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Volume 23 • Number 2

April 2009



Justice as Fairness, Civic Identity, and Patriotic Education

by M. Victoria Costa

The ideal model of a just society defended by John Rawls entails the existence of certain institutions—those that form the basic structure of society—that guarantee citizens' basic rights and liberties, equality of opportunity, and access to material resources. Such a model also presupposes a certain account of reasonable citizenship. In particular, reasonable citizens will have a set of moral capacities and dispositions and will voluntarily support just institutions. According to Rawls, the need for such citizens is related to the following important consideration in favor of a normative theory of justice: that it be stable. That is, such a theory must be capable of generating its own support over time. This means that it has to be possible for citizens to come to endorse the theory's principles of justice, integrating them into their personal conceptions of the good life. Rawls explicitly draws attention to the stability requirement on ideal theories of justice. Somewhat surprisingly, when Rawls explains how a widespread and deep moral consensus on the principles of justice might be generated in actual societies—a problem that is closely related to the issue of how such consensus could be maintained over time—he pays very little attention to the potential contribution of schools to the production of reasonable citizens. This neglect can be explained, in part, by his confidence that the functioning of just institutions will spontaneously generate, in citizens who live under them, the necessary support for principles of justice and will encourage the development and exercise of the virtues characteristic of reasonable citizens. But this confidence seems misplaced.

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ISSN: 2152-0542