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Frank I. Michelman, The Subject of Liberalism, 46 Stan. L. Rev. 1807 (1994) (reviewing John Rawls, Political Liberalism (1993))

Abstract: In "Political Liberalism," the influential moral philosopher John Rawls attempts in part to justify a particular, liberal conception of justice by arguing that it is the conception which best corresponds to the way we perceive our powers and motivations when we behave politically. In this review essay, Professor Michelman suggests that Rawls' method may offer a way out of the debates over subjectivity and value currently occupying many legal scholars. By starting from a depiction of the liberal subject as the kind of person for whom constitutional democracy is the appropriate form of social ordering, Professor Michelman observes, Rawls constructs an "internal critique" of American society which depends on the practical, cultural appeal of that view of the person, not on its ultimate truth. However, Professor Michelman concludes that whether Rawls' approach is necessarily relativist-speaking only to those who already believe in liberal constitutionalism-or instead produces universally generalizable prescriptions remains unclear.