The limits of constructivism: Can Rawls condemn female genital mutilation?

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12 Scopus citations


Constructivist political theory, championed most prominently by John Rawls, builds up a conception of justice from the minimal requirements of political life. It has two powerful attractions. It promises a kind of civic unity in the face of irresolvable differences about the good life. It also offers a foundation for human rights that is secure in the face of those same differences. The very parsimony that is its strength, however, deprives it of the resources to condemn some atrocities. Because it focuses on the political aspect of persons, it has difficulty cognizing violence done to those aspects of the person that are not political, preeminently the body. Constructivism thus can be only a part of an acceptable theory of justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-482
Number of pages24
JournalReview of Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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