Theories of Justice (2)


Theories of Justice seek to find what society seeks to do in relation to individuals and groups of men whose conduct it governs. Philosophers sought to make society better or possibly worse when they champion the cause of some dominant groups) by attempting to identify these criteria to guide us as to how rewards and freedoms shall be distributed in a society.

In the perception of most of academic mainstream of the West there is an essential conflict between equality and freedom. The problem of social justice, then, is to evolve the criteria of balancing the claims of equality and freedom. There are equalitarians who either prefer equality to freedom or give representation to both equality and freedom. Some give very low priority to equality.

Equality requires identification of similarities either reference to equality alone or to principles extraneous to equality. Equality, either independently, or in association with principles extraneous to equality, is one of the referents of justice. Parelman, attempted to find some common core in equality to ascertain, similarities without reference to considerations extraneous to equality.[1]

Similarities have been identified on the basis of human worth. But it is difficult to operationalise the concept of worth of man in conflicting opinions on political absolutism and distribution of rewards.[2]

Rawsl dissatisfied with the existing theories of Justice and being aware of weakness of equality as such, projected justice as fairness. Apart from equality fairness includes Liberty and rewards for services contributing to common advantage. There are two basic principles in his theory:
All participants in an institution have a right to maximum of liberty compatible with like liberty of all.

Inequalities are just only if they are for every one’s advantage. These are fair principles because they have been adopted in original position, a hypothetical state. The distribution must be guaranteed on the basic of average utility. In operation Rawls’s theory would mean that liberties shall be available to each but socioeconomic inequalities shall persist. In his theory welfare becomes a matter of right.[3] (Rawls’s theory of Justice will be explained further in details.)

F.A. Hayek and Robert Nozick give priority to liberty at the cost of complete or near complete exclusion of family. Hayek tottaly rejects the idea of purposeful and scientific social development. Economy, law, politics and morality are by products of spontaneous and even irrational human activity and abolition of welfare and monopoly institutions. Robert Nozick also believes in the efficiency of the market economy. His theory is known as theory of entitlement. Possession of things is just if title to them to be required legitimately in free market protected by law. This theory according to Nozick is non-patterned and historical.[4]

In spite of branding of social justice by Marx as a bourgeois concept in his entire theory there runs an undercurrent of the problems of social justice. For the Marxist there is not essential conflict between equality and freedom. For Christopher Caudwell equality and freedoms are complementary. Freedom is no to be conceptualized as absence of restraints but as appreciation of necessity and as a means to develop personality.[5] Marxist have two important principles of justice, namely from each different stage of socialist development. Justice is neither autonomous nor a ready made formulae. These formulae do not have any intrinsic meaning but must be understood in terms of scientific socialism.[6]


End Notes:

[1] See Julius Stone, Human Law and Human Justice (1965), pp. 352-339.

[2] William K. Frenkana, ‘The Concent of Social Justice’ in R. Brandt (ed), Social Justice, 1962.

[3] John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (1976), pp. 11-22.

[4] F.A. Hayek, Roadro Serfdom (1974); Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia (1974). For a summary of the position of libertarians, see J. Stone, “Justice not Equality” in Kameka (ed), Human Rights, 1978.

[5] Christopher Caudwell, The Concept of Freedom (1977), pp. 51-75.

[6] See Wiselow Lang, “Marxism, Liberalism and Justice” in Kamenka (ed), Human Rights, 1978. Also see V.K. Dixit, “Freedom and Equality” in N.R.M. Menon (ed), Social Justice and Social Process in India (1988), p. 56.

Main Source: Reading Materials Faculty of Law, Delhi Univ.


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