The limits to social agreement. A look at the Habermas-Rawls debate on political justice
This article relates a debate organized by an American magazine, to which J. Habermas and J. Rawls were invited to discuss a book, Libéralisme politique, written by the latter. In this book Rawls suggests a revision of his theory on justice, which from then was to become a strict political doctrine compatible with various moral and more global doctrines. Those who criticized Habermas did so mainly due to the limits which Rawls’ theory imposed on the democratic process and the priority given to private liberty as opposed to public liberty. Rawls defends himself against this criticism by underlining once again the impossibility of obtaining the agreement of citizens on a given moral theory, whereas an agreement on common political values would appear to be more within reach. This opposition between liberal values and republican values leads ultimately to the question whether a neutralization process similar to that proposed by Rawls should not be applied equally to certain political values on which an agreement appears difficult to reach.