Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

The construction of a ‘realistic utopia’ : John Rawls and international political theory

Brown, Chris ORCID: 0000-0003-3478-7246 (2002) The construction of a ‘realistic utopia’ : John Rawls and international political theory. Review of International Studies, 28 (1). pp. 5-21. ISSN 0260-2105

Download (245kB) | Preview


After presenting a brief sketch of John Rawls’s theory of justice, his international political theory is outlined and evaluated. Rawls develops a classification of ‘peoples’ based on whether or not they are ‘well-ordered’. The Law of Peoples covers ‘liberal’ and ‘decent’ peoples who adhere to minimum standards of human rights and are not aggressive in their international relations. This is in the realm of ‘ideal’ theory; ‘non-ideal’ theory must cope also with societies that are not well-ordered, such as outlaw states and burdened societies. The long-term aim is that all should be part of a confederation of decent peoples. Rawls’s theory has been criticized by cosmopolitan liberals for its communitarian tendencies, but has much to offer scholars of international relations, including a systematic basis for classifying states, a helpful discussion of the distinction between reasonableness and rationality, and a powerful restatement of the importance of utopian thinking in international relations.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: Copyright © 2002 British International Studies Association, Cambridge University Press. LSE has developed LSE Research Online so that users may access research output of the School. Copyright and Moral Rights for the papers on this site are retained by the individual authors and/or other copyright owners. Users may download and/or print one copy of any article(s) in LSE Research Online to facilitate their private study or for non-commercial research. You may not engage in further distribution of the material or use it for any profit-making activities or any commercial gain. You may freely distribute the URL (<>) of the LSE Research Online website.
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 04 May 2006
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2024 03:54

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics