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AN ENGAGED BUDDHIST RESPONSE TO JOHN RAWLS'S THE LAW OF PEOPLES

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ABSTRACT

In The Law of Peoples, John Rawls proposes a set of principles for international relations, his “Law of Peoples.” He calls this Law a “realistic utopia,” and invites consideration of this Law from the perspectives of non-Western cultures. This paper considers Rawls's Law from the perspective of Engaged Buddhism, the contemporary form of socially and politically activist Buddhism. We find that Engaged Buddhists would be largely in sympathy with Rawls's proposals. There are differences, however: Rawls builds his view from the idea of independent nation–states, while the Buddhists see the world more in terms of a single humankind, the members being highly interdependent with one another, and also with the physical world. The Buddhists would also push harder than Rawls for global structures building multilateralism, restrict more severely justifications for war and behavior in war, stress economic justice more heavily, and insist on all the human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
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Keywords: Engaged Buddhism; John Rawls; globalization; human rights; international law; multiculturalism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: James Madison University

Publication date: 2006-12-01

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