Utilitarianism Review of John Rawls Theory of Justice

In Rawls Theory of Justice, utilitarianism is a flawed concept of justice. Its drawback is that it justifies the sacrifice of the well-being of a few individuals for the happiness and peace of a large group of the population. In the view of utilitarians, the measure of justice in society is the utility and welfare that society produces. The efficiency and welfare of each member alone cannot be the criterion of justice.

According to Immanuel Kant’s Theory of Justice, “Every man is to be treated as an end in himself and not as a means to the ends of others.” Rawls attempts to give prominence to the ethical principle of liberty and equality of every individual in his Theory of social justice, both in the content and consequence of those principles.

Rawls Liberal-Egalitarian Theory of Justice

Rawls believes that wealthy societies work cooperatively for mutual benefit. At the same time, there is a difference of opinion among the members of the society on their share of economic benefits and social responsibilities.

They say there should be fair and equitable distribution of benefits and social responsibilities for all. For this, institutions should be built so that every member of the society has “primary social things” such as rights and freedoms, powers and opportunities and equitable distribution of income and prosperity. For this, it would be possible to make a lawful distribution according to the following principles.

  1. Principle of Equal Fundamental Freedoms: A plan of action should be drawn up based on the owner liberties of every individual.
  2. (A) Fair Equality of Opportunity: Equal opportunities should be provided to all the members of the society so that they can make their social and economic upliftment.
  • (B) Duplex Theory: Work should be done to bring maximum benefit to the least beneficiaries of society. The next principle should be applied when the first principle is fully satisfied. The principles of social justice are to be applied in a prosperous society that fulfils the material needs of its citizens.

According to Rawls Theory of Justice, the fundamental freedoms are freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, freedom of property, freedom from detention, etc. Fulfilment of these is the main objective of the priority rule. That is to say, who prioritises the rule of law, freedom of speech and assembly, and political freedoms. According to them,

  • (i) following the principles of justice to understand and put into practice,
  • (ii) the ability to cultivate and develop feelings of goodness, our fundamental rights and freedoms confer upon us.

These two moral capacities make every member of society free and equal citizens. The freedom of citizens also includes the freedom to maintain their best life.

According to Rawls Theory of Justice, when the people’s basic material needs are satisfied, then their fundamental freedom rights, as enunciated by the principle of equal opportunity and conflict of opinion, take precedence. However, they want an equitable distribution of fundamental freedoms. They also believe that inequalities in income and prosperity are inevitable. According to this, the goal of social justice theory is to keep inequality fair and just.

According to Rawls, there should also be no excessive equality between income and prosperity because it would nullify the economic incentives needed for creativity and productivity. It will not be beneficial for both the rich and the poor. Suppose such inequalities are within an institutional arrangement for the benefit of the least benefited citizens of the society. In that case, they are not against the law. If society builds its fundamental institutions on this basis, it will be rational.

Rawls theory of duality does not mean to substitute equality for inequalities of prosperity but to convert the range of inequalities into a legitimate category by maximizing the benefits of the least beneficiary. Equalities that are beneficial to the happy, but not to the less fortunate, are not legitimate.

The task of the state is to establish equality at various cultural, educational and economic levels, as well as to uplift society from unemployment and ill-health. Thus for running educational institutions, society needs a welfare state to regulate the economy.

As stated by Rawls, a common notion of justice—all primary social goods—freedom and opportunity, income and prosperity, and self-respect—are to be distributed equitably as long as one or all of these goods have an equal distribution. Uneven distribution should not be for the benefit of the least obliged. This means that unlawful inequalities place some members of society in an unfavourable situation.

This concept of justice does not differentiate between social and primary goods, nor does it tell how to resolve any dispute between income distribution and freedom distribution.

Social Contract Process 

The social contract process recognises Immanuel Kant’s liberal egalitarian moral view of the liberty and equality of all individuals and considers all parties to that contract as fair. Rawls’ social contract is inferred rather than historical or real. It is related to the basic status of the family chief. Individuals in society agree to be part of a social contract on shared principles of distributive justice. On this basis, the institutions of their society are formed. The liberty and equality of individuals must be ensured from a moral point of view to ensure that there is no partiality in this agreement.

Rawls says that in its “basic state,” the contractors of the social contract are not aware of their inherent properties and concepts of social status and good. However, they are aware of the general conditions of justice. Each contractor adopts his own rule of choice so that he has the option to increase his minimum probabilities to the maximum limits.

Rawls’s theory of social justice presents Kent’s liberal egalitarian moral injunction. Compromise theory considers the state as an individual’s means and an end. Fundamental rights and freedoms of some individuals cannot be at stake in the name of majoritarian concepts of one’s welfare. Rawls’ liberal egalitarian justice is prepared for the equality and welfare of every individual. It is particularly serious about the welfare of the least benefited members of society.

Basic Structure of Society in Rawls Theory of Justice

According to Rawls, the main object of justice is the basic foundation of society. His theory justifies liberal democracy and the liberal egalitarian welfare state. Rawls says that to put his theory of differentiation into practice, there must be the following four branches –

  1. Allocation Branch: This contributes to keeping the parent system competitive.
  2. Stratification Branch: It should work rationally for full employment.
  3. Transfer Branch: Which is responsible for dealing with the need and demands of a better life.
  4. Distributing Branch: It adjusts various tax parameters and ownership rights to protect fair justice in distributive shares.

Categorized in:

Tagged in: