John Rawls was the most influential American political philosopher of the twentieth century. His 1971 book, A Theory of Justice, is widely credited as a landmark work that transformed normative political theory and was the catalyst for the current renaissance in scholarship on philosophy and public affairs in the United States and most other English-speaking countries. It was noteworthy for its ambitious scope and wide-ranging style, which appeared modeled on the great texts in the canon of the history of political thought, such as Plato's (428–347 BCE) Republic and Thomas Hobbes's (1588–1679) Leviathan.

Nevertheless, Theory also maintained a distinctly contemporary concern with the politics of the modern welfare state. At the center was Rawls's defense of two principles of justice, which he labeled “justice as fairness.” ...

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