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The Right to Justification: Elements of a Constructivist Theory of Justice

Rainer Forst; Translated by Jeffrey Flynn

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Paper, 368 pages,
ISBN: 978-0-231-14709-5
$26.00 / £18.00

December, 2011
Cloth, 368 pages,
ISBN: 978-0-231-14708-8
$45.00 / £30.95

Contemporary philosophical pluralism recognizes the inevitability and legitimacy of multiple ethical perspectives and values, making it difficult to isolate the higher-order principles on which to base a theory of justice. Rising up to meet this challenge, Rainer Forst, a leading member of the Frankfurt School’s newest generation of philosophers, conceives of an “autonomous” construction of justice founded on what he calls the basic moral right to justification.

Forst begins by identifying this right from the perspective of moral philosophy. Then, through an innovative, detailed critical analysis, he ties together the central components of social and political justice—freedom, democracy, equality, and toleration—and joins them to the right to justification. The resulting theory treats “justificatory power” as the central question of justice, and by adopting this approach, Forst argues, we can discursively work out, or “construct,” principles of justice, especially with respect to transnational justice and human rights issues.

As he builds his theory, Forst engages with the work of Anglo-American philosophers such as John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, and Amartya Sen, and critical theorists such as Jürgen Habermas, Nancy Fraser, and Axel Honneth. Straddling multiple subjects, from politics and law to social protest and philosophical conceptions of practical reason, Forst brilliantly gathers contesting claims around a single, elastic theory of justice.

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About the Author

Rainer Forst is professor of political theory and philosophy at Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and director of the research cluster on the “Formation of Normative Orders.” He is the author of Contexts of Justice: Political Philosophy Beyond Liberalism and Communitarianism; Toleration in Conflict: Past and Present; Justification and Critique: Towards a Critical Theory of Politics, and coauthor, with Wendy Brown, of The Power of Tolerance: A Debate. In 2012 he received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, the highest honor awarded to German researchers. Jeffrey Flynn is assistant professor of philosophy at Fordham University.

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