Alan Gewirth extends his fundamental principle of equal and universal human rights, the Principle of Generic Consistency, into the arena of social and political philosophy, exploring its implications for both social and economic rights. He argues that the ethical requirements logically imposed on individual action hold equally for the supportive state as a community of rights, whose chief function is to maintain and promote the universal human rights to freedom and well-being. Such social afflictions as unemployment, homelessness, and poverty are basic violations of these rights, which the supportive state is required to overcome. A critical alternative to both "liberal" and "communitarian" views, this book will command the attention of anyone engaged in the debate over social and economic justice.
Beginning this sequel to Reason and Morality (LJ 2/15/78) with a brief account of his Principle of Generic Consistency (PGC), on which he based the morality of that book, Gewirth extends the PGC to political philosophy. After distinguishing negative from positive rights by whether the respondent's duty is to forgo or act, he argues that the PGC grounds positive rights, e.g., to the goods necessary for the freedom and well-being presupposed by the bearer's successful action, provided he cannot himself attain them without undue cost. He then shows how rights and community are related and examines particular economic and social rights: to effective agency, employment, property, civil liberties, democratic political process, and the like. Lucidly written and impressively argued, this is a first-rate book.-Robert Hoffman, CUNY, New York