Social Justice in the Liberal State
Social Justice in the Liberal State is a book written by Bruce A. Ackerman. The book is an essay in political philosophy, a "new view" of the theoretical foundations of liberalism that will "challenge us to clarify our own implicit notions of liberal democracy." Ackerman addresses the positive case for a liberalism that glorifies neither the state bureaucracy nor the private market. References to the sphere of relations among states are few, but the breadth of the attack on the fundamental issues of man and society is impressive. To Ackerman, liberalism is a kind of structured conversation in which verbal negotiation among those with differing visions of the good life is an alternative to the exercise of naked power. Ackerman has mounted a profound challenge to contract thinking. It works, crudely, on the idea that the premises of a course of contract reasoning can be manipulated so as to yield any conclusion that the theorist has some antecedent interest in producing. The social contract is the contract which would be confirmed by the entire population, under ideal conditions, after perfect and complete consideration. Ackerman has offered a suggestion for determining whether any persons among a genetically diverse group are genetically disadvantaged. His suggestion is that to be genetically undominated, a person must possess a set of abilities that permit him to pursue some life purpose that some persons have, with as much facility as any other person is able to pursue that life purpose. He asserts that every person has a right to be genetically undominated. The privatization of religious convictions is also strongly defended. Ackerman argues for a maximal separation doctrine in that religion does not have an appropriate place in the public realm of a liberal democracy. The book also briefly suggests "responsive lotteries", prototypes of lottery voting as a way to decide issues but leaves the question hanging in the air by inviting others to devote more serious thought to lottery voting.