Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Right to Justification

Larry Solum recommends Rainer Forst, The Right to Justification: Elements of a Constructivist Theory of Justice (New Directions in Critical Theory):
    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 J├╝rgen 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.
    ... Forst's master idea is that people have a right and duty of reciprocal justification in the domain of shared institutions and that testing for the justice of such arrangements means testing for how far they are indeed justifiable. 
This is useful in thinking about the rise of global tax activism, where it is not necessarily clear that what people seek is rule or regime change, but rather an accounting of what the rules and regimes have wrought, and a justification for the status quo and its systemic continuation through the construction of international institutions and epistemic communities.









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