• The desire for justice and aspiration for having a just society or a just social, moral, political order is something, which is not new and there are very few contestations over these aspirations or desire for justice. However, the contestations or the differences emerge when we, try to unravel. What is justice all about? What does it mean to be a just society? What does it mean to have a just law or a just order? Hence we can say justice is a normative concept.

What is justice all about

  • Justice is a foundational concept of political theory and practice. The concept of Justice is often invoked in public policy and practice, in social and political movements. In fact social, political movements are essentially movements for the demand for justice. According to thinkers of political science, a harmonious, decent, or good  society must have many virtues to be so but justice is the first of them. John Rawls holds justice to be the first virtue of social institutions. 
  • Justice is primarily the domain of moral philosophy but it has to be implemented by a political order. Hence, the concept has been found in the inquiries of all political thinkers and is a subject of all political dialectics. 

The Idea of Justice

  • The word ‘justice’ is derived from the Latin words Jungere (to bind/tie together) and jus (a bond/tie). Just like a bond, justice serves to organise people together into a right or fair order of relationships by distributing to each person his or her due share of rights and duties. So it can be said that In Political theories, justice is regarded as the property of redistribution. 
  • As a moral political value, justice is interlinked with other values such as liberty, equality, and fraternity. A right or fair ordering of human relations based on each person getting his/her due rights and duties as well as due rewards and punishments. This is a traditional notion of justice that balances principles of liberty, equality, etc. 
  • According to D.D. Raphael, justice is a Janus-like (two-faced) concept. It is both legal and moral.

Justice as a Dynamic Idea 

  • The term justice has been assigned different meanings by people of different times and spaces. Its implication also varies accordingly. What is just in the past may be severe injustice today. For example, Slavery was considered to be just in ancient Greek philosophy as it served social order but today slavery is one of the worst values. Various constitutions vow to end slavery and establish equality for human beings. An eye for an eye was the concept of justice in medieval times but today justice is seen as more of a reformatory concept. 
  • In the Ancient classical theory of justice, Plato has presented a normative concept in his book “Republic”. According to him, justice is completely in accordance with the nature of human beings and it can be discovered and understood on the basis of human intellectual logic. Plato contends that nature has made some people philosophers and thinkers who are called elite. Some have been made aggressive and brave as warriors and other good labourers or sculptures. 
  • Justice according to Plato:
    • Justice demands that “every person should remain at the station allotted by nature which means he should fulfil the duties for which he is capable.” When this condition is satisfied, the state is deemed to be just.
  • Plato’s disciple Aristotle believed that equality is also included in the concept of justice up to a limit. According to Aristotle, political rights, special rights, wealth, property, materialistic things, prestige, etc. should be allotted on the basis of distributive justice. On the other hand, those prohibiting the laws made under commutative justice should be penalised and fined. 
  • Subsequent to this Greek interest in the concept of justice, there was a general lull on this subject and often divinity or godly justice was invoked. As a result of the renaissance, reformation, and commercial revolution, new concepts of justice emerged in the works of Grotius, Hobbes, Locke, and Kant, etc. 
  • For Hobbes, justice was following the authoritative order of the state. Utilitarianism propounded by Bentham sought to derive justice based on the hedonistic calculus of pleasure and pain. Marxists believed that the fundamental element of justice is the end of capitalism and class conflict. Today justice is seen in terms of redistribution of resources based on affirmative action. So, the idea of justice has been a dynamic concept and it is still evolving. 

“Justice is today the central and commanding concept of current mainstream normative political philosophy.” – Tom Campbell

Concept of distributive justice:

  • In political philosophy the issue of justice also, leads to the question of distribution. So, essentially, justice as a normative concept is about determining the principles , the method, the procedure, or the mechanism for distribution ,makes the whole conception or interpretation of justice a contentious issue. What should be the ground, what should be the mechanism and the procedure for distribution and re-distribution is something, very contentious. The reason being it is primarily because the society has limited resources.
  • Earlier Greek philosophy, focused on this concept of justice and Plato pointed out that an ideal state would be a just state. So, justice, for Plato is the defining feature of an ideal society. He regarded justice along with temperance, wisdom and courage as the four key virtues of a society. Plato, makes a distinction between different sections of society. He believed in the hierarchy, that means, different classes in society which were fit to do different kinds of work and if, they were doing what they were fit for to do or they were capable of doing that, then that society could be regarded as the just society. So, essentially, the assumption about was that justice it aims at giving everyone his or her due.
  • There are many bases for the distribution of resources, such as, needs, desert, freedom or choices, maximization of utility, equality and benefiting the least disadvantage. In order, to ensure justice in a society, it is necessary, to distribute resources on the grounds of these above-mentioned values according to preferred norm.

Need as a criteria

  • Need is like the requirements of different people in society. So, it believes in the distribution of benefits and services which should be made keeping in mind the needs or requirements of every individual in a society. There is a need to have a minimum set of resources or to be made available to everybody.

Desert as a criteria

  • Desert basically, mean merit i.e. the rewards should be based on the capability or skills of the individual. So, if, the individual is putting an extra effort which is innovative and he is willing to take risk or be an entrepreneur. Naturally, he or she should have more rewards .

Freedom of choice as a criteria

  • The third principle is what freedom of choice is, that means, any pattern of distribution of benefits and services should be based on the choices made by human-beings, or it must be an outcome of the choices of people made in their lives to lead a better livelihood. It is understood that individual should be given freedom or liberty to take decisions or make choices. And if, the individuals are provided the conditions for making choices or to take decisions, then if, the outcome of such decisions or choices are different or unequal, then it should not be a problem. There should not be an attempt to emphasize on equalizing the reward.

Utility maximisation as a criteria

  • Maximization of utility, is, the principle of utilitarianism according to which distribution or re-distribution of resources should be made on the principle which leads to the maximization of happiness or welfare or pleasure of the maximum number in society.

Equality as a criteria

  • The equality principle believes that everyone should be given benefits and services which should be equal and same to the rest of individuals, and that way, the society will be a more equal society. But this kind of focus on equality is called as the formal which do not really, transform in creating into an egalitarian society, where the different groups or societies are not on the same level. They do not have the same level of resources or same opportunities.
  • In the absence of the same or equal resources or opportunity, if the laws treat them equally, then, outcome will never be the just outcome. Hence the ideas of differentiated and complex equality have also been proposed.

Role of the state

  • The concept of distributive justice emphasizes upon the fact that such benefits and services should be provided by various political institutions through laws and policies made by the state. So, the state has a role to play. Different societies have different political mechanisms for the distribution of resources which will be just or fair. But in a democratic society, it should be made on the basis of ethos of equality, rights and justice.
  • The distributive principles are recognized for providing moral principles or a moral guidance for making such choices. For example, Rawls difference principle,Nozick’s entitlement principle.
  • The broader consensus about distribution of resources is it requires a moral or normative judgement on the part of society, the democratic process or method of re-distributive justice. That means, which does not favour or it is not partial to anyone, even if, it serves the differential needs of different sections of society. So, many philosophers, argued that a democratic process or method of a re-distributive or distributive justice is necessary, for sustaining a fair and equal distribution of resources in the society.

Procedural and Substantive notions of justice:

  • Procedural theory of justice emphasizes upon the following just rules or procedures for ensuring justice. The focus or emphasis of procedural theory of justice, as the name suggest is about a procedure or the rule, which should be just. To ensure justice, the scholars have argued that we must have just procedure based on just law. The assumption, here, is that if, we have a just procedure for distribution of resources, it will naturally, lead to a just outcome without any consideration to different contexts, whether, geographical, historical, social, or economic. The theory of justice could be applicable to all contexts universally, without any considerations to the specificities of a particular context, if we have a just procedure. The fundamental premise of theory is that the just procedure or rules, will lead to a just outcome in the society.
  • According to this theory, results or outcomes should not be the determining factor in devising or conceptualizing or constituting, what is just or a just rule and a procedure. The focus or the emphasis should be on the formulation of a just theory and procedure. And if, we arrive at the procedure or a just theory, then, the outcome will automatically, be just. So, the outcome or the result should not be the determining factor in formulation of a just theory or procedure. Whether a theory is just or not, it should not be determined or assist by the outcome, but on the basis of a procedure or by the formulation of a theory itself. The emphasis on the procedural theory of justice is about a procedure, and not necessarily, the outcome.
  • So, the procedural theory of justice primarily, focuses on the individuals. The assumption in the procedural theory of justice is about individual autonomy and liberty should be always protected, and state should have very minimum role in interfering with the autonomy and liberty of individuals. And individuals should have maximum choices to make decisions, or to develop his or her skills. And if, such decisions and skills lead to different outcomes or results, then, that society should be just. In that sense, in the procedural theory, there is no kind of end-result or end-goal which should be applicable to everyone, and which should be predetermined. The procedural theory, primarily, focus on the individual autonomy and liberty. It emphasizes on individual as rational beings and they should be aware of various choices available to them. The state should not interfere in the entitlements of individuals.
  • They are responsible for their own actions and the consequences there of. The premise of this procedural theory of justice is that individual is rational, autonomous agent, aware of his or her choices or decisions.
  • In this sense society’s role or the role of state is minimal to ensure the implementation of just laws or a just procedure which everyone should cooperate within the framework of law or a just procedure. Robert Nozick’s principle of justice is example of this kind of procedural theory of justice.
  • The substantive justice, in contrast to the procedural theory of justice also, equally emphasize on the outcome or just outcome in the society. Substantive theory does emphasize equally, on how to get just results by applying a just procedure. So, the procedure itself is not sufficient. We also, need to equally, emphasize on the just outcome. So, treating everyone equally, in an equal society will lead to just outcome. But, treating everyone equally, in unequal society will not lead to a just outcome. Therefore, the substantive theory of justice argues not about a just principle or procedure of justice, but also, a just outcome or a just result of that theory. So, it emphasizes on how, to get just result by applying, a just procedure like fair allocation of resources and how a society, ought to work to achieve, and also, to maintain justice in the society. Thus, there is Rawls and the constant need of re-distribution.
  • Now, there is a role of state to device a mechanism, which will constantly, re-distribute the concentration of wealth and resources, and to ensure that everyone should have maximum equality of opportunity. If such, a difference is required, then, it should be for the least disadvantaged people. Justice is not merely, about formulating a theory or to achieve justice one’s and for all, but it is a kind of constant process of maintaining or ensuring justice to everyone, or to every generation in the society.
  • The substantive theory of justice is about fair distribution of goods, and these goods are like wealth, income, and opportunities to all people, despite of their differences in social position and economic status. So, those differences should not be determining in the opportunities available to individuals. It equally emphasizes on the fair principles. Its objective is to establish a social system by ensuring a fair distribution of goods.
  • So, the substantive justice is grounded on application of a just procedure, which intends to produce a substantive outcome or result for everyone in the society. Therefore, substantive justice focuses on just allocation of resources, benefits or burdens. It requires a procedure with an objective to ensure fair and just allocation of resources. It also, requires responsible agents, like individuals, groups of individuals, public institutions, and state to ensure that justice or allocation of resources is done in a just and fair manner.
  • Although, Rawls calls his theory as a procedural theory of justice, his concept of ‘justice as fairness’, could also be regarded as a substantive theory. Rawls emphasized on justice, as a virtue in society. And the whole purpose of a political order or the state is to ensure that justice is maintained.

John Rawls- Justice as Fairness

  • John Rawls’ A Theory of justice(1971) is a classic example of the contractual approach applied to liberal justice. Rawls outlined the features of his conception in an article that appeared in 1957,entitled Justice as Fairness, culminating in his book A Theory of justice. The elaboration and clarification of theory continued even after the publication of A theory of justice through two more books-Political Liberalism(1993) and The Law of Peoples(1999).
  • A Theory of justice coincided with the culmination of various movements in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. So the theory formulated the principles of justice for a wellordered society that would be governed by Ultimate principles of justice. These principles were congruent with, ‘our common sense and firmest convictions’(intuitionism).
  • Rawls considered justice as the first virtue of social institutions as truth is of systems of thought .Justice has a priority being the most important virtue of institutions. Rawls referred to his conception as pure procedural, (no criterion only procedure) distinguishing it from perfect procedural (criteria and procedure) and imperfect procedural (criteria but no procedure). If procedures were fair, then the outcome would also be fair.
  • Rawls developed a concept of justice that was congruent with liberty and reciprocity he rejected classical utilitarianism. He developed an alternative based on Kantianism, a rival school of utilitarianism. The ‘greatest happiness of greatest number’ ignored the interests of the least advantaged. Justice as fairness considered persons as ends and not as means only.
  • Rawls considered the principle of utility as incompatible with the conception of social cooperation among free and equal individuals for mutual advantage and with the idea of reciprocity implicit in a well-ordered society.
  • Rawls in his book A Theory of Justice conceptualized theory of ‘Justice as fairness’. This idea of ‘Justice as fairness’ is based on the basic tenets of the procedural theory of justice. Rawls concern was to arrive at a theory of justice, which will lead to a substantive outcome or to create a society, which will be more just and egalitarian which will provide maximum autonomy and freedom to every individual in that society. So, to create, that kind of society, to provide that kind of opportunity to every single member of the society, Rawls conceptualized his theory as fairness, which equally, emphasized upon the end-results or outcomes, to create an egalitarian and just society. The premise of his theory is that a human-being is a rational, moral agent, and both these points are very significant in his conceptualization of justice that the individual is rational and, a moral individual. And this moral individual will also, have a sense of justice which is innate. The individual being by nature is rational, and, a moral agent, that is the base or premise on which he or she develops some moral or normative judgements and course of action. The premise for this theory of ‘justice as fairness’ is thus, based on the idea of human-being as a rational or moral agent.
  • Therefore, they would choose a principle of justice which would be in consistent with the distributive theory of justice. Rawls, talks about the distribution of primary goods. Here, he tries to combine the procedural and substantive theory of justice. And the idea of individual as the autonomous, rational, moral being on the one hand, but also, that individual is the part of a larger society or community. Therefore, he had some obligations and responsibilities towards this idea of distribution of some resources. The focus of his theory is distribution of the benefits or what he calls primary goods. While he was arguing for the distribution of the primary goods, he was not arguing for conceptualizing, and defining what is good for individuals. So, his theory of distributive conception of justice is about distribution of goods and not about conceptualizing or determining, what is good for every individual in society.
  • So, individual has the autonomy in determining, what is good for him or her, but a state has a role to ensure that the primary goods or resources are available to every member in the society.

What are those primary goods?

  • Primary goods are rights, liberties, income wealth and opportunity. These are needed to pursue their goals or rational plans i.e., secondary goods.
  • According to Rawls, maximum equal liberty should be made available to everyone. The opportunity should not be limited to a few or selected groups, but to everyone. There should not be scope for envy. To create a just society, it is necessary, that the entitlements or acquisition of property or the status of individual is not envied by others. It can only, be done when such acquisition and such status is seen as just by others or everyone in the society. So, they will cherish and not envy, others status or entitlements or property.
  • So, Rawls, argues that these primary goods should be distributed equally, among all the members of society. However, any deviation, in the sense of, making some preferential treatment or to do some preferential distribution to a section of society is justified, only when it is rationally, explained. And why, that should be rationally, explained is based on the premise that individual is a rational or moral agent which requires the theory to be rationally, or morally, convincing, or justifiable.
  • So, as a procedural theory, Rawls pointed out that justice can be achieved through following a just procedure, that is an emphasis on formulating or developing a just theory, which will lead to a just outcome. And that is a kind of universalist approach..
  • Justice as a distributive concept should be based on certain procedures which can be universally, applicable without any consideration to a particular context or society.
  • Note : Universalism of Rawls has been criticised by communitarians Rawls theory of justice is egalitarian. He argues that theory of justice should be based on the notion of equality .

Methodology of Rawls

Veil Of Ignorance:

  • The way, Rawls arrive at his principle of justice is based on his hypothetical consideration of individuals in the original position, where the individual is abstracted from his or her actual, social conditions of living,kept in a condition, where he or she is ignorant about his social positions, class or any kind of discrimination that exist in society or any other personal positions and collective attributes and lives in a condition of uncertainties, as they do not know what should be the status, if such veil is removed.
  • Individual in this veil of ignorance, although would not have any particular visions of good life, but they would all be interested in maximizing the primary goods like rights, liberty, power, opportunity, income, and other goods. Individuals are aware of the basic or elementary knowledge of economics, psychology, and most importantly, a sense of justice, and other primary goods. So, in this original position or what Rawls call a veil of ignorance, individual may not be aware of what constitutes a good life, but they all would be interested in averting the risk and maximizing primary goods for every member in the society.
  • This is so, because none of the individuals, in the state of ‘veil of ignorance’ would know what their actual status in the society would be, when the veil is removed. And therefore, fearing that they themselves may end up as worse off sections in the society, they choose a principle which would maximize the opportunity and good of the worse off. So, the idea is that individual in that veil of ignorance is uncertain about its actual conditions in the society, once the veil of ignorance is removed.
  • They will device a mechanism which will benefit or maximize the primary goods of those who are the worse off. Because they may fear that they themselves may end up as the worse off section in society. So, the principle of justice assumes that individuals are risk averse and will develop a mechanism which will be in the benefit of the worse off in society. That is the central premise in the hypothetical idea of the veil of ignorance.
  • In this hypothetical situation, the individual would adopt for the least harmful procedure of distribution of goods in society. Since, Rawls believed that individuals in the state of ignorance have a sense of justice. They are not like tabula rasa. So, they do have, even in the veil of ignorance, when they are unaware of their actual status in society or the discrimination that prevails in the society, some innate sense of justice or basic economy or the psychology.
  • This sense of justice, according to Rawls, is the source of their moral judgments and motivations. So, this idea of individual being not just a rational person, but also, a moral person is very significant. The deliberation on these sets of moral judgments and motivations will lead to what Rawls calls a state of equilibrium. The moral individual be not just being moral, but also, rational. It will deliberate and reflect on those moral sets of judgments or decisions. And will arrive at a state, where there will be a kind of equilibrium.
  • That equilibrium will remove the inconsistency, in those moral decisions or moral judgments. This process of arriving at that condition, where the moral set of judgments are through rational deliberations reach a state or lead to a condition, where there will be a state of equilibrium, where they will all agree to certain moral, or general principle that would be a practical guide for individual. But if, there is some specific needs or if there is requirement for deviation that should have rational justification as well. So, this process is also, called reflective equilibrium.

Rawls’ Principles Of Justice:

  • Rawls modifies and develops the principles of justice throughout his book. Rawls makes his final clarification on the two principles of justice:
    • “Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all”.
    • “Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both:
      • a. to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and
      • b. attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.”
  • The first principle is often called the greatest equal liberty principle. Part (a) of the second principle is referred to as the difference principle . Part (b) is referred to as the equal opportunity principle.
  • Rawls orders the principles of justice lexically, as follows: 1, 2b, 2a. The greatest equal liberty principle takes priority, followed by the equal opportunity principle and finally the difference principle.
  • The first principle must be satisfied before 2b, and 2b must be satisfied before 2a. As Rawls states: “A principle does not come into play until those previous to it are either fully met or do not apply. “Therefore, the equal basic liberties protected in the first principle cannot be traded or sacrificed for greater social advantages (granted by 2(b)) or greater economic advantages (granted by 2a).
  • Individuals in Rawls, he argues, is thus, situated in a state of ignorance and still having an innate sense of justice which would arrive at these following two principles of justice. These are also, called equality principles and difference principle of justice.

Equality principle

  • The first principle is called as equality principle of justice ie each person should have equal rights to liberty or freedom. This equal right to liberty and freedom should be maximum for every individual with similar liberties or freedom to others. Thus, the equality and freedom which state should ensure that everyone should have free and equal rights, and liberty to the maximum, which is available to other members in the society.

Difference Principle

  • The second principle is difference principle, that talks about social and economic inequalities are to be arranged, so that they are of the greatest benefits to the least well-off or more precisely, if it is in the greatest benefit of the least advantaged sections in the society.
  • So, the difference principle talks about two sub principles, where 2a) is about if such inequalities in the treatment is to be done, then, it should be done on the condition, when it benefits the least well off or more precisely, the greatest benefit of the least advantaged sections in the society.
  • The 2b) principle talks about that offices and job positions are open to all and not few or selected groups, but to all under the condition of fair or just equality and opportunity. So, they can access to jobs or public offices which are made available on the principle of this fair equality of opportunity.
  • This principle of justice, it is arranged in priority wise which we call lexical priority, that means, these two principles are arranged in a specific order which we call the lexical priority, that means, he refers, a specific procedure to be followed for the implementation of these principles. So, these two principles of justice, while following and implementing must follow certain sequences or certain priorities.
  • These priorities are: the first principle should be implemented before the second. So, the preference or primary emphasis should be given to the first principle which talks about that each person should have equal rights to liberty or freedom with similar liberty to others. So, the state ensures that individuals should have equal rights or maximum equal rights to liberty and freedom. The second principle, 2b) talks about equal opportunities or fair equality, which must come before 2a). So, before the state go for the preferential treatment, state must ensure the free and equal opportunity, to offices and job positions.
  • Thus, Rawls, talks about a procedural theory of justice with some sequence, which is called as lexical priority. These principles, if implemented properly, will ensure ‘justice as fairness’. So, justice, in Rawlsian concept is not certainly, about a procedure or just procedure, but it also, equally, put emphasis on a just outcome or to create a society, which will be a fair or an egalitarian society or a just society.
  • The equality is the fundamental social virtue in the Rawlsian conception of justice aiming to ensure inviolability of human dignity.
  • Robert Nozick though, provides a substantial critique to Rawls theory of justice, he acknowledged the significance of Rawls theory of justice by claiming that everyone should work within the framework of justice as provided by Rawls or explain it why not. That is the comprehensiveness or the significance of Rawls theory of justice. It has transformative impact on many policies, discussions, and debates in political philosophy of modern times. His conception of justice re-establishes the value of justice as the first virtue of society or public institutions. It also, sought to establish a balance between two political values of liberty on the one hand and equality or what we call social equity or social justice on the other, which is often seen by many philosophers as contradictory or as something, which is incompatible with each other.
  • Rawls, while providing the most comprehensive account of justice, also, tries to balance between these two sets of political values, political equality and liberty.

Criticism Of Rawls’ Theory Of Justice:

  • C B Macpherson argues that Rawls theory of justice and its claims of universalities is very much culture specific. So, contrary to its claim of universality, C B Macpherson argues that Rawls theory of justice is very much limited to a particular, cultural context.
  • According to Macpherson, Rawls theory essentially, rationalizes liberal beliefs and values. So, despite of his claim of ‘veil of ignorance’ or the original position, according to C B Macpherson, what Rawls theory essentially does is to rationalize a liberal set of values and beliefs. That means, his theory is applicable only to a society which is a liberal society or a government or a liberal government with welfare orientation.
  • Therefore, the claim of universality is something, problematic, according to C B Macpherson. He argues that thus, it is a defense of liberal democratic governments or societies with welfare orientation. Therefore, it cannot be argued that it is something which is universally, applicable.

Amartya Sen (Capability approach):

  • His theory can be argued also, as an extension of John Rawls theory. That means, some of the values that is put forward by Rawls is acknowledged by Amartya Sen as well. Sen extended the argument of Rawls and said that we also, need to take into consideration the differential needs and requirements of different people depending upon their age, sex, gender, or genetic endowments. So, people may require different kinds of primary goods like most importantly, what people do with their primary goods. So, their capability to convert the primary goods is more important for us to take into consideration, while we are arguing or discussing about justice rather than limiting the argument merely, to distribution or re-distribution of primary sources.
  • Thus, Amartya Sen’s theory of justice is regarded as both a critique and also, an extension of Rawls theory of justice. It is known as the capability approach to justice, where the focus is not merely, on liberty or freedom, but on the capability, that means, individual capacity to make choices whether that capability is enhanced or not. It arises questions like what are the differential capabilities of different individuals. Understanding this interpersonal understanding of differential capabilities is necessary, for ensuring overall justice or ensuring that everyone is capable or has the opportunity, to live a life which they value. To ensure that the focus or emphasis should not be merely, on the primary sources or on the idea of liberty, but to see, whether individuals are capable enough, to use or convert the primary resources into skills or resources which enable them to lead a life which they, value. This is called the capability approach to justice.
  • According to Sen, in Rawlsian framework, liberty is given a central role. Although, he moves away from that position to justify difference, only if that difference is for the benefit of the least advantaged section of people. But nonetheless, even that difference is to ensure liberty or to maximize liberty of the individuals. Rawls was trying to ensure that everyone should have access to certain primary goods, which is necessary, for him or her to enjoy his or her freedom and liberty.
  • However, Sen, argues that this approach hardly, deals with the question of capabilities and needs of each individual in the society, to use such primary goods to lead a life that they value. So, firstly, the needs of a sick or a healthy person is not the same. The need of a child or an adult is not the same. Thus, there are differential needs, depending upon the sex, age, and status of the individuals which we need to consider. And most importantly, it is not just enough to distribute the primary goods, but also, to consider what individual does with those primary goods, whether they have the capability to convert these primary goods to lead a life that they value or not, whether that is happening or not, that is the major concern for Amartya Sen.
  • For Sen, it is not enough to distribute same set of primary goods to each individual. And then, assume that justice is done, and subsequent inequalities resulted out of this arrangement. That means, when you ensure the distribution of primary goods and if, that leads to inequalities in outcome, then inequalities in outcome is justified and acceptable. Sen, also, argues that this is not enough, and it is necessary, to consider that people’s capacity or capabilities to use or convert these primary goods into freedom or skill differs.
  • Thus, in the conception of justice to create a society which is just, we also, need to take into account the capabilities of individuals and to use these primary goods for the kind of a life they wish to lead or value. Hence, Sen focuses on the capabilities. Here, capabilities mean individual freedom to choose between available alternatives and also, their capabilities to convert the primary goods into the freedom or liberty or the life that they value living. Thus, capabilities in Sen’s framework represent real freedom and uphold justice. It is not merely, the primary goods which is the sufficient condition for enjoying freedom or to lead a good life or worthy life. It is necessary, but, more than that we need to strengthen the capabilities of individuals to convert these primary goods into liberty or use them to lead a life that they value. Thus, capabilities in Sen’s framework, represented real freedom and it uphold justice whereas, Rawls idea of re-distribution of primary goods is only, about means to the freedom. Rawls considered the distribution or re-distribution of goods as means for realizing the freedom or true liberty. It hardly, considers what individuals actually, do with these primary goods. Sen, on the other hand, focuses precisely, on this point as to how individual capacities or capabilities to be used as these primary goods differ. And without considering these differences, freedom or justice cannot be achieved. So, the capabilities or strengthening the capabilities is perhaps, significant for distribution or re-distribution of primary goods. Hence, he focused on the capabilities approach.

Nozick (Libertarian critique, Entitlement theory of justice)

  • He provided a substantial critique to Rawls theory of justice which he considered as the liberal and egalitarian theory of justice. His own theory of justice is regarded as the libertarian conception of justice. He did provide a critique to Rawls theory of justice, but he also, acknowledged the significance of Rawls theory of justice, where he argues that everyone should now work within the framework of justice as provided by Rawls or to explain why not. However, he provides a libertarian critique to Rawls liberal and egalitarian theory of justice, where he differs from Rawls idea of re-distribution, and considers it as the infringement on individual freedom and liberty.
  • For the libertarian, the value of liberty or freedom is absolute. The liberty or freedom is considered as self-justified, it does not require further justification. The following idea from this absolute notion of liberty is about the self- ownership. So, individual as a rational, selfdefining, autonomous individual has the rationality or right to own himself or to own his or her property. So, the Rawls egalitarian conception of re-distribution is in a sense, from the libertarian perspective, an infringement of individual freedom and liberty. Therefore, Nozick argued for a minimalist state. The term minimalist state means the state which has a limited role to play. Nozick again criticized Rawls but do acknowledged the role of a state. Unlike, an anarchist who questions the very legitimacy or existence of a state and want to do away with any form of institutions or the state,
  • Nozick, defends the existence of a state. However, unlike, Rawls who want the state to take up the role of re-distribution of primary goods or maintaining welfare, Nozick considered having a minimalist state. That means, it gives very minimum function to the state and to leave the individual with maximum freedom or maximum liberty, which must not be compromised for some other social and political higher goals and ideals. Rawls gave extensive role to the state. In contrast, Nozick argued that state should have a very minimum role to play, and it should not indulge in any welfare or re-distributive activities.
  • The state, according to Nozick should be limited to fulfil the functions like to provide protection against force, theft, fraud, or enforcement of contract. The minimum role of the state is to ensure in law and order in society. So, state must ensure law and order.
  • For Nozick, the principle of equality is incompatible with the principle of liberty. Although, Rawls and Nozick seems to have started from the same position, that is to say, that they both value liberty. Liberty remains the priority for Rawls. He calls for distribution or re-distribution of primary goods is to ensure that everyone should have the chance or opportunity, to maximize his liberty or freedom. For Rawls, as for Nozick, liberty is of some significant value. However, both Nozick and Rawls drifted from each other, when it comes to realizing the notion of liberty. For Nozick, liberty and freedom is the primary objective.
  • Thus, Rawls, although give primacy to liberty, he wanted to balance the ideal of liberty on the one hand, and the quest for equality and social justice on the other that makes Rawlsian conception of justice, more egalitarian and inclusive.
  • Nozick’s theory of justice defends absolute property rights of the individuals. Now, this absolute property rights of individual are an extension of the idea of self-ownership or selfdefining individuals having the capacity to create wealth and own wealth. And if, that ownership of wealth is just, then state or any other bodies have no right to take away the wealth in the name of some higher goods and ideals.
  • So, Nozick’s theory of justice defends absolute property rights of the individuals. It is also, regarded as entitlement theory of justice which means, whatever arises from a just procedure is itself just. Thus, anything which is owned created or transferred, according to just procedure is just. Somebody who had rightful ownership of property may transfer it justly, to some other person. Now, that other person who acquired this property to transfer by just means, their ownership is just, and the state must not interfere in the legal or just transfer of such property. This entitlement theory of justice rests on these twin principles of just acquisition and just transfer.
  • So, if one acquires property in a just manner without resorting to fraud or illegal activities, then your acquisition is just, similarly, with a just transfer. If the ownership of property is through just transfer, then that ownership is perfectly, legitimate and state must not interfere with that ownership. Since the state has a minimum role to play and it should not according to, Nozick undertake any welfare or distributive roles.
  • Nozick argued about the rectification principle that is, if property is owned and transferred through fraudulent means, through unjust means, then he argued that state has a role to interfere and re-distribute that property.
  • However, he gives more importance to the first two principles, that is just acquisition or just transfer, and give very little or minimum focus on this principle of rectification which is the basis of Rawls conception of re-distribution of primary goods. So, in Nozick, what we find is that liberty and absolute property rights remained central to his conception of justice.

Communitarian conception of justice:

  • The main focus of communitarian critique of Rawls theory of justice is the idea of individual. For Rawls, and many other liberals, the individual is seen as a self-defining, autonomous rational subject, which takes decision on its own.
  • Whereas communitarian believes that individual is the member of society or community. That membership of a society and community determines the notion of good or just in the individual. It is not the individual capacity or rationality that determines what is good or just, but it is the society or the community which determines for the individual, what is good and just. So, the conception that we have about good and just are socially, determined and not by the act of individual rationality. So, the main focus of communitarian critique of Rawls theory of justice is the idea of individuals abstracted from their real actual social positions and put in some hypothetical original situation or what is also called the ‘veil of ignorance’ in his theory which becomes the foundation of universal idea of justice. However communitarians stand for particularistic approach to justice.
  • In Rawls individuals are abstracted from their actual social positions that means, they do not know their status in the society. And yet, they pick up through reflective equilibrium a theory of justice, which would be the foundation of universal theory of justice. Communitarians critique this kind of abstraction of individuals. They argue that such a ‘stripped-down ‘individual will be unable to make choices. Communitarians argue that individuals are determined by their communitarian contexts and the choices they make are determined by their notion of what is good and this notion of good is not a rational act ,rather it is created and held together by what the community-to which the individual belongs-thinks of as being the ‘good’.
  • Michael Sandel and Michael Walzer are two prominent communitarians who critiqued Rawls theory of justice. They argued that such isolated or abstract individuals do not exist. In contrast to the liberal conception, communitarian’s conception of self is an embedded self. The term embedded self means, the individual is already, always, embedded in the life of the community of which he or she is a member. So, one cannot think of through thought experiment, the individual is isolated and abstracted from the society. They argued that without a social or community life, individuals will not have any sense of good or justice that means, individuals are part of a pre-existing social organization, which enables them to make choices.
  • In other words, the conception of good or just is not the result of individual rationality,and determination as liberals would argue. Rather these are the means, the notion ofgood and justice are constructed and held together by the community where each individual is a member. Thus, contrary to the liberals, they believed the idea of good, and justice is socially, constructed and determined. It is not the result of individual rationality and autonomy. Therefore, the notion of good or just differs from community to community. So, different communities have different notions of good or different notions of justice. That cannot be determined beforehand or ‘a priori’.
  • So, in communitarian conception of justice, we also, find that they take into account the cultural or community or context specificities or particularities, when they argued for justice or how to ensure justice in the society. So, they do not argue for a kind of hypothetical abstract or experimental notion of justice, but they want to engage with the local particularities or community specificities, and through them, they try to develop or construct a sense of justice or good.
  • Michael Sandel, in his Liberalism and Limits of Justice and Democracy’s Discontent, he questions the ideas of self and state neutrality.
  • So, the self, we have discussed as communitarian has argued that self is always, an embedded self, and not really, the abstract or isolated autonomous rational self as liberals would like us to believe. The other point which we need to focus is the idea of state neutrality. So, all the state liberals would argue that state must maintain neutrality that means, it must not take side when there are differences of opinions of different groups, and state must maintain neutrality. The communitarians, like Michael Sandel question this liberal position on state neutrality. And he, argues that on many social and political issues state cannot remain neutral.
  • This idea of state neutrality may be used to protect groups like neo-Nazis or racists or the fundamentalist that may have a detrimental effect on the democratic possibilities of those individuals, especially, who are members of the historically, subordinated groups of people. So, democracy has a positive impact. It includes those who were excluded from the participation or governance or from the administration.
  • So, it has ever inclusive tendency. But, if that democracy maintains neutrality, then it is also, possible that such neutrality may be used by the fundamentalists or racists or the neo-Nazis forces to radically, mark the possibilities of those groups or individuals, who are part of the historically, subordinated groups. It may prevents the communities to democratically, realize their conception of goods.
  • Therefore, Michael Sandel argues that state must also, ensure that justice is done and democracy is strengthened, to belief and keep faith in democracy alive, especially, for those who are from the subordinated or disadvantaged groups. So, contrary to the liberal argument of state neutrality, Michael Sandel argues for state intervention to ensure justice in the society.
  • Michael Walzer’s critique of liberal conception of justice is much beyond its conception of self or state neutrality. Michael Walzer,moves beyond the conception of self or state neutrality, and rejects the universalist aspiration of liberals who seek to construct a theory of justice that would be applicable to all cultures, universally. Walzer’s basic point is that no system of justice can be evaluated as inherently just or unjust; evaluation is possible only on the basis of social meanings attached to the goods at stake. For example Walzer argues a as long as all members of the society share the social meanings of the caste system, justice would constitute being true to those meanings and upholding the principle of distribution that follows from it. Thus the distribution of goods cannot be decided without understanding the specific meanings of those goods which are socially constructed and embedded in the community, its practices and institutions rather than in individual deeds and thoughts. Justice thus can only be understood in the communal framework and not on the basis of abstract, universal principles.
  • Michael Walzer’s own conception of justice is a pluralist conception of justice. So, giving pluralist account of justice, Walzer, argues that justice is a human construct and not a kind of hypothetical thought, experiment or abstract ideas. It has to be constructed among the actual, real individuals, groups, and societies. And groups and societies mayhave different conceptions of goods or justice. Unlike, liberals, who believes ina theory of justice which will have universal application, Michael Walzer talks about thepluralist conception of justice, where different communities and cultures may have their own conception of good and justice, and yet justice can be ensured.So, Walzer, argues that justice is a human construct. And if, we consider the history,culture, and membership of different societies, they might have different conceptions ofsocial good or justice. Thus, the conception of social good or justice will vary fromcommunity to community or culture to culture. The notion of good in a liberal societywill vary from notion of good in a caste ridden, hierarchical society or in a society which is deeply, religious or theocratic society.
  • Michael Walzer’s own conception of distributive justice is based on the premise of ‘complex equality’.And by ‘complex equality’, he means, no citizen standing in one sphere or with regard to one social good can be undercut by his standing in some other spheres with regard to some other goods. So, the idea of ‘complex equality’ is a bit different from simple equality. Here, Michael Walzer argues that there are possibilities that one individual may have a superior or dominant position in one sphere of life, but ‘complex equality’ must ensure that such domination or such superiority in one sphere of life must not automatically, extend in other spheres of life or other walks of life.
  • For example, if one has enough money, one can have access to better healthcare, education opportunity and so on. Those do not have the money; they may not have as better opportunities in education or employment or health. So, Michael Walzer argues against that kind of extension of position from one sphere of life to another sphere of life.
  • The ‘complex equality’ in a way, checks the domination or superiority of one person in all spheres of life. It requires different distributive spheres, be autonomous from each other and superiority in one sphere must not result in the superiority in other spheres. So, only then, domination can be checked and proper equality and justice for everyone can be ensured. Thus, everyone should have an opportunity or access to have a better position in different spheres of life, and so not to be concentrated or limited to only, a few sections or few individuals in the society.

Feminist critique of Rawls’ justice theory:

  • The feminist conception of justice, to combine justice with the notion of care and to have a society which is just and free from gender discrimination to have a gender just society or a peaceful society. They argue on the need to combine the ethics of care with the notion of justice. More precisely, they emphasis on the way of reasoning or thinking, that is contrary, to what we normally call universal, abstract, and objective conceptions of justice. Basically, a feminist theorist argue that they are looking for a specific concept of justice which will not just talk about a broader, universal, or abstract kind of theory of justice, but deals with the issues pertaining to women, particularly, the issue of injustices based on discrimination, such as gender division discrimination or related violence.
  • Feminists like Catherine Mackinnon and Joan Tronto are against the sexist or stereotypical way of thinking about women’s morality. So, in the sexist, stereotypical way of thinking about women and their role and morality, these are reduced merely to the idea of care, nurture, love, compassion, and peace. This universal, abstract, rational, objective thinking and theorization, is therefore, regarded as something, which can be done by the male or main member only. So, the discrimination that is based on the division of the role between men and women is also, very problematic in the feminist conception of justice. Many feminist scholars have criticized the ways that regard rationality and objective impersonal thinking as male ethics of Justice.
  • Because, women are only considered as compassionate beings who cares, loves, and is a nurturer. Therefore, women are considered as incapable of thinking in the objective, impersonal, or in a universal sense. Most of the debates in political theory revolve around this issue that is, pertaining to the public or political. And, the private sphere is seen as something, different to the public. Many feminists have criticized this dichotomy.
  • Therefore, the injustices that is reproduced in family is not seriously, taken into consideration when they theorize about any notion of justice or liberty. So, the feminist scholars question this kind of argument which overlooks the injustices that is reproduced or perpetuated in the sphere of family, itself which is largely, seen as a matter pertaining to the personal life.
  • Many other feminists argued that ethics of care should be made effective on the grounds of providing justice. For providing justice, the notion or ethics of care should be made effective (Carole Gilligan) .They are of the opinion that care and justice are complementary in nature. So, we cannot think about justice without the notion of care. Thus, feminist theorists try to bring together care and justice. These two things are not in opposition to each other but they want to project or present a theory of justice which also, includes the notion of care. Thus, the care is not excluded from the notion of justice.

Susan Moller Okin , Book- Justice, Gender and Family

  • The ethics of care or nurture supplements or in a sense, complements the theory of justice. So, Okin, argued that a gender free society will ensure and nurture a society which is devoid of sexist discrimination and stereotypical attitudes towards women and their rights. She is not certain, whether Rawls original position can deal with the feminist justice. Because, it has not dealt with the family structure and thus, it could not provide a gender just society.
  • So, feminist scholars are sceptical of the Rawlsian theory of justice, precisely, because, it overlooks the fact that family as an institution itself, perpetuate injustices. She has the apprehension about the theory of justice in Rawls which overlooks the existence of injustices in the family. So, Okin, claims that abolition of gender is necessary, to fulfil Rawls objective of political justice. They acknowledge the significance of Rawls theory of justice, where they argued that to realize it, to make it effective, one needs to abolish the gender-based discriminations or injustices prevalent in the society. She also, argued that Rawls theory needs rethinking over the question of division of labour within families. Rawls accept family as the basic structure of society for which the principles of justice being chosen. But he does not think it necessary to ponder over injustices within the family structures.
  • Okin’s suggestion while retaining the Rawlsian spirit is to deny people in the original position any knowledge of whether they are men or women and then insist that they undertake an evaluation of the family, for it is part of the basic structure of the society.This, she argues, will result in an evaluation of the injustices with the family and thus a truly humanist notion of justice could be created.
  • So, the idea of justice is not merely, about re-distribution of goods and resources, but also, to create a society which will be more equal, free and peaceful. To do that one needs to take into account, a particular or specific requirement of different sections of the society, particularly, those who are vulnerable such as women. They believed that the feminist conception of justice is also, associated with the pursuit of peace.
  • In this way, we find in the feminist theorization of justice, they not only, provide a criticism to Rawls theory of justice which overlooks the injustices in the family, but also,tries to bind the ethics of care to the theory of justice together.
  • Carole Pateman in The Sexual Contract located patriarchy, and gave it a history, within the original contract. By identifying the sexual contract as being part of the original contract, conventional assumptions about contract are subverted completely. The orthodox interpretation of contract, as the basis of freedom, is dealt a critical blow as Pateman meticulously argues that freedom is predicated on subordination. Thus her “big message”, was that “men governed women” while political theory promulgated a myth that all citizens of the social contract are equal. It was this powerful myth, embedded in notions of contract, that obscured the fact of women’s subordination. She points that this sexual contract is not discussed by Rawls in its original position. It is only men who are contracting, and women are born into subjugation. The representation in the original position is sexless. Through history, Pateman argues, the contract doctrine rules with an iron hand and subjugation of women has never ceased.

Cohen: A Marxist Perspective on Distributive Justice (Book: Rescuing Justice and Equality)

  • Though Rawls does not defend unregulated capitalism and advances a theory of justice that would entail a significant redistribution of income to the worst off, yet Rawls restricts the principles of justice to the basic structure of society, and that conceals exploitation.
  • The difficulty is that the theory itself pulls in two different directions: on the one hand Rawls assumes that we – that is, ‘we’ in the real world, and not in the original position – can develop a commitment to giving priority to the worst off in society, and the difference principle is the structural device by which this is achieved. But how much the worst off receive will depend on everyday human behaviour.
Amartya Sen’s Theory of Justice
  • Sen (1979) presented his account of capabilities as an alternative to the Rawlsian approach. Sen believes that Rawls failed to take sufficient note of the diversity of individuals and therefore their relative abilities to convert primary goods into their own account of the good. For Sen , Rawls’ approach “is not merely ignoring a few hard cases, but overlooking very widespread and real differences” as individuals vary in their “health, longevity, climatic conditions, location, work condition and even body size.” Sen takes the case of a severely disabled individual as an example. If we focus only on holdings of primary goods, this individual would not be granted any redistribution on the grounds of his impairment according to Rawls’ difference principle. The crux of Sen’s critique goes further than the case of disabled people, but more broadly expresses concerns that primary goods holdings alone are an inadequate metric of justice given people’s interindividual differences. This, Sen argues, can result in “unjustified inequality and unfairness.” What we should be focussing on is people’s capabilities to function. For Sen, the real opportunities that an individual must pursue her own life plan depend not only on her holdings of primary goods, but also on a variety of factors that influence the extent to which she can use her p In his book The Idea of Justice he tells the engaging story of three children, Ann, Bob, and Carla, who are quarreling over the fate of a flute. Ann claims the flute on the basis that she is the only one who can play it, Bob claims it because he has no other toys to play with whereas the others do, and Carla’s claim is based on the fact that she made the flute in the first place. All these statements are taken to be true, and Sen’s point is that one can produce intuitively plausible reasons for giving the flute to any one of the children. Utilitarian’s—and for different reasons, would favor Ann, egalitarians Bob, libertarians Carla, but the real point here is that there is no reason to assume, as Rawls and most of his followers do, that we have to decide which of these answers is the right one. Sometimes there is simply a plurality of “right” answers. The idea that there is only one kind of just society—a liberal society defined by principles set out in Rawls’s model—and that all others represent a falling off from this ideal does not seem a plausible response to the pluralism that undoubtedly exists in the modern world.
  • Professor Sen took cue of the early Indian jurisprudence to shed light on the different concepts of justice, ‘Niti’ and the ‘Nyaya’. Drawing on the Sanskrit literature on ethics and jurisprudence, he outlines a distinction between Niti and nyaya; both of these terms can be translated as “justice,” but they summarize rather different notions. Niti refers to correct procedures, formal rules, and institutions; nyaya is a broader, more inclusive concept that looks to the world that emerges from the institutions we create, rather than focusing directly on the institutions themselves. The idea of Niti relates to organizational propriety as well as behavioral correctness, whereas the latter, nyaya, is concerned with what emerges and how, and in particular the lives that people are actually able to lead.In other words it is necessary to assess the roles of institutions on the basis of fact that how much inclusiveness is reflected in them i.e., in the broader perspective of nyaya, which pertains to the world that actually emerges and not just constricted to the institutions that we possess.
  • He proposed a realization-focused approach ,makes it easy to see the importance of the prevention of manifest injustice in the world, rather than focusing on the search for perfection. As the example of matsyanyaya makes clear, the subject of justice is not merely about trying to achieve – or dreaming about achieving – some perfectly just society or social arrangements, but about preventing manifestly severe injustice (like avoiding the dreadful state of matsyanyaya).
  • For example, when people agitated for the abolition of slavery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they were not laboring under the illusion that the abolition of slavery would make the world perfectly just. It was their claim, rather, that a society with slavery was totally unjust. That much, they argued, was clear, even if it might be very hard to identify (not to mention, achieve) a perfectly just society.
  • Even though the arrangement – centered perspective of Niti is often interpreted in ways that make the presence of appropriate institutions themselves adequate to satisfy the demands of justice, the broader perspective of nyaya would indicate the necessity of examining what social realizations are actually generated through that institutional base.
  • Such a system can help to incorporate and accommodate divergent points of view. Sen also visualizes a set of principles for justice for the modern world that will avoid parochialism and address the vital questions of global injustice.
  • In, The Idea of Justice, Amartya Sen, among other things, discusses certain qualities any adequate theory of justice ought to incorporate. Two important qualities a theory of justice should account for are impartiality/objectivity and sensitivity to consequences. To explain his discussion of sensitivity to consequences, Sen discusses the debate between Krishna and Arjuna from the religio-philosophical Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita. According to Sen, Arjuna represents a sensitivity to consequences while Krishna is an archetypal deontologist.

An overlapping consensus (John Rawls)

  • In a later book, Political Liberalism (first published 1993), Rawls engages in a critique of the earlier work, arguing that it did not fully account for the ‘fact of reasonable pluralism’. He had assumed that in a ‘well ordered’ society there was a widely, and deeply, shared moral code. But this belief does not, he accepts, Rawls does not abandon the idea of the original position, but his interpretation of it undergoes a significant change.
  • A central point of Political Liberalism, as indicated by its title, is that a theory of justice must be political, meaning that its motivational force must derive from a, circumscribed, sphere of life, and not from a ‘comprehensive’ moral standpoint.
  • Rawls lists several features of human interaction that explain why reasonable people can disagree: evidence is conflicting and complex; different weights can be attached to different considerations; concepts are vague etc which Rawls call as Burdens of Judgement.
  • From the idea of reasonable pluralism Rawls explains how citizens, from a variety of different reasonable comprehensive conceptions of the good can come to respect liberal political institutions. We develop an ‘overlapping consensus’: Each reasonable comprehensive doctrine endorses the political conception from its own standpoint.
  • Individuals work towards liberal principles from mutually incompatible comprehensive perspectives, and respect for those principles is built on the overlap between them. Rawls argues that his theory of justice is not a comprehensive conception of the good but rather is compatible with a liberal conception of the role of justice—that is, the government should be neutral in competitions between two forces of good. He argues that his two principles of justice form what he calls a “theory of the right,” and as such can be supported by all reasonable individuals even in a pluralistic society. He calls this “overlapping consensus.” He realized that his concept of justice as fairness needs refining and that the kind of stability needed in a democratic society with a pluralism of reasonable but differing moral views. Originally, he had characterized justice as a reasonable comprehensive doctrine .
  • The failure of his conception of justice was that it did not distinguish between two different kinds of moral conceptions—one of a comprehensive moral theory addressing the problem of justice, and one of a political conception of justice independent of a comprehensive theory. This led to his new conception of justice as explained in the followup.
  • Rawls argues that a moral theory is comprehensive when it applies to a wide range of subjects and includes conceptions of what is of value in human life, as well as in personal virtue and character. This is different from a political conception that is worked out for a specific subject. The political conception of justice has its basis in ideas from the public political culture, and as such, it is heavily based on one’s own conceptions and politics.
  • However, Rawls’s conception is based on fundamental ideas underpinning a democratic society—that society is a fair system of cooperation over time, that citizens are free and equal, and that society should be well ordered and fair for all.
  • This has resulted in several changes from Rawls’s previous work.
  • Originally, Rawls not only justified the principles of justice, he specified the political setting that would give rise to the institutions needed for it. However, now he only seeks to show that a specific set of principles is compatible with a democratic society marked by reasonable pluralism. There is also a change in justifying justice as fairness. Now there are two stages—first, it must be shown that it is fully compatible with a democratic society, and it must also be shown to be a freestanding, independent view free of doctrine. Rawls argues that his political conception would be preferred by reasonable people over any other, by introducing the element of an overlapping consensus. This is the idea that all the reasonable opposing views and philosophies would be able to find common ground in this concept. This is because it has its basis in the fundamental principles of a democratic society and because it makes no controversial claims about other reasonable comprehensive views. It is neutral, and as such, Rawls claims his principles of justice would be able to find an overlapping consensus. He contrasts this with another sort of consensus, called the modus vivendi, which is based on mutual self-interest rather than agreement. He argues his conception is far more stable in the long-term.
  • Thus he shows that a just society ought to encompass major disagreements among its citizens about values and “conceptions of the good;” Whereas A Theory of Justice attempted to situate this liberal conception of justice within the larger tradition of moral philosophy, Political Liberalism seeks to remove justice as fairness from moral philosophy and to consider it a political conception only. Rawls did not renounce justice as fairness. He still thought that it is the best theory of justice, but he came to believe that his earlier account of how citizens can accept it was mistaken.
  • A modern democratic society is characterized not simply by a pluralism of comprehensive religious, philosophical, and moral doctrines but by a pluralism of incompatible yet reasonable comprehensive doctrines. No one of these doctrines is affirmed by citizens generally. Nor should one expect that in the foreseeable future one of them, or some other reasonable doctrine, will ever be affirmed by all, or nearly all, citizens. Political liberalism assumes that, for political purposes, a plurality of reasonable yet incompatible comprehensive doctrines is the normal result of the exercise of human reason within the framework of the free institutions of a constitutional democratic regime. Political liberalism also supposes that a reasonable comprehensive doctrine does not reject the essentials of a democratic regime.
  • So, to start, Rawls recognizes that modern society is not based on consensus around the major values or issues; rather, individuals differ in their commitments about rights, justice, and the good human life. How in the context of this pluralism of important value systems, is it possible for a modern society to nonetheless possess the features of civility and stability that we would desire?
  • One prior thought we may have had about a liberal society is that the state establishes no more than a neutral system of law, within the context of which individuals can pursue their own separate and incompatible conceptions of the right and the good. So the liberal state is a neutral state — one that gives no privilege to one conception of the good over another.
  • Neutrality is certainly part of the ideal of a liberal state; but it isn’t quite enough. The reason is that some conceptions of the good and the right require the intervention of the state for enforcement.
  • To overcome this contradiction, neutrality is not enough. We need to add a commitment to democratic, constitutional procedures as being the moral trump card when it comes to legislation about areas of conflict based on fundamental disagreements about the right and the good. Essentially this comes down to a second-order commitment that every citizen needs to share: When policy issues arise that lead to profound disagreement among blocs of citizens, the right solution is the procedurally correct solution arrived at through legitimate democratic processes. In other words, all citizens need to put their commitment to legitimate democratic procedures ahead of their commitment to a particular conception of the good and the right. Democratic values supersede religious, political, and moral convictions when there is no choice but to legislate an issue. Citizens are entitled to argue their case for or against proposed legislation; but they are then morally obligated to accept the democratically chosen outcome as a legitimate resolution of the issue.
  • Rawls captures this conundrum with the idea of toleration: the idea that citizens must tolerate and respect the strongly held convictions of their fellow citizens, even while participating in a political process that leads to legislation that is inconsistent with those convictions.
  • But why would one accept the moral necessity of toleration? Doesn’t this mean sacrificing one’s own moral convictions to the will of a contrary majority? And doesn’t this imply that one’s own convictions are tentative and conditional?
  • The answer seems to go along something like these lines. When one is a member of a society, one recognizes the inevitable fact of the kind of fundamental pluralism Rawls has described here. This means that society will sometimes legislate about issues concerning which reasonable citizens disagree, based on fundamental moral convictions on both sides.
  • So, the citizen is asked to bracket his/her particular moral convictions when considering outcomes, even as he/she is free to vigorously argue on the basis of those convictions during the process leading up to legislation. The citizen is asked to take a double perspective on his/her own moral convictions: first-person, that these are my convictions, and they seem binding and justified from my point of view; and third-person, that there is disagreement about these matters, and the only defensible process for resolving the issue is the democratic process in which each person’s reasons count as much as every other person’s. This is something like Thomas Nagel’s understanding of altruism in The Possibility of Altruism ; the individual is asked to recognize the moral reality of other persons and not to assign a privileged role to his/her own perspective.
  • A key part of Rawls’s own solution to this problem of democratic pluralism is the idea of an “overlapping consensus” among citizens. Such a consensus consists of all the reasonable opposing religious, philosophical, and moral doctrines likely to persist over generations and to gain a sizable body of adherents in a just constitutional regime, a regime in which the criterion of justice is that political conception itself. In such a consensus, the reasonable doctrines endorse the political conception, each from its own point of view. Social unity is based on a consensus on the political conception; and stability is possible when the doctrines making up the consensus are affirmed by society’s politically active citizens and the requirements of justice are not too much in conflict with citizens’ essential interests as formed and encouraged by their social arrangements.
  • Political liberalism is a moral conception concerned only with the basic structure of a society and presented as a view that is independent of any comprehensive doctrine. Its fundamental terms—such as the idea of individuals as free and equal citizens—are derived from the public political culture of a liberal democracy. Political liberalism recommends its principles as a way of fairly resolving disagreements in a pluralistic society; it does not expect free and equal citizens to agree on one comprehensive conception.
  • So, the ideal here is the notion that some set of constitutional arrangements may be acceptable from all points of view — from Christian to libertarian to Muslim to socialist. This hope seems to rest on the idea that a neutral, democratic set of political institutions give the best opportunity for the adherents of any particular theory of the good to pursue their interests; so, each of the “reasonable opposing religious doctrines” may have good reason to endorse the neutral democratic constitution.
  • What makes this a consensus of any kind is not the notion that there is an overlapping set of values that persist across all the comprehensive doctrines; rather, it is the hope that there will be at least one political arrangement that can serve as the consensus choice of all the incompatible comprehensive doctrines.
  • So ,what is a political liberal, according to Rawls?
  • It seems to boil down to this. It is a moral individual who has his/her own conception of the good and set of fundamental doctrines; who recognizes nonetheless that he/she is a member of a polity that is fundamentally plural when it comes to conceptions of the good; who recognizes that there is no basis for insisting on privilege for one’s own conception of the good; and who recognizes the moral legitimacy of constitutional democratic procedures when it is necessary to decide among policies that involve conflicting conceptions of the good. It is a person who puts civic commitment to constitutional democratic processes ahead of one’s one fundamental convictions when necessary. And it is a person who is fully committed to ensuring the neutrality of the state across fundamental convictions.
  • Neutrality of law across persons and conceptions of the good, full recognition of fundamental pluralism within a modern society, respect for the equal worth of all other citizens, and a recognition that one’s own beliefs have no basis for being privileged over those of other citizens — these are the fundamental commitments of a political liberal.
  • From the idea of reasonable pluralism Rawls explains how citizens, from a variety of different reasonable comprehensive conceptions of the good can come to respect liberal political institutions.They develop an ‘overlapping consensus’: it is for citizens as part of their liberty of conscience individually to work out how liberal values relate to their own comprehensive conceptions, where a ‘comprehensive conception’ could be a religious belief system. Each reasonable comprehensive doctrine endorses the political conception from its own standpoint. Individuals work towards liberal principles from mutually incompatible comprehensive perspectives, and respect for those principles is built on the overlap between them.
  • The political conception on which the overlapping consensus converges is free-standing in the sense that it does not depend for its justification on any of the comprehensive views. It is “worked up” from the fundamental intuitive ideas that are implicit in the public culture of a democratic society .
  • Rawls does not assert that an overlapping consensus is achievable in every liberal society. Nor does he say that, once established, an overlapping consensus must forever endure. Citizens in some societies may have too little in common to converge on a liberal political conception of justice. In other societies, unreasonable doctrines may spread until they overwhelm liberal institutions.
  • Rawls does hold that history shows both convergence in beliefs and deepening trust among citizens in many liberal societies. This gives hope that an overlapping consensus is at least possible. Where an overlapping consensus is possible, Rawls believes, it is the best support for social stability that a free society can achieve.

Rawls’s framework for global justice

  • Rawls book ‘The Law of People’ is a book written on the international relations. In this book, Rawls has tried that how the subject matter of justice in state can be taken out from the liberalist concept of justice which is like justice of fairness but is more elaborative than this.
  • As on the national level, citizens are the partners of agreement, similarly on international level, there are many states which are given the name of ‘Society of Peoples’. Though ‘The law of peoples’ is basically, a part of liberalist foreign policy, but all the states about which Rawls talks about are not liberalist.
  • This book focuses on a little difficult work of developing the international rules which will be implemented on an extreme, liberal, and non-liberal societies. In this first Rawls establishes an international concept of justice of liberal people (state). Here Rawls’s people’s concept is different from the traditional concept of state become he does not give the right to uncontrolled wars to the states. In order to create the international concept of justice, Rawls imagines a theoretical basic condition where the sensible representatives of liberalist society will collect, and they will take a decision about ‘Laws of Peoples’.
  • These representatives of every state collect together with an aims to finalize such rules which will rules the condition of their organization. Rules emerged through this process will be the subject list of ‘Law of People’. These are mainly 8 rules:
    1. People (Ruled by their Government) are independent and self-reliant and their independence and self-reliance must be respected by the others.
    2. In their agreement everyone is equal and partners.
    3. People have a right to self-defense but have no right of war.
    4. People should follow the rule of non-interference.
    5. People should follow the agreements and pacts.
    6. In the context of the management of war some people should follow some specific restrictions (i.e., this can be fought only for self-defense).
    7. People should respect the human rights.
    8. People should have a duty to help such people who are living in such adverse circumstances which are becoming obstacles in obtaining a just and respectable political and social rule.
  • Rawls main challenge was not only to find an international theory of justice for liberalist states but also, to develop such a theory which can be implemented on those when he can divide in non-liberal and non-western (decent and non-decent peoples).
  • From decent people, Rawls implies to those states which do not give complete political equality to their citizens but do take their consultation on same policies and guarantee them for the rights such as life, freedom, wealth, and formal equality. Rawls logic is that liberalist people should respect such people because to tolerate. The perspective of the other world is the basic element of the liberalism and then deny for the respect will only increase bitterness. However, It is compulsory for decent societies to safeguard human rights, which are specific type of contemporary rights which include subjects like freedom from slavery, massacre and freedom of conscious. For Rawls these are the minimum conditions for human rights and are not equivalent to the wide public rights given by the liberalist states.
  • After the decent and liberalist society, Rawls focuses on the point that how the society of people will deal with the non-decent. He divides non-decent in two parts — Those nondecent people who are to outlawed state i.e. who are always ready to accept the war for their imaginary benefits and secondly, that burdened society whose historical, social and economic circumstances are rising problems in creating a well organized society. According to Rawls the objective of foreign policy will be to bring the people of burdened society in the main stream of society of people. According to Rawls is that these burdened societies should be given a chance for self management so that ultimately they become the part of the main streams of the society of peoples.
  • On international level, Rawls does not consider inequality as a problem and he also believes that no state is compelled to finish it. Only compulsion of the societies of all states is to guard a basic minimum level for every-one. Once this level is achieved then after this there is no other responsibility left. So responsibility is only towards the help of the burdened society which are unable to create a well-organized society due to the adverse circumstances (whether historical or natural). Another responsibility of well-organized societies is to encourage the respect towards the human rights among the other societies which Rawls defines as the right of security and survival. Those states who remain unsuccessful in respecting the rights of their citizen came under the category of outlawed states and which encourage the well-organized states for many types of interference so that the respect for the human rights can be brought back.
  • Important fact is that in this concept global justice of Rawls there is no extension of the distributive justice given in “A Theory of Justice”. Many critics of Rawls had a hope that Rawls would implement differential principle on the global level in which prosperous countries will be compelled to implement world treasure theory for the development of the poorest countries or at least will supply primary goods for these countries. But Rawls differentiates between a national society and society of peoples. There can be duty of the wealthy society that they give assurance of supply of the necessities of the people but there is no logic of redistribution of wealth. So, in the context of global justice Rawls limits himself to the responsibilities under international law, human rights and international peace.

Amartya Sen on Global Justice

  • According to Amartya Sen, while thinking about the merits and demerits of globalization, it is necessary to think about the necessity of the justice. Many reasons can be given of the logic that globalization is a good objective, but it is very difficult to remove the doubts of many people in the world about it. Globalization requires corrections so that everyone likes it. The basis of the justice is fair distribution of resources. So, the important question in the context of globalization is whether the benefits of the globalization been distributed correctly and acceptably. In other words, the question is if they can get comparatively better justice by less unequal distribution than by economic, social, and political opportunities and if it is so then what will be the national and international arrangements for this. This is the real issue. In the context of globalization these should be a trial of a corrected worldly arrangement and there should be comparatively better justice and better distribution of opportunities.
  • Amartya Sen on the contrary to Rawls talks about the redistributive justice by changing the present ideology of globalization. Though this is not in favour of the neo-liberalist world market economy, yet he believes that solution is not in finishing this market economy. But the most important factor to be added to this is the social security. Both reforms in market economy and social security can bring a downfall in the present level of inequality and poverty. On the global level, in the context of the justice we need to develop this kind of inter dependence to bring prosperity, equality and security.
  • Another aspect to think about is the relation between the human rights and removal of poverty as Amartya Sen writes that economic progress is not possible in a right manner till it is not joined with the citizen freedom (like freedom of expression and freedom to collect). Those Governments who guard the human rights in fact also assure that the economic developed will be largely enjoyed by the people there will be less possibility that corruption will interfere in the works of such people and businessmen who follow the law. Many surveys have clarified that govts have tension of diminishing of human rights by police and bureaucrats in the same portion as they have towards the reformed economic possibilities.

Communitarian Perspective on Justice

  • Communitarian perspective on justice is best understood by contrasting it with liberal perspective.
  • Will Kymlicka in ‘Contemporary Political Philosophy—An Introduction’ has observed: Communitarians believe that the value of community is not sufficiently recognized in liberal theories of justice, or in the public culture of liberal societies.
  • Broadly speaking, liberalism holds that an individual should be left free to pursue his selfinterest solely on the condition that his freedom does not come in the way of similar freedom of others. On the contrary, communitarians hold that an individual finds self-fulfillment by accepting the prevalent social roles, practices and situations within the community, and not in isolation from his fellow-beings.
  • Thus, against the liberal concept of ‘isolated self, communitarianism introduces the concept of ‘situated self. While liberalism defines the common good as the sum of individual goods, communitarianism on the other hand, treats the common good as one entity, which is the source of good for everyone.
  • Communitarians view also differs from liberal view on the respective status of ‘right’ and ‘good’ in determining the principles of justice. Liberal theory of justice, particularly Rawls’s theory of justice, accords priority to ‘right’ over ‘good’. For communitarians, on the other hand, the ‘right’ implies virtue, and when we accept the ‘good’, the right has already been taken care of.
  • Alasdaire Macintyre an early exponent of communitarianism, in his essay After Virtue (1981) ridiculed the liberal notion of individuals as ‘autonomous moral agents’ operating in an atmosphere where they are disconnected from social context. In his view, individuals flourish only within the context of socially established cooperative human activity, which is designed to encourage the development of human excellence. He argued that liberals were committed to moral relativism, detaching themselves from ‘any particular standpoint’ to practice tolerance.
  • So, they could not defend any particular view of justice, nor develop a unified concept of ‘the good’. Thus, they have not been able to develop true communities or define moral obligations of the members of society to each other.
  • For communitarians, individual’s own existence and personality are the product of his social situation, roles and conventions which are embedded in society. While liberals leave the individual to pursue his self-appointed goals, communitarians want him to pursue the community-determined goals. While liberals declare the individual to be the sole proprietor of all his faculties, communitarians focus on his indebtedness to society for these faculties. While liberals insist on individual’s rights and liberties, communitarians emphasize his duties and obligations. Communitarianism insists on our common identity and eulogizes those values and beliefs which are dear to all of us.
  • Michael Sandel, American political philosopher and an exponent of communitarianism, in Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (1982), particularly attacked the form of liberalism exemplified by Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (1971). He argued that Rawls’s ‘rational negotiators’ who have gathered to determine the principles of justice, represent the disconnected and disembodied people deliberating behind the ‘veil of ignorance’. Like many other liberals in the past few hundred years, Rawls tries to understand human beings independent of all activities, desires, ideas, roles, and pursuits that characterize human lives in actual society.He laments that the Rawlsian view of the person is woefully impoverished.
  • Sandel asserts that liberal theories have failed to recognize our ’embeddedness’ in a particular time, place and culture. He urges that political theory should help in generating such laws, institutions and practices that are genuinely good for us and instrumental in creating a fully just society. Justice cannot be secured by isolated individuals seeking personal profit (as in markets and political arena), but by those who create a ‘deeper commonality’ through ‘shared selfunderstanding’ and mutual affection. Liberal perspective implies that ‘the self is prior to its ends.’ On the contrary, Sandel asserted that the self is not prior to its ends; it is rather constituted by its ends, which are not chosen but discovered by the self by virtue of its being embedded in some shared social context. Sandel argued that Rawls’s view of ‘unencumbered self does not correspond with our ‘deepest self-understanding’.
  • Charles Taylor, Canadian social philosopher and exponent of communitarianism, in his collected philosophical papers, published in 1985, questioned the premise of atomistic individualism which is the hallmark of liberal political theory. He pointed out that human agency, rights and freedom exist only in their social context whereas modern (i.e. liberal) political theory failed to account for the reciprocal relations among individuals and between individuals and society.
  • In Sources of the Self (1989), Taylor further argued that human agency may be understood only from the premise that persons exist as ’embodied individuals’ engaged both in selfinterpretation and in constant interaction with others. In this process of moral reflection, they criticize and transform themselves through the interpretation and reinterpretation of their rights and obligations. To impart meaning to their actions, they are constantly guided by moral sources — secular, religious, literary and philosophical.
  • While other exponents of communitarianism have largely produced a communitarian critique of liberal theory of justice, Michael Walzer ,American political philosopher, in his celebrated work Spheres of Justice (1983) enunciated a communitarian theory of justice. Walzer argued that the quest for a universal theory of justice was misguided because it was futile to look for any principle of justice outside the community—particularly its history and culture. The requirements of justice could only be identified in the context of a particular community, its practices, and institutions. According to Walzer, the shared understandings in our society require us to apply the principle of ‘complex equality’ (as distinguished from ‘simple equality’) in the distribution of goods. It implies a system of distribution that does not try to equalize all goods, but rather seeks to ensure that inequalities in one ‘sphere’ (e.g. wealth) do not permeate other spheres (e.g., health care and political power). Walzer argued that the modern society includes several spheres of distribution in which different goods are allocated each by its own independent criterion. In other words, the distribution of rewards in the modern society is not confined to that of income and wealth, but there are so many sought-after things. Walzer asserts that if the boundaries between different spheres are respected, one person’s preeminence in, say, the sphere of money may be offset by another’s higher social prestige and a third’s success in holding political office. In this way social pluralism may lead to a kind of equality in which no one decisively outranks anyone else. Thus, Walzer denies that economic status of an individual holds key to his social prestige and power.
  • The problem with Walzer’s suggestion is that there is no reliable method to compare the value of non-economic factors like reputation, political power, education and health, etc. with the value of income and wealth. In the absence of such criteria, it is difficult to attack the disparities created by market society. For example, it would be a poor consolation for a university teacher, writer, artist or scientist that the low (economic) return of his talents and effort is compensated by the high esteem in which he is held in the society!
  • In fact Walzer gives precedence to ethical considerations over economic considerations. Walzer argues that a society of equals lies within our reach. It is implicit in our shared understandings of social goods. These understandings do not produce a vision of ‘simple equality’ which will lead to immense inequalities through the operation of free market. If the state tries to reinforce initial simple equality, it will end up as a tyrannical state. In our shared understandings we strive for ‘complex equality’. According to Walzer: Complex equality means that no citizen’s standing in one sphere or with regard to one social good can be undercut by his standing in some other sphere, with regard to some other good .
  • Walzer concludes that distribution of social goods should be determined according to the right reason as applicable in each sphere. Thus, the spheres of politics, or health or education, should not be corrupted by the domination of money, for money properly rules in the sphere of commodities; the sphere of office should not (beyond a certain limited point) be contaminated by nepotism, which belongs in the sphere of kinship and love, the sphere of kinship and love should not be contaminated by the consideration of profit and loss which are relevant only in the market-place; family organization should not be patterned after male domination which properly belongs to the sphere of military organization. If Walzer’s suggestions are adopted in actual practice, we will certainly have a just society which he intends to create. But he has not indicated the way to convince the dominant people in different spheres of social life to adopt these rules. Walzer’s scheme of things embodies a strong moral philosophy, but it does not provide for equally strong political philosophy.

Communitarian Perspective on Good

  • Early indications of communitarianism are found in the political thought of Aristotle, ancient Greek philosopher, Jean-Jaques Rousseau French philosopher, G.W.F. Hegel , German philosopher, and T.H. Green English moral philosopher. Its contemporary exponents include Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor , Michael Walzer and Michael Sandel .
  • T.H. Green (Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation), the forerunner of communitarianism, argued that human beings, as self-conscious creatures, attain the knowledge of the common good in association with the members of their community. Green believed that men knew the common good more intimately than their self-interest or individual good. The common good not only comprehends the good of all members of the community, but their conception of the common good is also identical. The state and politics come into existence for the realization of the common good. The idea of the common good is the foundation of political obligation. Green asserts that the state is authorized to make only those laws which promote the common good; and the individual is obliged to abide by only those laws which conform to the common good. If an individual thinks that he can protect the common good more effectively by opposing a particular order of the state, his political obligation does not stop him from going ahead. It is the consciousness of the common good which induces people to accept their duties. They are prepared to forego their personal choice and self interest for the sake of realizing the common good. They are convinced that they can attain self-realization only by pursuing the common good.
  • Alasdair Maclntyre (After Virtue; ) has argued that individuals flourish only within an atmosphere of ‘socially established cooperative human activity’. If the state treats individuals as disconnected entities and lets them loose to realize their rights without realizing their duties, the result would be social disintegration and moral disaster.
  • Michael Sandel (Liberalism and the Limits of Justice) has asserted that the person can only be understood in the context of his ’embeddedness’ in a particular time, place and culture. Only with this understanding a political theory can generate laws, institutions and practices that would be genuinely good for us and contribute to a fully just society. This alone will create a ‘deeper commonality’ which will be informed by ‘shared self understanding’ as well as affection .
  • Then Michael Walzer (Spheres of Justice) laid down elaborate criteria for the distribution of various social goods according to the proper spheres of their application, where they would contribute to the smooth functioning of the community. Charles Taylor (Philosophical Papers) echoed Maclntyre’s attack on the liberal conception of’atomistic’ individuals and confirmed the tenets of communitarianism. Taylor argued that if human beings want their genuine development, they must acknowledge first that they are situated in a society. They can realize their good only through cooperation in the pursuit of the common good.
  • Overall, communitarian notion of the common good requires the individual to pursue his goals within the structure of society, and to look for his good as part of the good of whole society. Communitarian concept of the common good insists on cooperation, and not competition between individuals, and thereby promotes social solidarity. It inspires the isolated individuals to establish cordial relations between each other, and shows them the way to obtain emotional security. However, despite its strong ethical base, it has no mechanism to ensure that its principles will be adopted as the general rules of behavior. In a nutshell, communitarianism embodies a strong moral philosophy, but it is not founded in equally strong political philosophy.

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