The modern era is notable for its emphasis on justice as the idée-clef of political philosophy. Justice has always been the primary virtue of social institutions. Over the last forty years, under the prompting of John Rawls, it has become more pervasive than ever.

Does the moral pluralism of modern societies of itself impose a thin, formal conception of the good society? Does modern pluralism directly preclude some more substantive normative basis for politics? Can political philosophy do no more than identify fair terms of cooperation that accommodate each individual’s pursuit of his or her specific conception of the good life? Is such a formal conception of the good society adequate? Can it motivate moral behavior? Is it too elusive to guide actual decisions?

This broad, modern debate touches on the central problem of articulating justice so as to (a) embrace the fact of modern plurality, without (b) falling into an abstract idealism far removed from the concrete, practical contexts in which justice must apply. The Research Committee on Political Philosophy (RC31) of The International Political Science Association (IPSA) seeks to contend with this difficulty by relating justice to the main ideas underpinning modern society: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity - in the language of 1789.

IPSA RC31 is sponsoring a cycle of three conferences: The First (2010) was held in Jena, Germany on the relation of justice to liberty. The Second (2011) was held in Sydney, Australia on the relation of justice to equality.

The Third (2012) conference coincides with the Madrid IPSA Congress. Fraternity is broadly concerned with friendship (philia, amicitia), solidarity, and community. Is there political friendship? Is the personal political? Is all politics local? Is citizen friendship necessary to liberal democratic politics? Do care and regard in localities support just states and fair global transactions? Does fraternity, promising solidarity, deliver exclusion and subordination? Does friendship undermine justice? Are friendship treaties oxymoronic? How has friendship declined in modernity? Can, and ought, this decline to be reversed?

Proposals are now invited for the MADRID conference. Papers may explore the full range of issues involved: normative, empirical, analytical, and historical. Please send a preliminary abstract of no more than one page, no later than 1 November 2011, to Preston King (Chair, RC31) and to John Medearis (Secretary, RC31)