It looks like Columbia University Press is bringing out a new edition of Political Liberalism. All things considered, I wish they wouldn’t. For the Rawls obsessed, more below the line.
First, it has a terrible cover. Why the darkness? Second, the book doesn’t need a foreword by Martha Nussbaum—or anyone else for that matter. (I suppose Rawls could have requested that she do it? Has anyone seen the foreword? That’s the only reason I can think of that might justify it.) Otherwise, the introduction to the paperback edition does the job. Last point: the new edition apparently includes “The Ideal of Public Reason Revisited.” I do seem to remember Rawls writing something about wanting to republish PL with that essay included. So maybe Columbia is following through on his wishes. And that would be noble of them. But that essay is already published in no less than three other locations: the University of Chicago Law Review, The Law of Peoples, and, most appropriately, in Rawls’s Collected Papers. Do we really a need another version of PL just to bring the two together? On the principle of “if it ain’t broke,” I think the publisher should leave the book well enough alone.
But—and this is the only reason (or excuse) I can think of for bringing out a new edition—the current version is broken. Or at least, the book has a tendency to fall apart after the first reading or so. I used to think that maybe I was just hard on PL. But after consulting with others, I’m convinced Columbia just produced a terribly bound volume. (Is this true of other Columbia books?) It cracks easily, the glue comes apart, pages fall out. I’ve been through at least three copies of the book—one hard bound, two paper, and none of them survived very long. And it’s not that I’m treating this book more harshly than others. I’m sure my copies of TJ, Anarchy State, Spheres of Justice, Sandel and the other usual suspects get just as much wear. PL is justy a poorly manufactured book. Whatever you think of the book’s contents, surely the publisher could do better. So there is a good reason for a new version, although not, I think, for a new edition.
Does anyone know why Rawls published the book with Columbia? I’ve wondered about that in the past. TJ was published with Harvard, and so were the Collected Papers, if I’m not mistaken. Just another question of Rawls trivia.