A Theory of Justice: The Musical!

I have not seen The Book of Mormon: The Musical. To be honest, I have not seen any musicals that are not at a local high school or community college.


Often while wondering about musicals about sacred texts, I have wondered a few times about the possibilities of a musical version of my favorite book…the book that is the focus of my academic work….the book which changed my life.


As it turns out, that musical is already in production and will be opening in Oxford, England January 30 and playing until February 2.



Yes, ladies and gentleman:


There is actually going to be A Theory of Justice: The Musical! 

Official Poster of ATOJ: The Musical!


How freaking awesome. Right?


Okay, I may be the only person who gets this excited about anything related Rawls. There are many who understand his work better than I do. There are many who have written great articles and books about Rawls. I…well… am still working on that dissertation on Rawls (I am ACTUALLY now working on it…well…when not writing this post…)…There was a well received conference paper…but when it comes to the hero worship of Rawls…I have that down.


So, when I first heard mention of the A Theory of Justice: The Musical!, I assumed it was a YouTube spoof of some sort. However, that was not the case. It is a real musical!


I interviewed via email Eylon Aslan-Levy who, along with fellow Oxford students Ramin Sabi and Tommy Peto, is one of the co-authors and co-producers of A Theory of Justice: The Musical!


Eylon notes that it was Ramin who came up with the initial idea.


“I’ve got a great idea – let’s write A Theory of Justice: The Musical!” said Ramin and the musical was conceived.


“I laughed, adding that it would probably help with revision. We started toying with some ideas for a plot (we knew we wanted a Utilitarian barbershop quartet from day one!) and played around with some ideas on the piano, and eventually realised that we had a real gem of a musical on our hands, with a lot of potential. We wondered whether we could pull it off, and reckoned that if not in Oxford, where else?” writes Eylon.

Now A Theory of Justice would not be a natural choice for a play or musical. It lacks a narrative-style and…well…it is a “clunkily written,” as Eylon puts it. I would have to agree.


“The musical conveys Rawls’s ideas in an easily-accessible manner for an audience not familiar with Rawls’s work, and seeks to reconstruct that sense of wonder and inspiration that so many philosophy students feel when they are introduced to the Veil of Ignorance for the first time,” Eylon explained.


Now it is that sense of wonder and inspiration that has kept my work focused on Rawls. My first exposure to Rawls was a brutal experience. However, it was in the Spring of 2000, while listening to a lecture on Rawls by University of Utah philosopher Bruce Landesman, that Rawls just clicked and I have been hooked ever since.


Now, I worried that ATOJ: The Musical! might be in the same spirit of mockery as The Book of Mormon: A Musical!. Now, I respect many people who disagree with Rawls and his work. But to mock it is another thing. To mock Rawls himself….that would unacceptable. 🙂


However, the three co-authors are students in the Philosophy, Politics and Economics program at Oxford. Oxford is a place where Rawls is taught well and taught right. So, I am trusting them to not let me down. No pressure


But what would a musical based on Rawls look like?


“The musical looks at the history of political philosophy, but this isn’t a question of philosophy set to music – it’s a good, old-fashioned Broadway musical, with the subject of political philosophy,” explains Eylon. “It contains all the elements you would expect from a Broadway or Disney musical – the hero on journey to find his place in the world (Rawls), the villain and his accomplice determined to foil the hero’s plot (Nozick and Rand), and the ever beyond-reach and beguiling love interest (Fairness).”


Now, the Rawlsian in me wonders why fairness is the love interest. Shouldn’t the love interest be justice? After all, fairness describes the process of the original position. However, what is desired is justice and a just society!


I might have to see the production itself to get that answer.


Will “A Theory of Justice: The Musical!” be coming to Yankee shores?


While Eylon says that they all dream of Broadway, there are no plans to bring the show across the Atlantic. However, following the Oxford production, they “will make the license available for other dramatic societies and theatres to stage their own productions of A Theory of Justice: The Musical!”


So, who wants to fund a production for me?



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