A Theory Of Justice John Rawls Summary

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John Rawls’ uses his work, A Theory of Justice, to define justice and injustice. Rawls’ general concept of justice follows that all social goods are to be equally distributed unless there can be a situation in which unequal distribution is the the benefit of everyone. The primary social goods he discusses are income, wealth, liberty, opportunity, and the bases of self-respect. Iris Young criticizes Rawls’ conception of justice in her work Justice and the Politics of Difference. Young claims that the focus Rawls places on distribution and the end product of said distribution leads to a limit on the scope of justice. Young specifically scrutinizes Rawls concept of justice as being limiting in terms of presupposing and obscuring institutional…show more content…
He then makes careful distinctions between a single rule or group of rules, an institution and the basic structure of a social system. A rule or institution can be unjust without the entire basic structure being unjust. Rawls then goes on to analyze individual injustices within the system, for example the “failure of judges and others in authority to adhere to the appropriate rules or interpretations thereof in deciding claims.” (Rawls 1971) He grapples with the conflict of deciding whether rules that are unjust should be consistently applied or if particular cases should be dealt with justly by those who follow the rules of the system. Clearly, Rawls is taking into full consideration the context of the institution and how it applies to his conception of justice. Young specifically states that the distributive paradigm, “inappropriately restricts the scope of justice, because it fails to bring social structures and institutional contexts under evaluation.” (Young 1990) However, Rawls’ discussion of specific examples of institutional structures being unjust rejects this criticism. Young criticizes the distributive model of justice again stating that it is unable to bring class relations into view and evaluate them. Yet, one of the principal discussion in Rawls’ theory of justice is the…show more content…
He mentions the basic liberties of citizens, specifically those mentioned in the First Amendment, the claims that all citizens share these rights equally as “citizens of a just society are to have the same basic rights.” (Rawls 1971, my emphasis) In this statement, along with others, Rawls makes the assumption that the current society is just, and therefore, will give all citizens equal rights. As Young mentions, Rawls does not evaluate the basic structure of society in this instance. He merely assumes that justice is present in the current societal state, rather than evaluating the system itself. Rawls continues in his discussion to define rights and liberties, which he claims are those that have been designated by the public rules of the basic structure. The freedom of the public, “is determined by the rights and duties established by the major institutions of society.” (Rawls 1971) The very claims Rawls makes in relation to rights and liberties ignores the fact that these rights and liberties have been decided by institutions which have not been assessed themselves. In another instance, Rawls brings forth the efficiency principle and claims that if an institution satisfies this principle and allows all representative positions to be open to those who are willing to pursue them, then the final result will be just distribution of primary
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