordingly’ (PL 212). Indeed, he goes as far as to say that ‘a person may be regarded as a human life lived according to a plan’. One’s life-plan is what makes one ‘a conscious, unified moral person’, and ‘an individual says who he is by describing his purposes and causes, what he intends to do in his life’ (TJ 358). ‘We are to see our life as one whole, the activities of one rational subject spread out in time’. This unity is to be constructed via the unity of a plan, which has ‘a certain unity, a dominant theme’ (TJ 369). The plan is to take a unified form: ‘a rational plan of life establishes the point of view from which all judgments of value related to a person are to be made and finally rendered consistent’ (TJ 359). Each person is assumed to have ‘an ordered family of final aims and ends’ specifying their view of a worthwhile life (JAFAR 18-19). Rawls makes ‘no restrictive assumptions about the parties’ conceptions of the good except’ - a big “except” - ‘that they are rational long-term plans’ (TJ 111). This is a variety of form-imposition: people’s lives are expected to fit a predetermined model of structure as a precondition for inclusion. Indeed, Rawls demands more than this: one’s identity is to be confused and conflated with one’s life-plan (and not, for instance, with reference to the body, let alone to neurotic symptoms or social relations). It is a form of psychology demanded in order to guarantee the molar self, the microphysical rendering of the power-apparatuses of the Rawlsian state. It is the coherence of the plan, combined with the ‘higher-order’ desire to follow it in a rational and just way, which guarantees the unity of the molar self (TJ 491-2). Rawls also assumes that the life-plans of people in the original position are similar and compatible (TJ 110).

One role of a “rational plan” is to coordinate and overcode desire. The very concept of a “plan” expresses a systematising idea. Although it cannot eliminate ‘purely preferential choice’, it is clearly meant to move towards such a change, operating to ‘trim, reshape and transform our aims’ and to ‘fit them together’. It is an ideal, like his conception of the person, though real plans often meet it to a ‘minimal’ degree (TJ 483-4). A plan coordinates ‘interests’ and ‘schedules activities’ to avoid ‘interference’ with the fulfilment of desires (TJ 80). Rawls also implies that desires are shaped rationally, claiming that ‘we choose between future desires in the light of our existing desires’; ‘we’ even choose ‘what to be’, and ‘convictions about what sort of person to be are… involved in the acceptance of principles of justice’ (TJ 365). ‘We can choose now which desires we shall have at a later time’ (TJ 364). The mind and the body are simply resources to be allocated towards a conception of the good (CW 451). Though there may sometimes be occasions where one cannot avoid referring to the intensity of one’s desires, there should be ‘an explicit procedure for making up our minds’, and this should be imposed, not ‘left to the agent himself to decide’ (TJ 366). ‘We are to suppose’ the planner self (TJ 80), in much the same way as the rest of the conception of the person. It is a way of “ordering” the self, since people ‘must plan their training and exercise, and schedule their pursuit in an orderly way’ (TJ 459). In other words, it is the same kind of ambiguous mythical and/or impositional construct that arises elsewhere in Rawls’s theory, and it has the same kind of controlling role. That “interests” are not desires in the Deleuzian sense, and that, indeed, they involve the repression of such desires, is clear from a passage where Rawls justifies the idea of interests. ‘People must have interests - otherwise they would be either inert and passive, or likely to be swayed by unreasonable and sometimes blind passions and impulses’ (CW 44). He also sees rationality as necessary in order to check harmful but ‘natural and inevitable’ emotional impulses such as vengeance and vindictiveness (CW 570). It is clear, indeed, from everyday uses of the terms that “interest” does not have the same meaning as “desire”: it is something more limited and calculative, and presupposes a capitalistic type of subjectification. Libidinal investments, instead of being spread across the social field, are tied to or even trapped in specific “goals” or “interests” which can be given a status in alterity and therefore implicitly involve a discourse of self-alterity. Instead of desires being directly articulated to deeds and social relations, they are supposed to be concentrated on specified targets of this kind, and therefore to be subject to cost-benefit calculations and the like.

The idea of a “rational plan” includes specific prescriptions about how people should think and feel. For instance, such a plan is necessarily focused mainly on the present, it is altered as ‘wants and needs are known with greater accuracy’ (as if a want can be “known” rather than formed), it is not a ‘blueprint’ and postpones future choices, it organises a ‘hierarchy or plans’ to express a ‘hierarchy of desires’ (with higher ones never altered because of lower ones), it emphasises “general” aims over particular ones, it ‘must… allow for the primary goods’, it arises in homogeneous empty time and is organised via ‘scheduling’ into a temporal sequence’, it is deliberative, and it is psychologically repressive. ‘Desires that tend to interfere with other ends, or which undermine the capacity for other activities, are weeded out’. Rational plans are also to be adjusted to suit the ‘general conditions of human life’ (TJ 360-1). A rational plan is one established by rejecting other plans which are less likely to succeed or which would lead to less satisfaction (TJ 80). It must work within ‘the normal conditions of human life’ (PL 177). Even “final ends”, towards which the plan is directed, change with what others believe (TJ 432). It must also include a dominant theme, avoid ‘swings up and down’ and prefer rising expectations over time (TJ 369). A rational plan is ‘done only for itself, and both it and the happiness it produces are self-sufficient (TJ 481-2). In addition, it cannot be rational to aim for a ‘meaningless’ end or to ‘contradict well-established truths’ (TJ 368), or to show ‘time preference’ (TJ 260). It is also irrational to act on any aversion or ‘inordinate’ want which results from early childhood development or from anxiety or deprivation. A ‘normal development of our system of desires’ is supposed to lead to a rational plan, if free of such contaminants (TJ 368). At one point Rawls even says that a rational person plays by the rules (TJ 49). The exterminatory rhetoric (“weeding”) is indicative, for this is a theory which proposes an iron dictatorship of the ego over the id. It is assumed to be both desirable and possible for desires to be trapped permanently in a “hierarchy”, and it is only those people who can and will perform this entrapment who count as Rawlsian “persons”. One must also meet all the other criteria on the list in order to qualify as a person; for instance, one must accept the things Rawls sees as general to human life (which in practice means that one must submit to state repression and conform to the capitalist system), one must have a linear conception of time and one must have sufficiently flexible (and thus demeaned) desires to avoid accusations of “blueprinting” and ignoring wants and needs. The irrational is either to be excluded or normalised: Rawls simplistically assumes that irrational desires can be overcome either by ‘critical scrutiny’ or by being incorporated into a rational plan (TJ 368-9).

The concept of a “rational plan” can also be used in substitutionist ways, as a way of replacing others’ desires with external ways of representing them. For instance, Rawls assumes that happiness is ‘objective’ (not subjective). It rests on success in one’s plan (TJ 481). Happiness is not an aim, or something independent which is articulated into plans; it is a feature of ‘the whole design’ (TJ 482). According to Rawls, ‘with certain qualifications… we think of a person as being happy when he is in the way of a successful execution (more or less) of a rational plan of life drawn up under (more or less) favourable conditions’. Therefore, ‘someone is happy when his plans are going well, his more important aspirations being fulfilled, and he is feels sure that his good fortune will endure’ (TJ 359). Happiness ‘always presumes a degree of good fortune’ (TJ 360). Happiness is no longer an issue of individual feeling; it is to be read off externally from people’s “plans of life”. Rawls even thinks there can be a ‘procedure’ to choose which plan for a person would lead to their happiness (TJ 483). He also states that ‘the good things in life are, roughly speaking, those activities and relationships which have a major place in rational plans’ (TJ 361). Rawls is attracted to the idea that assessment of one’s desires could eventually be reduced to calculation problems (TJ 484). Rawls’s model of happiness, simplified in this way, leads him to make utopian claims about the role of a rational plan. A happily pursued rational plan is supposed to lead to a life which ‘demands nothing further in addition’, and if the plan is a success, ‘one’s happiness is complete’. One may even ‘approach blessedness’ (TJ 482). This is clearly a grossly oversimplified and idealised image of psychology, especially since one is supposed to be capable of perfect happiness even after having made all the sacrifices and reactive displacements necessary to fit into the model of the planner self. It is also indicative that Rawls refers his account of happiness back to his general theory, not to the experiences it expresses (TJ 481). This suggests that it is impositional as well as mythical.

Rational plans lead to rational goods. ‘The rational plan for a person determines his good’, so if a plan is rational, the good it endorses is also rational. Indeed, interests and aims are only rational if they are linked to a plan. To be rational, a plan must meet two criteria: it must ‘be consistent with the principles of rational choice’ and also involve ‘full deliberative rationality’, in other words, be chosen in full awareness and careful consideration of choices and consequences (TJ 358-9), by imagining what it would be like to carry out each possible plan (TJ 366). In other words, the “plan” is to embody a distance from the world and a stultifying non-immediacy in this relation, while also being compatible with submission to external threats. Rawls claims that people only have to meet his model “minimally”, since ‘a rational person will not usually continue to deliberate until he has found the best plan… often he will be content if he forms a satisfactory plan (or subplan)… that meets various minimum conditions’ (TJ 367). As with many of Rawls’s claims, it is not clear whether this is intended to be a descriptive or a prescriptive claim.

The model of the planner self involved in such ideas is open to criticism for privileging certain ways of life. It has sometimes been pointed out that Rawls’s theory depends on an assumption that there is a single model of rationality, and that his theory faces problems if it turns out that different people (for instance, women and men) reason in different ways (e.g. Samantha Brennan and Robert Noggle, Rawls’s Neglected Childhood, 53-4). For instance, Bonnie Honig accuses Rawls of silently suppressing ‘promiscuity, spontaneity, experimentation, the will to live in the present’ and anything else which is ‘foregone’ in the unification of a life as a career (PTDP 151. ‘Perhaps justice as fairness cannot allow deliberative rationality to be… strictly voluntary because it performs a function too necessary to the scheme: it produces and maintains the stable subject of Rawlsian distributions and justification’ (152). Similarly, RP Wolff criticises the planner self as a homogenising and ethnocentrist model which conflicts with self-actualisation and which requires an extraordinarily stable social context to be realisable (UR 137). He suggests that the model is based on the life of professionals, the reasoning of firms and what Mannheim terms the liberal-humanitarian utopian mentality. This limited model is mistakenly generalised to all people (138-9). In other words, it is an exclusionary criterion used to delimit the sphere of inclusion to those of the appropriate form to be convinced by Rawls’s reasoning. Wolff further raises the problem that the planner self, inherently likely to develop expensive tastes, seems to problematise the assumption in the original position that utility-curves tend to flatten once some basic goods are achieved (UR Ch. 15). Stephen L. Darwall adds that the idea of a rational plan denies even the original position parties any direct concern with the satisfaction of desires and preferences (Is there a Kantian… 323-4), implying that it operates as a displacement. Furthermore, as Segal’s analysis (Marx, Time…) shows, the planner model rests on an assumption of homogeneous empty time which is specific to bourgeois society.

Rawls denies introducing an exclusionary model via the idea of the “plan”, because he claims he does not use the ‘structure of plans to get other than common sense results’ (TJ 358). He sees it as a ‘widely shared and yet weak’ condition (TJ 111). This depends on a passive and uncritical relation to common sense, denying the possibility of its being wrong. He also wants to avoid saying that everyone has to constantly spend their time planning and making decisions; in this sense, the planner self is avowedly fictive, or in Rawls’s terms, ‘purely formal’. The criterion of happiness is ‘hypothetical’ and a ‘happy life is not one taken up with deciding whether to do this or that’. Nevertheless, such an assumption - consciously disavowed - is still implicitly operative. While an individual can arrive at a rational plan of life spontaneously, “we” usually need a conception of the molar self and a lot of thought to arrive at such a plan, and in any case, someone’s rational plan can be calculated rationally from the outside (TJ 372). ‘There is nothing irrational in an aversion to deliberation itself provided one is prepared to accept the consequences’, but such an aversion is irrational if on consideration one wishes one had thought more carefully (TJ 367). Rawls claims to leave the decision up to individuals as to how much effort they wish to expend on decision-making (TJ 372). He assumes it is desirable to have a theory of a kind where one can say from the outside whether a person ‘has really been fortunate or not’, even if this means labelling the person in question as ‘deluded’. The way he deals with the problem of the costs of planning is to say that one can calculate what outcome a plan would lead to if thought out, and then weigh this against the costs of the planning process involved (TJ 372). Rawls must assume that this process (which is still impositional) would lead to the result that planning is affirmed, since so much else in his model of rationality depends on this assumption. Further, such an account leads to a form of doublespeak in which one rationally considers how far to limit rationality. ‘Rational deliberation is itself an activity like any other, and the extent to which one should engage in it is subject to rational deliberation’ (TJ 367); further, a decision to let things come as they may ‘is still theoretically a plan’ (TJ 363), or rather, Rawls treats it as one. This conjures an image of people rationally calculating how much time to spend rationally calculating (and also, how much time to spend calculating how much time to spend calculating, and so on infinitely). It suggests that what is at stake is not conscious rationality at all, but an assumption that the unconscious has a “rational” structure. Rawls simply assumes that rational plans are possible - for instance, that people have full knowledge of situations and consequences, will not feel unhappy once they get what they want, and do not make errors in reasoning and calculation (TJ 366). The emphasis on “accepting the consequences” suggests that psychological fixity is a central aspect of “rational plans”. (There may well be situations where either of two courses of action would both lead to “regret”, and in Rawls’s model this would entitle one to deduce that each plan is irrational. It is not clear that a “rational” outcome in Rawls’s sense is possible in the kind of society Rawls advocates).

In fact, the model of a rational “planner self” depends on a controversial theory of psychology, and Rawls’s model is bourgeois, Eurocentric, masculinist and normalist. Plans always involve an objet petit a which is pursued, since they necessarily take the form of a ‘devoted pursuit’ of something (CW 494), although the specific objects desired in a plan are left open in Rawls’s model (since there is no ‘dominant end’ in ethical theory [TJ 489] - a claim belied by Rawls’s systematising drive). The concept therefore implies an endorsement of consumerist ways of relating to the world (as is shown by his example of choosing a holiday package). The self is reduced to the status of choosing between pre-constructed packages, and is supposed to be “happy” with this role. Rawls constantly evades issues of underlying motivation, and so does not consider the possibility that people are tricked by advertisements or politicians into believing they “need” all kinds of unnecessary things for their happiness; nor does he consider the possibility that happiness is related to dignity, and that this requires a greater degree of unconditional positing than Rawls permits. He also does not consider the possibility that someone’s “good” may include a need for relief from the alienated world of “planning”, nor does he consider unconscious aspects of desire or the ad hoc structure of most everyday activities. Clearly, many people do not have “rational plans” in Rawls’s sense. Indeed, he admits that actual people only have “minimally” acceptable plans according to this model. His preference for people with “rational plans” is arbitrary and tends to create social exclusion, since many people do not “plan” in the way Rawls suggests. By treating people “as if” they think like stockbrokers, Rawls’s theory tends to create a world fit only for stockbrokers. The planner self is not only archetypally very character-armoured, but also internalises the social system’s limits and “choices” at a very deep level.

The image that people decide “what to be” or what our future desires are to be is not only entirely inaccurate (subjectification is a social process and an expression of articulations of desire), it is also very convenient for rulers of all kinds. It creates an illusion that the arbitrary interpellations involved in “holding-responsible” are a response to others’ choices, rather than a form of oppression. It is an excuse for silencing and harming others, because it blocks the basic humanity of claims by placing an illusion of “responsibility” in their way. The more people are seen as having “chosen” their predicament, the less it is recognised to be a result of social relations, and the less, therefore, these relations are forced to become responsive to needs and desires.

It is the form of the rational plan which is most valuable to Rawls, and he reductively refers to the desires it articulates as ‘arbitrary features of plans of life’ (TJ 395). This form embodies a degree of egoism or individualism, since interests necessarily pertain to individuals. It is not, Rawls insists, a ‘narrow’ or purely economic egoism, since people are permitted to have ‘spiritual goods’ (TJ 12), since the outcome of Rawls’s theory is justice rather than egoism (TJ 128) and since final ends can include interpersonal commitments and the sense of justice itself (TJ 432). Also, religious and secular doctrines need not have rational, consistent or empirically valid assumptions (CW 592), probably mainly in the case of final ends, and justice is supposed to exclude appeals to threat advantage (TJ 116). Indeed, he says that being an egoist is incompatible with being just, so a full egoist may not find justice to be rational (TJ 497-8). Nevertheless, his theory is structurally atomistic. People are ‘not presumed to be egoistic and selfish’ in the sense of only having desires related to the self, but interests ‘must always be interests of a self’ (TJ 111). (It is not clear whether this permits one to be satisfied because others succeed at their “plans”). Ethics is to include ‘concern with… one’s person’ as well as with others (TJ 424). Rawls assumes that ‘everyone accepts’ the propriety of self- and group-interested actions provided these are limited by justice (TJ 277). It is also the case that justice itself is deduced (via the “original position”) from modified egoist assumptions. Thus, a barrier is placed between the thinking subject of Rawls’s theory and the ethics he posits - a barrier which justifies the violence of the state. This violence is in a sense the “cost” Rawls pays to be able to simultaneously espouse capitalistic subjectivity and other-regarding justice, for there is necessarily a tension in this combination. People who accept justice are not egoists because their egoism is constrained by the principles of justice, but nevertheless, within these limits, they are assumed to be egoists.

This in turn feeds into a pro-capitalist agenda and a tendency to be uncritical about capitalist social relations. Not only does he assume that there are some things everyone would prefer more of, and that money is among them (CW 314, TJ 79), implicitly naturalising exchange-relations, he also sets up “general facts” in such a way as to favour capitalist economics. For Rawls, markets are a form of liberty and are important ‘rationing devices’ (JAFAR 138). The “general facts” Rawls permits at the legislative stage include things such as ‘statistics regarding employment and output required for fiscal and economic policy’ (CW 179), suggesting that his approach is modelled to produce pro-capitalist outcomes. The most obvious theoretical effect of his model of rationality is to naturalise a particular kind of subjectivity which demands “incentives”, and therefore to suppress calls for equality. ‘If [the] guarantee [of equality] means that income and wealth are to be distributed equally, it is irrational: it does not allow society to meet the requirements of social organization and efficiency’ (JAFAR 151). This view leads to the doublespeak formulation that one can arrange ‘social and economic inequalities so that everyone benefits’ (TJ 53; c.f. TJ 26-7). Hence, the “rational” serves to construct an anathema which is used to guarantee that “society” (i.e. the state) has the power to control and manipulate people. “Justice” is not to criticise this power. Although principles of justice are supposed to ‘override considerations of prudence and self-interest’, they are to ‘take… interests into account’ and are not to demand ‘self-sacrifice’ (TJ 117).

Rawls also introduces what amount to mystifications of capitalism on other occasions, for instance, the idea of price as set by the equilibrium of what people will pay for what they desire (TJ 103), and the idea that people must own (and bear the loss of) property to prevent land and objects from decaying (LP 39). This leads to a repressive concept of “responsibility” which, in this passage, is used to justify the brutalities of the west’s immigration policies. Gerald Doppelt suggests that Rawls uses contradictory models of the person in his discussions respectively of economics and politics. Because of his view that a utility-maximiser in economics can nevertheless be a fair citizen in politics, Rawls can construct a theory which ‘incorporates structurally necessary, but norally [sic] pernicious, features of capitalism’ (Rawls’s System of Justice 263).

Other theoretical implications arise around the issue of the “Aristotelian Principle”. Rawls assumes that motivations to learn really do follow from calculations of benefits and burdens, and that the Aristotelian Principle makes it rational to train abilities (TJ 376). Rawls thinks the Principle can be tested by reference to what turn out to be the ends and activities favoured in rational plans (TJ 379). Rawls also wants to show that just institutions are rational ‘from a certain point of view’ (TJ 497), although he needs the idea of the “reasonable” to defend the point of view he advocates. The rational also introduces a certain reductivism into Rawls’s work: for instance, he compares different things (e.g. benefits of knowledge and hardships of training) as if they are alike (TJ 376).

Rawls does not, therefore, either defend or challenge capitalistic forms of subjectivity. These are not only tolerated but promoted: someone who does not fit this model falls outside the model of “the person” whom one should aspire to be. His aim is then to arrange social relations so that different rational individuals fit together into a mutually beneficial overall social scheme (TJ 387). ‘The conduct of individuals guided by their rational plans should be coordinated as far as possible to achieve results which although not intended or perhaps even foreseen by them are nevertheless the best ones from the standpoint of social justice’ (TJ 49). In a well-ordered society, ‘everyone’s conception of the good as given by his rational plan is a subplan of the larger comprehensive plan that regulates the community as a social union of social unions’ (TJ 493). Society is to be constructed so that attitudes supporting justice are ‘a good’ even when asserted independently from justice (TJ 350). Since Rawls will not appeal directly to people’s beliefs - constructed as “rational”, people’s capacity for autonomous ethical beliefs is strictly limited - but instead, proposes to manipulate people and engineer social relations so as to produce outcomes. As regards building a better world, people cannot in Rawls’s model “just do it”, because hedged in by the requirements of their “rational” nature: X may want a world in which people (say) contribute to mutually beneficial arrangements, but X is barred from simply acting in line with such a demand because there are no “incentives” to do so and because, for the commitment to be “rational”, X needs “guarantees” that others will also “do their part”. According to Rawls, it is an unreasonable imposition to ask people to act in such a way as to prevent unfair outcomes (PL 267-8), even though it is not apparently “unreasonable” to ask the same people to submit uncritically even to many unjust laws. Rawls’s ethics comes, then, not from individuals constructing social relations but from individuals adopting an egoist standpoint and institutions manipulating their resultant “interests” to produce an ethical outcome. Rules are to be structured so as to apply to people simply and practically, and to ‘leave individuals and associations free to act effectively in pursuit of their ends’ (PL 268). This effectively reduces people to the status of objects, programmed regardless of their will to follow an external scheme not of their own devising. As structural egoists, people do not have to question themselves or to examine the ethical significance of everyday actions and discourses. Instead, ethics comes from outside, as a limit. Hence, ‘any moral duty… implies a constraint of self-interest in particular cases’ (CW 61). Ethics is to limit self-interest, and in doing so, to endorse it within the limits; it is not to deconstruct or redirect self-interest, or to try to construct a different kind of subjectivity. Ethics is alienated to the “basic structure”, and in this way, individuals are “freed” of both a duty and a right to think about it in everyday life. Instead, people are to have enough of a sense of guilt that they need to “earn” the right to act egoistically by obeying “justice” and the institutions which express it. Of course, this entrapment through guilt is only possible if the individual desires a right to act egoistically in the first place, and/or if she/he comes to see her/his other ethical and religious beliefs as equivalent to a right to act egoistically (i.e. as “interests of a self”). There is therefore something of a double standard in the social system which induces the guilt: while people are to punish themselves for being egoist, they are at the same time compelled to conform to this kind of subjectification, or else are excluded. People are not permitted to be anything else but egoists, yet are to feel guilty because of their resultant subjectivity.

It is important to realise that Rawls’s defence of capitalistic “rationality” is not simply an “acceptance” of a “fact”, although he sometimes expresses it in such terms. There is a positive, ethical content to this idea of “rationality”. I deduce this from the fact that the concept is part of Rawls’s conception of the person, which is, by his own definition, an ethical conception, and even an ideal. It is also confirmed by the fact that he excludes people who are “irrational” - who do not fit his model of rationality - from consideration in ethical theory (paternalistic systems of control are a way to insure people against the danger of becoming irrational - TJ 220), and also by the fact that Rawls includes his model of “rationality” in his account of the original position. In other words, Rawls does not simply assume that people are (unfortunately) egoistic in this way, so that social organisation must take it into account (a view which would equally apply to envy, greed, sadism, risk aversion and other “special psychologies”). His theory contains an implicit preference for people who are of this type, and an invalidation and exclusion of those who are not (for instance, “irrational” doctrines are as bad as “unreasonable” ones, and those incapable of rationality are subject to “paternalist” discourse). The normative force of the Rawlsian idea of rationality is even stronger in Larmore’s version of political liberalism, because for Larmore, norms of rationality are ethically prior to all else. It is definitive to the capacity of “using reason” which is central to the ethics of political liberalism and is the defining feature of the included in-group (Larmore 351). This ethical and exclusionary aspect is crucial to understanding the motivations behind Rawls’s defence of inequality, as well as the contradictions which arise from his attempt to affirm the “rational” and the “just” simultaneously. (There must also be a point at which this “rationality” is suspended, since otherwise the “guarantees” Rawls seeks cannot emerge. This “irrational” kernel is the state, which Rawls does not subject to the same limits as individuals. He assumes that a state, through “laws” and “rules”, can act in the general good, even when he also assumes that every individual and group is necessarily bound to follow its self-interest. Rawls’s model of the state therefore involves a contradiction in his model of the self. Were it not for this contradiction, there is no way that “free rider” dilemmas could be overcome through an overarching state, and there would be no advantage in trying to channel ethics through legislators and rules. See section on Reciprocity).

Rawls’s approach to rationality involves a strong double-bind. On the one hand, as I have shown above, Rawls’s account involves a positive ethical demand that people conform to a particular model of rationality (“or else”). It is, for instance, “quite proper” (TJ 21) and ‘above reproach’ (TJ 371), and, to add another quote, there is a need for self-interested rationality because ‘merely reasonable agents would have no ends of their own they wanted to advance by fair competition’ (PL 64). A person who lacks a rational life-plan could not be part of a system of social cooperation (PL 52), and, while Rawls never explicitly uses the concept of rationality as a boundary-marker, his supporter Edward F. McClennen admits that his idea of rationality is disciplinary in relation to choices (Justice and the Problem of Stability 19). On the other hand, however, Rawls also uses this “rationality” as the basis for his distrust of individuals. It is because of this “rationality” that people cannot be trusted to solve social problems except under the impetus of repression from above, and it is because of this “rationality” that principles of justice take a reactive and repressive form. The demand for “guarantees” before one engages in mutually beneficial activity, the demand for “incentives” before one does things which benefit others, the petty-mindedness which means one would rather deprive oneself than allow others to free-ride and the “tendencies to injustice” which render state power “necessary” are all outgrowths of this model of rationality. In these cases, rationality is presented as something of a burden: it is the reason why, unfortunately, people cannot become more altruistic and benevolent. For instance, there is, says Rawls, an unquestionable truth in the idea that people use ethics as a cover for self-interest, hoping only that this tendency can be offset by a sense of justice (TJ 338). Tendencies to injustice are ‘normal’ (JAFAR 185), ‘men’s inclination to injustic makes their vigilance against one another necessary’ (orig. TJ 4-5), and people each prefer a larger share of wealth and so tend to make ‘excessive’ claims on each other (TJ 4). This assumption that people cry wolf too easily about “injustice” is a main reason why Rawls’s model allows little room for resistance to unjust laws, and why his case for civil disobedience is hedged around with constraints. Rawls tends to read appropriative and writerly uses of public-transcript beliefs as something worse, ‘wrongs’ of hypocrisy, deception and false profession motivated by egoism (TJ 499). This arises because, outside the public transcript, he sees, not hidden transcripts of those rendered voiceless, but imaginary “rational” individuals. As a result, only some kinds of social issue can even arise as problems. Rationality ensures, for instance, that shortcomings in knowledge, thought and judgement occur in only one direction, towards ‘anxiety, bias and preoccupation with [one’s] own affairs’, due to ‘moral faults’ such as ‘selfishness and negligence’. These moral faults ‘are simply part of men’s natural situation’ (TJ 110). Hence, Rawls expresses the idea that the difference principle involves an active concern for others on the part of those who benefit from the inequalities it allows, even though these inequalities are only “in everyone’s interest” because of this group’s egoist demand for “incentives”. Notwithstanding the naturalisation Rawls uses, there is an active construction of rationality involved. Rawls is proposing a set of assumptions and a type of identity which people are supposed to adopt as part of their conception of the world. This construction is, however, then used as a basis for generating anathemas. One could express this as a claim that people are at once utterly “dirty” and utterly “clean”: on the one hand, an egoist who follows principles of justice can be “above reproach” and deserve to be labelled just and reasonable; on the other hand, such an individual never avoids the taint, the “dirtiness”, of being a grasping person who is likely to perpetuate injustice.

It is, however, contradictory to see egoistic “rationality” in this way while also affirming it through an ethical demand. The contradiction is sharpest if one considers cases where altruism exceeds “justice”. (An example would be a group of peasant insurrectionaries who storm grain warehouses to provide food for their fellow villagers, on the basis of a “moral economy” of the kind discussed by Scott [****]). In such a case, Rawls chooses in favour of justice, even if the excess results from altruism and even if it leads to greater “benefits”. In this sense, Rawls is not simply introducing a theory which does not require altruism; he is effectively tabooing altruism, without giving an ethical basis for doing so. Altruism must operate within the limits set by egoism, and egoism is therefore a primary ethical principle (not simply a limit which a practical ethical schema must take into account). Rawls therefore does not simply use ethics to contain and repress egoism (as an external or natural force); he also constructs, and instructs people to have, the force he tries to repress. Those who are “just”, “reasonable” and “decent” must also, in addition, be “rational”, and therefore in some sense egoistic, to have a place in Rawls’s theory. Perhaps people need the sense of being “dirty” to have the perpetual urge to “clean” themselves.

Rawls has been subjected to a number of critiques regarding the alleged incompatibility of his assumption of rationality (especially in RCT-inspired forms) and other claims in his theory. Andrew Levine states that he confuses Hobbesian and Kantian versions of rationality, as if egoist assumptions can be made compatible with Kantian autonomy (Levine 50-1). C.B. Macpherson argues that the conception of man as consumption-maximiser, implicit in the economic theories Rawls uses, cannot be rendered compatible with even such moderately egalitarian goals as Rawls’s. Neo-liberalism operates as the reductio ad absurdum of this model of man (Democratic Theory 80). David Gauthier takes this process further, carrying out the gesture of reductio ad absurdum to show that the “rational” individual cannot be made compatible with the difference principle. Such an individual could only commit to an instrumentalist relation to society (Gauthier 23-4). Hence, ‘the attempt to reconcile morality with rationality leads to a critique of practical rationality’ and of the present ‘ideological framework’ which constructs it (26). Gauthier endorses a more socialised model of individuals which is close to what Rawls later endorses in Political Liberalism, but this endorsement seems to put Rawls in a position of self-contradiction. Indeed, this later contradiction around the issue of sociality echoes an earlier criticism by Macpherson that Rawls’s “man”, while not specified hypothetically as an economic maximiser (e.g. in the case of the Aristotelian Principle), is nevertheless assumed to respond to incentives in maximising ways. This ambiguity seems to be a contradiction, but for Macpherson this is only apparent, because Rawls’s man accepts class inequality and therefore is “bourgeois man” (Rawls’s Models of Man and Society, 341-7). Macpherson also suggests there is a contradiction between the capitalistic rationality of Rawls’s discussions of distributive justice and the assumption of sociality which arises in his discussions of a well-ordered society (Reply to Nielsen, p. 210). Cohen suggests that people who act of the difference principle cannot be rational utility-maximisers at all (The Incentive Argument… 315, 318). Habermas also argues that Rawls simplifies social life by concentrating on individuals. ‘The resistant reality… is not just, or even primarily, made up of the pluralism of conflicting life ideals and value orientations of competing comprehensive doctrines, but of the harder material of institutions and action systems’ (BFN 64).

The use of the original position serves a slightly different role, reducing actually-existing altruism to fantasmatic egoism. Hence, the beliefs expressed in what Rawls terms “our considered convictions”, or more accurately, in the “common sense” of some people, may simply say that people should refrain from using threat-advantage in certain ways, or that a dominant ethnic group should not use its power to suppress other groups. Through the device of the original position, such beliefs are overcoded - or in Rawls’s rhetoric, “accounted for” - in an egoistic way, as what rational people “would” accept if certain conditions apply. The original belief may contain no reference to egoism, yet such an assumption is implanted in Rawls’s interpretation of it. This suggests an attempt to reduce the world to a narrow model of subjectivity, with difficult cases such as “justice” conceptualised through the closest possible approximation to this model. If, as Rawls hints, the act of applying the veil of ignorance, and therefore of acting “justly”, is in fact benevolent (TJ 128), and if, as seems to be the case, his view of actual people is very much social, why go to the lengths of trying to derive his theory from an agreement between non-benevolent, mutually disinterested people? In order for Rawls’s theory to be valid, this fictive manoeuvre would have to lead to (for instance) greater social stability, greater freedom and improvements in the position of the worst-off, relative to a situation in which no such overcoding occurs.

Frijthof Bergmann has written an excellent critique of analytical political theory based on its connection to egoism. Dealing primarily with the inaccessibility of Nietzsche to analytical ethics, Bergmann claims that the assumption of egoism ‘serves as a wall dividing’ the two (Bergmann 76). In order for people to accept the necessity of restrictive, repressive and reactive ethics (and the state forms which often accompany them), they need to be convinced that something worse would occur without them. The image of a nasty, brutish and short life without such an ethics results from a deep-rooted belief that people are naturally egoistic (84-5). ‘If one believes in egoism, one will feel a need for an authoritarian (or at least a firm) moral law’ (93). This belief is, Bergmann argues, an illegitimate extrapolation from culturally-specific responses to the existing situation (86-7). It is not accurate most of the time, even in the west. He claims, rather, that the opposite is usually the case. Far from threatening social relations by acting on their own desires, most people never free themselves from others’ expectations well enough to even form desires of their own (hence the role of the “act” in psychoanalysis). The question “what do you want?” is often traumatic, because people have not formulated their own desires (89-91). Bergmann says that belief in egoism is ‘endemic’ in western culture, as well as being presupposed in analytical philosophy (93). If the assumption is dropped, and the opposite assumed, then what is needed is not more control - ‘the forces of control - or of lethargy - are too strong already’ - but rather, ‘newly imagined devices of individual encouragement, enticement, and inspiration’ (94). Therefore, to provide a basis for impositional ethics, Rawls must first endorse or induce belief in egoism. To allow for the construction of his ethical system as actuality, he must also allow for forms of subjectification which construct people as egoists, or as believers in egoism. Thus, people are enticed, or even forced, to become what they are then flagellated, or flagellate themselves, for being. One could compare Bergmann’s critique with Norman Daniels’ more limited claim that Rawlsian theory is unable to deal with “exotic” cases of personal identity, such as brain transplants, because they problematise the undeclared but crucial assumption of methodological individualism (Moral Theory and the Plasticity of Persons, 277-8). There are also similarities with Seyla Benhabib’s claims that knowledge enables responsiveness rather than bias and that ‘affective-emotional constitution’ is relational rather than private. Because the formation of desire is relational, liberals are mistaken to perceive it as nonformalisable, nonanalysable and amorphous (The Generalised and the Concrete Other 93-4), assumptions necessary for the images of “interests of the self” and of interpersonal relations as collisions of such selves with interests in just or unjust distributive relations. Similarly, George Armstrong Kelly suggests that Rawlsian authoritarianism rests on a fear of desire as something uncontrollable and irrational which must be suppressed beneath a rational ego. ‘[T]here is a darker, more chthonic aspect to what lies behind the veil’, which is a ‘fatal curtain’ guarded by the noumenal self. Beyond it, ‘there is the abyss of nature of morality’, and ‘if the veil were to be peremptorily lifted’, people would be shown to be ‘pluralized creatures of strife and desire, a multiplicity that unity cannot contain’ (Veils 363-4). In other words, the planner self is a repressive model imposed to contain an imagined monstrosity which would explode forth without such repression.

Assuming people to be “rational”, in the sense meant by Rawls, often means misinterpreting their actions. Barthes’s critique of the Dominici trial reveals such dangers. The law, says Barthes, ‘is always prepared to lend you a spare brain in order to condemn you without remorse’, because ‘it depicts you as you should be, and not as you are’. Dominici, a provincial peasant who conforms neither to the official language nor to the model of psychology Barthes suggests is taken from bourgeois literature, is condemned because he is not understood. The ‘psychology of the masters’, which portrays people as rational egoists, allows the state ‘to take other men as objects, to describe and condemn at one stroke’. The court seeks ‘from the face of the accused and the suspects the reflection of a psychology which… it had been the first to impose on them’. ‘Literature’, says Barthes, ‘has just condemned a man to the guillotine’. Further, ‘[w]e are all potential Dominicis… as accused, deprived of language, or worse, rigged out in that of our accusers, humiliated and condemned by it. To rob a man of his language in the very name of language: this is the first step in all legal murders’ (Mythologies, pp. 43-6). One can see echoes of Dominici whenever statists and petty-minded people assume that benefit claimants are scroungers, refugees are bogus and protesters are out to get publicity by causing trouble. The “rational” person, projected onto agents from the outside, is an excuse to distrust everyone, and therefore to close one’s mind and heart to others. “Rationality” is also used as a hurrah-word; for instance, during the Bradford uprising, a bishop accused insurgents of acting irrationally because they disagreed with his assessment of the situation (**** find quote).

It is not clear why it is assumed to be “good” to be structurally egoist if it leads to all the effects Rawls derives from it. Perhaps “egoists”, even “just” ones, do more harm to themselves and others through practices such as state violence than they would do if they remained “in the grip of blind passions”. In addition to the harm caused by calculated state violence, the market economy and exclusions based on petty-mindedness, one would have to add the harm done to those who are excluded because they are not egoist enough, and the harm suffered by egoists themselves through the debilitating effects of the double-bind and the reactive emotions it generates. The “rational” turns out, when viewed on a broader scale, to be a kind of counter-final and self-destructive “irrationality”.

Rawls can evade a range of issues by relying on the idea of “rationality”. Firstly, he can claim to deduce what people need or what people “would” decide, without reference to actual people. Secondly, he evades issues about the formation of subjectivity and of conceptions of the world. The entire sphere of what Scott terms “infrapolitics” and Foucault terms “the microphysics of power” is missing from Rawls’s account; the “public” surface of politics is assumed to be self-apparent. Thirdly, he can avoid a range of issues which are important as regards noncompliance, including issues of neurosis and issues of labelling and deviance amplification. The model of a rational plan as “devoted pursuit” assumes, as I have already suggested, a neurotic psychological structure, yet Rawls seems oblivious to the possibility that this might involve psychological repression and resultant dissatisfaction. (It is almost a defining feature of the objet petit a that it cannot be achieved successfully). Assuming rational choice theory and mutual disinterest is supposed to mean that the principles of justice ‘can adjust wider and deeper conflicts’ (TJ 510). This is true, however, only if these theories express something which really is general. Rawls’s theory can only adjust conflicts between those who fall somewhere close to his model of rationality. Many people are excluded by various aspects of it - for instance, because their goals are insufficiently quantifiable or because they do not have a neurotic/normal character-structure. Like his conception of the person, Rawls’s concept of “rationality” implicitly constructs an excluded outside. Another problem is that, if the kinds of “rationality” Rawls discusses are actually a social construct, Rawls’s ethicalisation of them is an endorsement which prevents their being overcome. It also endorses a petty-minded attitude to every marginal increase and decrease in income and wealth and towards every flow of resources which is not trapped in a “just” capitalist axiomatic. Rawls’s “rational” people are neophobe, and need constant guarantees before they will try to construct anything new. They also have repressive character-structures, since there is no room for desire to exceed a calculative overcoding.

In practice, projects to build a better world are not often haunted by egoism of the narrow kind, because those involved in such projects are aware of a close relationship between personal and social developments and because valuation of difference is easier that Rawls suspects. Repressive sociality has caused far bigger problems (such as the collapse of S.P.D. anti-militarism on the eve of World War I), suggesting that Bergmann’s critique of “rationality” is accurate. Rawls’s emphasis on “rationality” involves a repressive reduction of thought to the present, especially since the “rationality” in question is irrational in its effects. Rawls’s theory ignores the existence of a whole range of strong emotions. Forces such as rage, terror, love and passion either do not arise in his account, are domesticated by being encoded in rationalistic terms or are assigned to an “irrational” beyond. The protected individual is solely the “rational” individual, and this individual’s protection is achieved via a whole string of restrictions, blocks, barriers and impositions on actual people. Rawls’s theory of “rationality”, like the rest of his conception of the person, is an attempt to construct an essence of the self which can be invoked even when all specificities are stripped away, so he can posit beliefs as “shared” or claim that “everyone” believes them. “Justice” is rigged so that a “rational” person will always tend to trump an “irrational” one. Further, “rationality” is a barrier to people achieving the other parts of the conception of the person. People undermine others’ ability to be free and equal by acting on their self-interested rationality, and it creates permanent problems in terms of “tendencies to injustice”.


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