The Limits of Constructivism: Can Rawls Condemn Female Genital Mutilation?
Northwestern University School of Law
May 15, 2009
Review of Politics, Vol. 71, p. 459, 2009
Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 09–15
Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper No. 09–32
The strategy for coping with value pluralism that Rawls has proposed is to permit political decisions, at least with respect to basic rights, to depend only on those goods that can be inferred from the bare requirements of respectful relations between persons. His account offers such a parsimonious conception of the good that it cannot cognize some atrocities. I focus on one extreme human rights case: the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), which, it is well established, violates basic human rights. Doubtless Rawls was appalled by the practice. Yet his theory cannot generate a basis for condemning it. A satisfactory conception of human rights must draw upon some normative source beyond that offered by constructivism.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 25
Keywords: Constructivism, Rawls, Female, Genital, Mutilation
JEL Classification: K19, K39Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: July 31, 2009 ; Last revised: May 10, 2011
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