The Hidden Influence of John Rawls on the American Mind
Few Americans outside of the academy have heard of John Rawls, yet his influence on the American mind is astounding. His two major books, A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism, have altered how many Americans discuss and understand justice, equality, individual liberty, and constitutionalism.
The political thought of John Rawls has distorted the way many Americans think and speak about political life—whether they realize it or not. In particular, Rawls’s writings have helped to undermine limited government, encouraged identity politics and judicial supremacy, and delegitimized appeals to religion in the public square.
The tendencies that Rawls’s theory justifies and encourages are thus dangerous to the political health of our regime. Controlling these tendencies and their harmful effects will require understanding why they are so prevalent in modern America, and John Rawls’s theory is an essential part of any such understanding.