Discuss about the Philosophical Theories for Social Justice.
The very existence of social justice is possible only when a common platform of humanity is being shared by people having rights to unbiased treatment, human rights support and distribution of community resources in a reasonable manner (Heller & Gaede, 2016). Social justice can be stated as encouraging a just society where diversity is being valued along with posing a challenge to injustice (Frynas & Stephens, 2015). Social justice can also only succeed when equal opportunity is being provided to the society. John Rawls’ Justice as Fairness and David Miller’s Principles of Social Justice are two of the most important and prominent theories that have come up in the recent years for better understanding of the term, ‘Social Justice’.
Background of the ‘Social Justice’ Philosophy:
The origin of ‘Social Justice’ as a distinct concept dates back to the nineteenth century. Jesuit Philosopher, Luigi Taparelli Azeglio was the first person to use the concept of ‘social justice’ while debating over the Risorgimento’s attempts to politically unify the Italian peninsula. French Revolution that took place in 1789 was the backdrop of Taparelli’s ‘social justice’ where he questioned the treatment being meted out by the society to its traditional leaders and whether the existence of aristocracy is unjust. He was the one who stated that social justice only works when the people living in the society are able to accept inequality. According to him, justice has the customary inclination to balance accounts. He also added that human are not equal when it comes to quality. His idea of social justice is conservative in nature and based on the defense of social inequality.
John Rawls Theory of Social Justice:
The Main Idea:
The theory is most generally referred to as “Justice as Fairness” which evolved in the year 2003. Rawls idea of social justice is giving surety to the citizens or members of the society that they will be provided with the required protection in having equal access to rights, opportunities and liberties. He also added that proper care should be taken of those members of the society who enjoys the least advantage of being a part of the same. Rawls definition of social justice lingers with the thought of social contract, where people are given free access in entering into an agreement where they will need to follow certain regulations for the enhancement of others and not implying the same for their own benefits (Rawls, 2016). In Rawls opinion, rational and free people will play the game of social justice by fair means and in accordance to the rules, where public acceptance of those rules and conditions are necessary for it to continue. According to Rawls, certain given situations depict a different version of judgment from people, where not all will agree on what the requirement of justice should be under such conditions. An important aspect of Rawls ‘social justice’ theory is that it takes into account the concept of domestic justice where principles get applied to the society’s basic structure, and not the local justice which considers principles applied to associations and institutions of the society (Neil, 2013). Rawls theory does not account for global justice, which according to him does not fit into his theory.
Principles of Rawls’ Social Justice Theory:
The Principles of Rawls’ Social Justice is being outlined on Equal Liberties, Different Principle and Equal opportunity. The ‘justice of fairness’ is based on two principles:
-All the people of the society should have unjustifiable claim to ample schemes of basic equal liberties
-Two conditions need satisfaction from economic and social inequalities; firstly, offices and positions related to it should be open to all where equality of opportunity condition prevails; secondly these are to be directed towards the benefit of the least-advantaged people of the society (Hudon & Ashta, 2013).
Rawls principles indicate that the factor of ‘equality’ is important in determining social justice. Rawls principles would be better understood if adopted and applied in a four-stage sequence. The first of the four justice principles being adopted is for society’s regulation, the second for the convention of the constitution (government processes), the third for legislative purposes (enactment of laws) and the last part for the rules to be applied by the administrators where the same is followed by the society members in conditions requiring justice by fairness.
Rawls social justice conception signifies the importance of equality, though every time it not possible to achieve the same in the society. As per Rawls, inequalities can only be accepted when each person of the society has a fair chance in getting hold of positions that directs toward inequality (Klosko, 2015). The ‘fair equality of opportunity’ is possible only when members of the society get a fair chance in attainting them.
-Some authors criticize Rawls theory for being at par with Utilitarianism where two principles could authorize inequalities in demand and suffering for the beneficial of the least well off.
- This theory was evolved to handle societal problems, but has difficulties in handling individual decision making process.
- Rawls theory is stated to be not ‘ambition sensitive’ and ‘endowment sensitive’. It does not take into account the natural inequalities of people.
Rawls “justice as fairness” theory can be used in identifying the processes that are constant with social justice. Government’s policies can be reviewed using this theory to conclude its consistency or inconsistency part with the social justice theory.
David Miller’s Theory of ‘Principles of Social Justice’:
The Main Idea:
This theory of social justice too was established in the year 2003 by David Miller. According to Miller, (2012), social justice relies on the perspective of given situations. The goal of Miller’s theory was to determine the principles used by people in judging the just and unjust nature of society. His theory has been created through public opinion polls and studies related to that in accordance to different aspects of justice.
As per Miller, social justice arranges the allocation of advantages and disadvantages in society and how it should be distributed within the society. The relevant advantages of social justice is related to property, jobs, medical care, transportation, housing and child care whereas the disadvantages are directed towards hardships and military service involving risk. In Miller’s opinion, consideration of policies in allocating the advantages and disadvantages should not be judged on the way they benefit everyone personally (Lerner & Lerner, 2013). Miller added that justice takes place only when people are treated equally. The basic requirement is for everyone to treat the other person as equal, without being selfish or egoistic. There are a lot of procedures in bringing justice to the society, but that does not take into account the situation where every procedure leading to it will be accepted by one and all. Miller’s theory relies on the state, as state is being identified as the prime agency competent to bring in the changes. Moreover, only the state can exert force and pressure on people to comply with the requirements of social justice. The theory also states that the institutions complying within the society must also go by the social justice requirements, thus giving birth to social justice culture.
Three Elements of Miller’s Social Justice: Desert, Need and Equality
Miller’s theory states that desert is a claim where rewards are earned supported by performance and where super recognition should be provided to super performers depending on their performance. Need is another factor that can be defined as a claim that lacks basic necessities. Equality, as per Miller, is the social ideal where citizens are being treated equally by the society along with equal distribution of rights. Miller prioritizes need above the other two, and desert above the equality factor, though he has been open to the fact that at certain times desert can precede the need.
According to Miller, inequalities in society are at certain times just which is based on two reasons. Firstly, inequalities related to economy which motivates people to go for more are sometimes being justified. Secondly, inequalities arise from the difference on merit. Meritorious individuals deserve more based on their performance than those who are less meritorious, difference arising from skill, performance and education (King & Lawson, 2015).
Miller’s pluralistic social justice theory recognizes any process that is consistent with social justice, which if not is stated as not being consistent with social justice (Bierhoff, Cohen & Greenberg, 2013). Miller’s theory is mainly for a democratic government where members of the society are permitted for full contribution in accordance to institutional arrangements.
This paper did take into account the two main theories associated with ‘Social Justice’ where it can be concluded that in a society, if social justice needs to exist, every member of the society has to be treated equally where no discrepancies should be made among them. Even if inequality arises, every member should be provided with a fair deal towards that inequality factor. No biasness should be involved and members who are identified as the less advantaged people of the society should be taken proper care of, or else the whole idea of society being represented as whole will be demolished.
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