A story that I was often told as a student – indeed, one I have since retold my own students – is that contemporary analytic political philosophy began with John Rawls. After John Stuart Mill’s work on utilitarianism in the 19th century there was no further work in political philosophy, the debate was considered settled, until the publication of Rawls’s A Theory of Justice, which was foremost a rejection of Mill’s utilitarianism.
I am not the only one who has been told this “standard story”. As Charles Mills’ notes, the standard story is one that is prevalent in the discipline and appears in works across analytic and continental political philosophy.
I came to realize just how false this story was about two years ago.