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Justice as Fairness: A Restatement is a book of political philosophy by the philosopher John Rawls , published as a restatement of his classic A Theory of Justice The released book was edited by Erin Kelly while Rawls was in declining health during his final years. This shorter summary of the main arguments of Rawls' political philosophy was edited by Erin Kelly.
Prior to publication, many versions were circulated in typescript and much of the material was delivered by Rawls in lectures when he taught courses covering his own work at Harvard University.
A previous article with a similar title was written in Rawls is responding to criticism as well as adding further thought to his earlier A Theory of Justice.
It was written shortly before his death in In part I, he discusses several fundamental ideas, all of which are familiar to a reader of his earlier book as well as Political Liberalism : a well-ordered society; the basic structure of society; the original position; free and equal persons; public justification; reflective equilibrium; and overlapping consensus.
In part II, he moves on to his principles of justice, revising them from his earlier edition, which now read p. Here he brings in a new concept, that of Public reason , an idea that is not well discussed in Theory of Justice. Part IV takes the reader to public institutions that will be present in a just and fair society. He lists five types of social systems:. Rawls holds that the first three "[violate] the two principles of justice in at least one way" p.
In part V he explains why political liberalism is not only possible, but why it is not utopian thinking to believe that such a society is possible.
Looking primarily at the twentieth century United States, he is certain that institutions within US society are causing injustices. The very expensive campaign system essentially rules out all but the very rich from even deciding to run for public office. The expense of healthcare restricts the best care to those who can afford it, leaving the poor to only the most basic of services.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the book. For the essay version, see Justice as Fairness. John Rawls. Habermas—Rawls debate Liberalism Political philosophy Justice. Namespaces Article Talk. Views Read Edit View history. Help Community portal Recent changes Upload file. Download as PDF Printable version. Cover of the first edition.
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This is a tribute to John Rawls, my favorite political philosopher. His conception of political justice as "fairness" and the tools of the Original Position and the Veil of Ignorance greatly influenced me. They gave me a structured way to think about how to design a fair society which helped me reason my way through the thicket of political ideas out there. It gave me an idea of how our most fundamental institutions must change to be more just and the ways in which they are good at securing a measure of justice today.
I like the way his ideas result in a society where people have the best chance of being free to pursue a worthy goal of their own choosing. There is a good balance of individual liberty and responsibility as a member of society. Even if you don't agree with his conclusions, his ideas are useful to understand as a way of thinking.
I have tried to present his principles of justice and an outline of their reasoning as briefly and simply as possible so even non-philosophers can appreciate them. In doing so, I have undoubtedly oversimplified, but despite that I hope you find them interesting and enlightening. If you learn nothing else from Rawls, learn this. The principles of justice that would be chosen for a society that is a fair system of cooperation between free and equal citizens from one generation to the next are: Each person has the same indefeasible claim to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties, which scheme is compatible with the same scheme of liberties for all.
Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: They are to be attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity. They are to be to the greatest benefit of the least-advantaged members of society the difference principle. They are prioritized such that the first principle must be satisfied before the second, and fair equality of opportunity must be satisfied before the difference principle.
Furthermore, these principles only apply to the basic institutions of society. For example, the can compare property-owning democracy and democratic socialism to show they are compatible with these principles of justice, while laissez-faire capitalism, welfare-state capitalism, and socialist command economies are not. However, they should not be used to compare a beggar and a working mother and say that the beggar deserves some of the mother's money because they're worse off.
The way the principles are derived limits them to the broad, general rules of a society. This is what makes it a political conception of justice, rather than a metaphysical one that would apply in all cases in the same way.
Rawls attacks the problem of justice and society at its roots by starting with its basic structure. By basic structure we mean things like the laws of the constitution and the economic system. All activity within society takes place withing the context of these structures, so we have no hope for a just society if the structures themselves are unjust.
So, Rawls wants to come up with reasonable principles we can use to determine whether a basic structure is just or not; the principles of justice. To come up with reasonable principles, we have to be clear about what we're talking about. What do we mean by "society"? Rawls defines society as, "a fair system of cooperation among its members from one generation to the next". This definition is why Rawls's conception of justice is called "justice as fairness".
It has its roots in the idea of the social contract; that the legitimacy of government derives from the consent of the governed 1 , and the fact of reasonable plurality in society reasonable people in society can disagree.
There are other conceptions of society. For example, monarchies were often thought to derive their legitimacy from divine right. Rawls's definition is broader and more vague so it might bring more of us on board. Fairness, equality before the law, and freedom are highly regarded ideals in democratic societies, so starting there gives us a broad base of acceptability. What do we mean by "fair"? This makes the problem more tractable by allowing us to define fair conditions and then considering what would be agreed to under those conditions.
To have fair conditions, personal biases and historical biases must be removed, so Rawls asks us to imagine ourselves in an original position behind a veil of ignorance. In the original position a group of representatives must unanimously decide on the principles of justice for society. The veil of ignorance prevents them from knowing specifics about themselves or society that would allow them to bias those principles in their own favor, but they know general things about humanity. For example, they know everyone wants to pursue their own idea of the good, and to have more primary goods like rights and liberties, freedom of movement and choice of occupation, income and wealth, but they do not know their race, religion, wealth, nationality, or when they would enter into society.
This is sort of like telling the person cutting a cake that they do not get to know who will get each slice. By depriving them of information they become unable unfairly give themselves or their friends excess cake.
The complete reasoning from the original position to the principles of justice above is quite long, so I will only outline it intuitively here. For the first principle, one can imagine that if they didn't know who they'd be in society, they'd want to protect themselves from becoming slaves or otherwise being disenfranchised, so they would want basic rights.
They could only get everyone to agree to this if everyone gets the same set of rights. The second principle is designed to ensure that the least well off are not taken advantage of for the benefit of those who are already wealthy, but at the same time, give people who produce things that make everyone better off an incentive to do so.
This addresses problems of both the communists and capitalists in that it prevents excessive wealth accumulation while still providing incentive for hard work. In the original position, we don't know if we'll be born with a lot of natural talent or little.
So we don't want to risk a society that will give below average talent people terrible jobs just to make naturally talented people even better off, but if talented people being better off means less talented are better off too, then we're ok with that. It's still unclear where exactly to draw the line, but it gives us a principle to apply to more obvious cases like slavery or regressive tax schemes. This is a basic and oversimplified outline of how we can move from a conception of a fair society to some basic principles for that society.
The rationale goes much deeper, and there are a lot of other interesting ideas Rawls has like those of public reason and overlapping consensus. If you are interested in more details of how these principles are derived or more of Rawls's ideas, I strongly recommend the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Entry on John Rawls.
Reading that will probably be the smartest thing you do all year. If something in this tribute does not make sense, you have questions, or comments, please email me a asavageiv-at-gmail. Harvard professor of political philosophy, John Rawls - , Harvard University, 29th May Introduction This is a tribute to John Rawls, my favorite political philosopher.
If you are interested in why these are the principles of justice, read on. Society as a Fair System of Cooperation "The correct regulative principle for anything depends on the nature of that thing. Rawls's work extends that of prior philosophers including John Locke whose idea of the social contract is present in the preamble of the US Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.