SOCIAL JUSTICE IN JOHN RAWLS AND THE CONDITION OF THE POOR IN THE CAPITALIST SOCIETY: A CRITICAL EVALUATION .

SOCIAL JUSTICE IN JOHN RAWLS AND THE CONDITION OF THE POOR IN THE CAPITALIST SOCIETY: A CRITICAL EVALUATION .

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Abstract:

This thesis is designed to make a critical evaluation of John Rawls’ approach to social justice (distributive Justice), especially as he in his books, A Theory of Justice, that there is inequality in the society and anything that will worsen the already bad condition of the poor. The pervesion of justice in the society both in political and economic sectors has resulted in existence of a wide gap between the rich and the poor. This he says has in turn contributed in worsening the already deplorable condition of the poor. He therefore holds that the sure way of correcting this social ill is the application of the principles of his ‘ Justice as fairness’ in the society. In evaluating this notion however, we came to the conclusion that even though Rawls’ principles of justice as fairness are idealistic (hence, is Utopic), it is stil useful in practical life; for it among others things, tells us what we should do to correct injustices, deep distrust, and material deprivation.


CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTORDUCTION

BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Each individual human being says Fagothey is not alone in the world, but

lives in company with human beings1 In other words; each of us is more than an isolated individual. In fact, many living beings thrive better in group, clusters, colonies, or herds in which there may be some degree of cooperation. This therefore, gives us the idea of society. But society in the strict sense can be “formed only by

rational and free being since it is union based on agreement about goals”2

However among the basic element for the existence of society are: “cooperation among members, for the achievement of common good; and moral bonds means and

end.”3 Based on these elements, society may therefore be defined as “an enduring union of a member of persons morally bound under authority to co-operate for a

common good.”4 The common good is therefore, the end for which society exists. It is also regarded as “an intermediate end, (in so far as), it is a means toward the ultimate end of each member of the society.”

However, while the collectivists (i.e., the communist and the socialist), stress on making the common good, entity over and above the individual good, the individualists (i.e., the liberal capitalists) emphasize eon making the common good a mere sum of individual goods. But an adequate view of society and the common


good must find a place between these two extremes. And that is John Rawls’ theory

of (social) justice aims at achieving.”5 In other words, in social justice, citizens put in and receive their measure of their social goods from the society in proportional manner. Hence it requires not only a just distribution of the socio- economic out but the possibility of making fresh productivity, so that those who engaged in socio-

economic cooperation may be able to increase their income”6

The common good is therefore realized only in the individuals who make up society, but it is good that they achieve only by the cooperative interaction of the many. In other words to have a common good that can be the end of society, it is not enough that it concerns several persons. That might give us two interdependent private goods, such we find in contracts of exchange only in wages from his or her labour, each benefits the other, but they have not a common good in the strict sense. To have a common good as end of their joint effort, the employer must be genuinely interested in the welfare of the employee, the employee must in turn, have at heart the success of business; and these two interest must in turn merged into one common enterprise. They must help each other not only accidentally, because their private goods are entangled but essentially because they share in the one same good. For the lack of this common good, the type of employer- employee relationship normally found today, especially in the capitalist society, said to be wanting.


However, because of the dynamic nature of the common good (especial in its concrete sense), due to the dynamic nature of society, the perfect attainment of the common good is never realizable. Thus, man’s problem appears to be rooted in the general imperfection and contingencies that mark his universe. These include the obvious human scarcity and needs and also glaring inequalities of life. These factors are ethically relevant because they tend to affect the life of man adversely. In other words, when human need combines with scarcity, there emerges what M. Rearden

calls the “inescapable pressures”7 of human existence, which seem to create the conflict of interest, that make the issue of right and justice necessary. Justice as one of the cardinal virtues has therefore been postulated as one of the ways of living that would ensure that would ensure peaceful and ordered co-existence in human society, and most importantly for the attainment of common good in that society.

From the time of Aristotle, the word justice has been used in general sense and particular sense. In a general sense, justice is broad as to cover all the virtues that have any social significance. But in the particular sense, justice is that moral virtue which regulates our conduct towards other men. Hence it incline s us to give to each person what is due to him or her. Particular justice could be distributive or commutative justice.

Distributive justice, which Aristotle calls general justice and Thomas Aquinas, “legal justice,” refers to the organization of society in such a way that the which all


are expected to contribute in proportion to their ability and opportunity, is available to all the members, for their ready use and enjoyment. It shows itself more in economic, industrial racial and political relations but does not restrict itself to these. It involves everything connected with being good citizens or a good member of society and reaping what ought to be the reward of upright and cooperative social conduct. ‘

However, John Rawls see “justice as fairness”. And in his Theory of Justice, he develops principles of justice to govern a modern social order. Rawls hold that

the principles of justice ought to be chosen behind “ a veil of ignorance”10 In other words, for Rawls, hold that the principles that will eventually emerge as legitimate for guiding the individuals in the society ought to be formulated under a certain condition of fair and impartiality. Rawls’ main aim in saying this is to ensure that common good is not just equally shared but equitably distributed. How this is to be achieved is what Rawls presented in his theory of social Justice. Rawls therefore maintains that any arrangement of society that excludes or hinders certain classes or group within it from their fair share of the common good is a violation of social justice. In capitalist system for instance, insensitivity to the deplorable condition of the poor makes it bad. Rawls” effort in his Theory of Justice is therefore to improve on the capitalist system. It thus tries to remove indifference and insensitivity, to the plight of the poor, out of capitalism and thereby make it more morally acceptable. Its


premise is that there is inequality in capitalist society and in this circumstance; the most moral course of action is not to do anything that will worsen the already bad condition of the poor. Rawls therefore opines, “no action, social arrangement or change, should be allowed to take place unless it is going to improve the lot of the

poor.”11 This for him should be the standard by which all actions, arrangement or changes, in the society are to be judged. Thus, Rawls’ main preoccupation in his Theory of Justice is how to improve the lot of the poor in the capitalist system.

This thesis sets out to critically evaluate Rawls’ theory of (social) Justice. In doing this ewe shall try to point out some problems with regard to implementing this theory, and suggest some ways through which these problem can be over come.

1.2       STATEMENT OF PROBLEM.

There is inequality in every society” say John Rawls. This creates the classes of the rich and the poor in the society. In the capitalist system according to him, this inequality has worsened to the extent that the rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer. And this he says, constitutes a violation of social justice, since there is exploitation of labourers by the owners of business firm. The problem then is how is this ugly situation going to be corrected? This is what Rawls’ theory of Justice addresses. And so, the problem, which this thesis, whishes to tackle is how,


has Rawls’ theory of (social) justice helped in ameliorating the bad condition of less privileged in the capitalist society.

1.3       PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

The purpose of this study arose from the pressing need to find some ways of ameliorating the deteriorating condition of the poor in the (capitalist) society. The perversion of justice in the society both in political and economic sectors has resulted in existence of ea wide gap between the rich and the poor in the society. This has in turn contributed in worsening the already deplorable condition of the poor. Thus, this thesis aims at proffering some poor in the capitalist society.

1.4       THE SCOPE OF THE STUDY

The study is limited to discussing how social justice should be applied in the capitalist system, so as to reduce the hardship of the poor therein. However 2, for proper justification of our topic, we shall use Nigeria socio-economic system as a case study.


1.5.      THE SIGNIFICANCE O THE STUDY.

It is hoped that this thesis will help to better the condition of the poor in our society by reawakening in the mind of the people, the sense of fairness and equality in dealing with their neighbors.

The study is equally expected to prove that the theory can be converted into practice; by using Rawls’ theory of social justice to proffer solution to problem of exploitation in the capitalist system. When successfully done it would then be ea contribution to the proofs made by many other philosophers of the usefulness of philosophy to practical life.

Also student carrying out further research on this topic, or other related topics, may find this study very helpful, for it will serve as an insight into bad condition of the poor in the capitalist society.

1.6       METHODOLOGY.

The method employed in this thesis is analytical and critical approach. The thesis is therefore presented in two dimensions: one is an analysis of Rawls’ theory of (social) justice and capitalist system. A highlight of the attendant evils of capitalism is also presented here.

Another dimension is critical evaluation of the significance of this theory with particular reference to the condition of the less privileged in the capitalist society.


However, for convenience sake, the thesis is divided into five chapters: Chapter one is a general introduction. Here, the background of the study, purpose the scope and as well as it significance are presented. Also the method of this approach and the definitions of some important terms used in the thesis are presented here.

Chapter two is a review of important related literatures. Here some works that made some vital comment before Rawls’ as well as his contemporaries are critically reviewed. This helps us to appreciate better Rawls’ theory of Justice as it gives us the glimpse of the background under which Rawls wrote his book A Theory of Justice which serves as our main source in this thesis. The review also helps us to see how some contemporaries o Rawls have reacted to his view in this regard. This will also help us to know the direction we will follow as we try to evaluate Rawls’ theory of justice in this thesis.

Chapter three is an analysis of John Rawls’ theory of justice. While chapter four is an analysis of capitalist system. in doing this some merits and demerits of capitalism are highlighted.

Chapter Five however is a critical evaluation of Rawls theory of justice and its usefulness in ameliorating the bad condition of the poor in the society. Also our own suggestions for reducing the deplorable condition of less privileged in the society are presented here.


1.7       DEFINITION OF TERMS

For a better understanding of this study, we deem it necessary to attempt the definition of some basic terms especially as they are operational in this write-up. These terms include: “justice”, “capitalism” and “the poor”.

1.7.1 JUSTICE

Justice means “giving to each man his own and due right”


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