The family and political justice - The case for political liberalisms

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This paper examines two central arguments raised by feminist theorists against the coherence and consistency of political liberalisms, a recent recasting of liberal theories of justice. They argue that due to political liberalisms' uncritical reliance on a political/personal distinction, they permit the institution of the family to take sexist and illiberal forms thus undermining its own aims and political project. Political liberalisms' tolerance of a wide range of family forms result in two fatal inconsistences. Firstly, it retards or completely prevents women from developing the necessary political sense of self required for citizenship, and secondly, it prevents children from acquiring the requisite political virtues and sense of justice necessary for the viability and long-term stability of such a society. In the paper, I argue that despite their initial appeal these feminist criticisms are not compelling. Firstly, they misunderstand what political liberalisms mean by unjust family forms, secondly, they trade on a misunderstanding of the political/personal distinction and, finally, they make questionable empirical claims about the effects of the illiberal family on a viable political conception of justice. © 2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-281
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Ethics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2000


  • Family
  • Feminism
  • Justice
  • Okin
  • Political liberalism
  • Public/private distinction
  • Rawls


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