Complex Justice, Cultural Difference, and Political Community

Joseph H. Carens

in Culture, Citizenship, and Community

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780198297680
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598937 | DOI:
Complex Justice, Cultural Difference, and Political Community

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Uses Michael Walzer's Spheres of Justice as a vehicle for reflecting on the problem of universalism and relativism, with particular attention to the question of the moral relevance of cultural differences between political communities. It celebrates Walzer's contextual approach to theory and defends some of his key insights, using the Override Clause in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a way of illustrating the moral importance of differences in political culture. But it also argues that Walzer's assertion that there is a tight link between moral community and political community conflicts with claims that he makes about justice in other societies. The chapter explores the question of whether and how we should judge history. It then uses gender equality and democracy as test cases for exploring how far our moral minimalism should extend and how open we should be to moral and cultural relativism.

Keywords: Canada; Charter of Rights and Freedoms; culture; democracy; gender equality; moral minimalism; political community; relativism; universalism; Michael Walzer

Chapter.  15600 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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