It was only a few years ago that the central topic of academic political philosophy, at least in the English-speaking world, was distributive justice. The focus was very much on economic or material goods; the question being whether people were entitled to have what they had, or did justice require that someone else should have some of it. That the arguments about justice led to investigating the conceptions of self, rationality and community that underpinned them meant that the debate was far from governed by economics and welfare, and was capable of moving in many directions and far from its starting-point. Yet that many of the leading participants in the ‘liberalism v. communitarianism’ debate should now have come to place diversity, pluralism and multiculturalism at the centre of their theorising, with the emphasis being on the justness of cultural rather than economic transactions, is surely not just a product of ‘following the argument to where it leads’. The change in philosophical focus is also determined by changes in the political world; by the challenges of feminism, the growing recognition that most Western societies are, partly because of movements of populations, increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-racial, and the growing questioning of whether the pursuit of a universal theory of justice may not itself be an example of a Western cultural imperialism. The politics I am pointing to is various and by no means harmonious, but a common feature perhaps is the insistence that there are forms of inequality and domination beyond those of economics and material distributions.
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