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Biju P R (Government Brennen College, Thalassery, Kerala) and Gayathri O. (Government College Madappally). Teaches Political Science at Government Colleges in Kerala. We are just a blog!

Current research interest centres on the 'interfaces between social media and political public' in India. 'Business and Politics (here a book on 'Politics of Outsourcing' under writing and on hunt for a publisher) is our specialization. Celebrity Culture among the Political Class in India- is the next project by 2015. Presently writing two books, one is 'Clicking Alone': mechanics of protest and change in digital India and that is already completed. The second book is titled Connective Politics. Reflections on digital public in India that is completed and in the Press for peer review. We have extensive publication on the same theme in academic journals, and popular websites. We are also working to author a book on Women's Movement and Identity Politics in Kerala by 2014.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What is Justice?John Rawl’s theory of Justice

What is Justice?John Rawl’s theory of Justice

Justice is generally understood to mean what is right, fair, appropriate, deserved. Justice is achieved when an unjust act is redressed and the victim feels whole again. Justice also means the offender is held accountable for his behavior. We make justice possible when we provide opportunities for women to safely tell the truth about their experiences of violence and abuse and when we hear and acknowledge that truth. When we stand with her, require the system to respond to her needs, and seek the restitution to which she is entitled, we are working toward justice.

“Justice is generally understood to mean what is right, fair, appropriate, deserved. Justice is achieved when an unjust act is redressed and the victim feels whole again. Justice also means the offender is held accountable for his behavior.

What is Justice?

“Justice, in a functional form, is the idea that, within the same value scope (e.g. moral, ethical, etc) of the infringement, those who commit a wrong in a value system are entitled to receive a similar or related amount of action within the same system/means, and that receipt is except from being considered wrong. Given this, we can understand justice as being a form of societal defense mechanism, allowing a society to purge itself of elements it does not accept without running into problems of the legitimacy of the purge.

Yet despite the basic idea that most people have of justice, it is different in different circumstances for different people.

In general, justice is meant more for the society as a whole than for the individual victims because it is designed to prove repeatedly that people are safe within their society. They can feel that if they ever are victims of crimes, the criminals will be caught, tried and punished. It gives the victim closure, but in a larger sense, it gives society closure of a particular chapter and allows the people within the society to move ahead in their lives feeling they are safe, that even if not all is well, criminals are caught and removed from the streets.

Scales of justice

1) Procedural Justice - "how should we decide who gets what" [ Tom Tyler]

2) Distributive Justice - Equity Theory - Things are distributed according to an "equity rule" which may be effort, ability, productivity, etc... "who should get what" Major cites/theorists: William Damon....] Equity - "people who contribute more should get more" [Major cites/theorists: Walster, equity theory.] This includes variations in effort ("contributions are defined by putting in more work") and Ability/Product ("contributions are defined by ability/objective worth of end product")

3) Distributive Justice - Equality - "everyone should get the same amount"

4) Distributive Justice - Need - "people who need more should get more" [Jon thinks this must be cut; need draws on the harm/care foundation. it is a very artificial extension of fairness to say that it is only "fair" to give people what they need]

5) Interactional Justice - From Organizational Psychology...see Colquitt 2001 Meta Analysis

6) Informational Justice - From Organizational Psychology...see Colquitt 2001 Meta Analysis

7) Retributional Justice - There is evidence that punishing people for doing bad is different than rewarding people for doing good. As such, some kind of vengefulness measure might be necessary to capture the full scope of justice/fairness judgements.

John Rawls' A Theory of Justice

A Theory of Justice (1971), by John Rawls, is ‘‘one of the most influential works in moral and political philosophy written in the twentieth century,’’ according to Samuel Freeman in the Collected Papers of John Rawls (1999).

John Rawls' A Theory of Justice (1971) explains how the logical ordering of principles of justice may answer such questions as how should society be structured, how should basic rights and duties be assigned to individuals, and how should social and economic advantages be distributed to all members of society. Rawls is primarily concerned with defining the principles of justice which would regulate an ideal society, rather than with describing how justice may be restored to an unjust society. Rawls argues that the principles of justice which would establish the basis of an ideal society are principles which would be chosen by every individual if every individual were in an 'original position' of equality with regard to rights and duties and if all individuals were acting rationally in a mutually disinterested manner. This 'original position' is a hypothetical situation in which every individual is acting behind a 'veil of ignorance' as to his or her own social position, class status, individual assets, and personal aptitudes or abilities.

Rawls discusses the applicability of utilitarianism and of social contract theory to the theory of justice, and he argues that social contract theory provides stronger support for equality of basic rights for all individuals. While utilitarianism may try to justify infringements upon the rights of some individuals if these infringements produce a greater happiness for a larger number of other individuals, the theory of justice as fairness (which is a social contract theory) denies that infringements upon the basic rights of individuals can ever be morally justified. The theory of justice as fairness argues for equal rights for all individuals, and denies that injustice toward any particular group of individuals is justifiable unless this injustice is necessary to prevent an even greater injustice.

Rawls explains that the theory of justice as fairness is a deontological theory, but that utilitarianism is a teleological theory. In the theory of justice as fairness, the principle of equal rights for all citizens has priority over the goal of producing the greatest amount of happiness for the largest number of individuals, but in utilitarian theory the goal of producing the greatest amount of happiness for the largest number of individuals has priority over the principle of equal rights for all citizens.

Rawls argues that the term 'justice as fairness' does not imply that justice and fairness are identical, but that the principles of justice are agreed to under fair conditions by individuals who are in a situation of equality. 'Justice as fairness' also implies that the principles of justice apply equally to all individuals.2 These principles must be decided upon in such a way as to benefit all individuals, and must not be merely designed to favor the interests of a particular group of individuals over another group of individuals.

According to Rawls, the two principles of justice which would be agreed to by rational and mutually disinterested individuals in the ‘original position’ of equality are that:

1) each individual should have an equal right to as much liberty as is compatible with the rights of others; and

2) any social or economic inequalities which occur between individuals should be designed to benefit every individual, and should belong to positions which are equally available to all individuals.

The first principle of justice is referred to by Rawls as 'the principle of greatest equal liberty.' The two parts of the second principle are 'the difference principle' and 'the principle of fair equality of opportunity.' According to Rawls, the first principle of justice is logically (and lexically) prior to the second principle, in that for justice to be attained the first principle of justice must be satisfied before the second principle can be satisfied. The logical order of the second principle of justice is (a) the principle of fair equality of opportunity, and (b) the difference principle. Thus, for justice to be attained the principle of fair equality of opportunity must be satisfied before the difference principle is satisfied.

Rawls explains that the logical priority of the first principle of justice over the second principle implies that violations of basic rights cannot be justified by arguing that such violations may produce economic or social advantages. Furthermore, the logical priority of the first part of the second principle over the second part implies that infringements upon fair equality of opportunity cannot be justified by arguing that such infringements may produce economic or social advantages.

Rawls also explains that judgments about the principles of justice in the 'original position' of equality among individuals are most likely to be reasonable and impartial if they are made in conditions of 'reflective equilibrium' and are not distorted by temporary or changing circumstances.

Rawls argues that the principle of efficiency may be applied to the method by which basic rights and duties are assigned and to the method by which social or economic inequalities are structured. The method by which rights and duties are assigned may be described as efficient if there is no possible rearrangement which could be performed to make this assignment of rights and duties more advantageous to any particular individual without simultaneously making it less advantageous to another individual. Similarly, the method by which social or economic inequalities are structured may be described as efficient if there is no possible restructuring which could be performed to make this structuring more advantageous to any particular individual without simultaneously making it less advantageous to another individual.

Rawls also argues that the difference principle may be applied to the method by which rights and duties are assigned and to the method by which social or economic inequalities are structured. The method by which rights and duties are assigned may be described as fair and impartial if it cannot be made any more fair to any particular individual without simultaneously making it less fair to another individual. Similarly, the method by which social or economic inequalities are structured may be described as fair and impartial if it cannot be made any more fair to any particular individual without simultaneously making it less fair to another individual.

According to Rawls, the principle of efficiency and the difference principle are mutually compatible and are principles of justice for social institutions. Principles of justice for individuals include fairness, benevolence. generosity, the duty to keep promises, the duty to offer mutual aid, the duty to show mutual respect, the duty not to cause unnecessary suffering, the duty not to harm or injure others, and the duty to uphold justice.

Rawls describes three types of teleological theories of justice: 1) the classical principle of utility, 2) the average principle of utility, and 3) perfectionism. According to the classical principle of utility, the best actions produce the greatest amount of utility for the greatest number of individuals. According to the average principle of utility, the best actions maximize the average utility which may be enjoyed by each individual. According to perfectionism, the best actions maximize human achievement (e.g. in the arts and sciences) or maximize the attainment of some desired goal.

Rawls argues that a major defect of utilitarianism is that the principle of utility may require that individuals who are disadvantaged in relation to others in their ability to attain primary social goods (e.g. rights, opportunities, income, and wealth) may have to suffer even greater disadvantages if this redistribution of rights and opportunites produces greater happiness for a larger number of individuals. Moreover, individuals who already have advantages over others in their ability to attain primary social goods may gain even greater advantages if this redistribution of rights and opportunities produces greater happiness for a larger number of individuals.

Rawls also argues that perfectionism is not a fair and equitable method of distributing primary social goods. While the values of human achievements in the arts and sciences are to be appreciated, the theory of justice as fairness denies that individuals should receive a greater or lesser share of basic rights and duties because of their personal achievements or because of their personal contributions to society.

According to Rawls, the principles of justice (including the principle of greatest equal liberty, the principle of fair equality of opportunity, and the difference principle) may be fulfilled by a constitutional democracy. However, a frequently-seen defect of constitutional democracy is that it may allow a greater disparity in the distribution of wealth and property than is compatible with equality of economic, social, and political opportunity for all individuals. Another frequently-seen defect of constitutional democracy is that it may allow political power to accumulate in the hands of a particular group or party who may use the institutions of government to gain greater advantage. Rawls concludes that in order to correct these defects, it is necessary for political equality of opportunity (i.e. equal rights of participation in the political process) to be constitutionally guaranteed.

Rawls emphasizes that the theory of justice as fairness is a deontological and not a teleological theory. In the theory of justice as fairness, equal liberty for all individuals is not merely a means to an end but is a principle of justice which must be satisfied before other political interests are satisfied. Rawls argues that equal liberty for all individuals may become insecure and vulnerable to infringement if utilitarian or perfectionist principles are applied as principles of justice, and if it is argued that the basic rights of individuals can be adjusted to achieve a greater net balance of satisfaction or a higher sum of intrinsic value. The theory of justice as fairness is thus an egalitarian theory of moral conduct which applies to all the obligations which individuals have toward each other.

A Theory of Justice is Rawls’s attempt to formulate a philosophy of justice and a theoretical program for establishing political structures designed to preserve social justice and individual liberty. Rawls writes in reaction to the then predominant theory of utilitarianism, which posits that justice is defined by that which provides the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Rawls proposes a theoretical person who, shrouded in a veil of ignorance, must design a just society without foreknowledge of his or her own status in that society. Rawls asserts that from this objective vantage point, which he calls the original position, the individual will choose a system of justice that adequately provides for those positioned on the lowest rungs of society. The individual will do so because he or she may end up in such a disadvantaged position and will want to be adequately provided for. Rawls draws from earlier theories of political philosophy that posit a social contract by which individuals implicitly agree to the terms on which they are governed in any society. Rawls concludes that such a social contract, formulated from the perspective of the original position, will guarantee a just society without sacrificing the happiness or liberty of any one individual.

Rawls addresses issues of liberty, social equality, democracy, and the conflict of interests between the individual and society.

Justice as Fairness

In A Theory of Justice, Rawls begins with the statement that, ‘‘Justice is the first virtue of social institution,’’ meaning that a good society is one structured according to principals of justice. Rawls asserts that existing theories of justice, developed in the field of philosophy, are not adequate: ‘‘My guiding aim is to work out A Theory of Justice that is a viable alternative to these doctrines which have long dominated our philosophical tradition.’’ He calls his theory—aimed at formulating a conception of the basic structure of society in accordance with social justice—justice as fairness.

Rawls sets forth to determine the essential principles of justice on which a good society may be based. He explains the importance of principles of justice for two key purposes: first, to ‘‘provide a way of assigning rights and duties in the basic institutions of society’’; and secondly, to ‘‘define the appropriate distribution of the benefits and burdens’’ of society. He observes that, by his definition, well-ordered societies are rare due to the fact that ‘‘what is just and unjust is usually in dispute.’’ He further notes that a well-ordered and perfectly just society must be formulated in a way that addresses the problems of ‘‘efficiency, coordination, and stability.’’

Critique of Utilitarianism

Throughout the twentieth century, the dominant philosophical theory of justice in Western philosophy was utilitarianism. Utilitarianism was first developed in the nineteenth century by ‘‘the great utilitarians,’’ whom Rawls lists as David Hume, Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, and John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism essentially posits that a just society is one based on achieving the greatest good, or happiness, for the greatest number of people. However, many theorists have found this principle ultimately unsatisfactory because it implies that the... » Complete A Theory of Justice Summary

Beyond Rawls

Political theory on justice has found pronounced articulation in the writings of Rawl’s.It can be observed that one has to either to begin from wher Rawl’s stopped or has o deviate from wher rawls started.Rawls' theory of justice was set forth in his book A Theory of Justice ( Harvard University Press, 1971). Since then it has been much discussed, and attempts have been made to improve and clarify it, not least by Rawls himself. One of those attempts at improvement is that of Martha C. Nussbaum (Women and Human Development), who has reinterpreted Rawls' argument from the perspective of Substantial Freedom, an idea she gets from Amartya Sen.

For Nussbaum the liberties mentioned in the Principle of Equal Liberty, if they are to be meaningful at all, are capabilities or substantial freedoms, real opportunities based on natural and developed potentialities as well as the presence of governmentally supported institutions, to engage in political deliberation and planning over one's own life.

Likewise, for Nussbaum, the concern of the Difference Principle to raise up those who are least advantaged must be clarified in light of substantial freedoms. What is needed, in her view, is a commitment by citizens and governments to a threshold of real opportunities below which no human being should fall if she is able to rise above it.

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