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John Rawl's Prescient Theory of Justice

John Rawls was born in 1921 and he is best known for his prescient Theory of Justice. Rawl's approach to political philosophy attempts to ground radical egalitarian democracy on a social contract [1].

Rawls is attempting to construct a new theory of justice that will ultimately create a society of free citizens holding equal rights and cooperating within an egalitarian economic and social system.

Rawls theory of justice is a rich, complicated, and fundamental work — as it offers an elaborate set of arguments [2]. Rawls theory of justice outlines a vision of man and society as they should be. It attempts to derive principles expressive of a egalitarian vision that is in accordance with methods that reflect the conception of moral theory.

At the peak of his career, Rawls intended to do three crucial things. First, Rawls wanted to reveal the principles of justice which would define the dominant moral and political views of our age [3].

Secondly, Rawls wanted to show that these principles can be viewed as the result of a selection of procedure that all people can agree is fair (hence why Rawls coined the term Justice as fairness).

Thirdly, Rawls wanted to show that these principles describe a workable social arrangement, given everything we know in the social sciences and about what makes the good life in a just society.

Rawls promotes a flawless and egalitarian vision for 20th century liberalism that is based on universalities that leave minimal space for cultural relativists and postmodernists.

When Rawls is outlining his avant-garde theory of justice, he begins with emphasizing the crucial role of justice in an ideal society. Rawls defines the role of justice as the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. According to Rawls, any laws, institutions and economic arrangements must be reformed if they are unjust.

The ideal society according to Rawls guarantees the liberties of equal citizenship. From this perspective, Rawls emphasizes that political rights are secured by justice, and this justice must be independent from political bargaining or from the calculus of social interests.

Now that Rawls has laid out a framework for what he see's as a just society, he expands further by designing a well ordered society that seeks to advance the good of its members that is regulated by a public conception of justice.

Rawls has a just, egalitarian and democratic vision for liberal societies that emphasizes social justice, mobility and cohesion. Rawls meticulously designs a society in which everyone should universally accept the same principles of justice and morality — meaning that individuals in the society are living their civic lives under a shared conception of justice that establishes the bonds of civic friendship; and this noble desire will limit the individualistic pursuit of ends that corrupt the common good.

Rawls vision for a society is based on social and economic egalitarianism that is furthered by his famous idea of the original position — which imagines a group of men and woman who come together to form a social contract [4].

The parties involved are men and woman who have ordinary talents, tastes and ambitions. Rawls tries to show that if these men and woman are rational and act only in their own self interest, they will choose his two principles of justice.

His two principles of justice can still be perfectly tailored to our times. His first principle of justice guarantees the equal basic rights and liberties needed to secure the fundamental interests of free and equal citizens and to pursue a wide range of conceptions of the good.

The second principle provides fair equality of education and employment opportunities enabling all to fairly compete for powers and positions of office; and it secures for all a guaranteed minimum of the all-purpose means (including income and wealth) that individuals need to pursue their interests and to maintain their self-respect as free and equal persons.

Rawls theory of justice attempts to craft a just, democratic and economically equitable state that maximizes opportunities for all its citizens. It creates a just and ideal society that is based on what the good life ought to be.

By creating a new social contract that defines justice as a universality, Rawls is attempting to minimize racial, social and economic inequalities that haunt many due to their luck and cultural positioning.


[1] Bloom, Allan. "Justice: John Rawls vs. the tradition of political philosophy."American Political Science Review 69, no. 2 (1975): 648-662.

[2] Thomas Nagel The Philosophical Review, Vol. 82, No. 2. (Apr., 1973), pp. 220-234.

[3] Daniels, Norman.Reading Rawls: critical studies on Rawls' A theory of justice. Vol. 229. Stanford University Press, 1989

[4] Dworkin, Ronald. "The Original Position."The University of Chicago Law Review 40, no. 3 (1973): 500-33. Accessed May 26, 2020. doi:10.2307/1599246.


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