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The egalitarian theory of distributive justice by John Rawls

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A very important distinction: concepts vs. conceptions[edit | edit source]

It is recognized that any theory of justice, whether political, social or otherwise, implies a treatment of the concepts of freedom and equality. Justice theories such as they are generally debated in political theory and political philosophy, all of them, in one way or another, deal with the sometimes very complicated relationship between the idea of freedom on the one hand, what is within the sphere of individual action and self-determination, and the question of equality, which is at the heart of the idea of equality.

Overall, a theory of democratic, political morality and a theory of justice generally refer to very abstract concepts. The concept of moral equality, the concept of the righteous in Rawls, presupposes that we must determine the criteria for the distribution of the fruits of our social cooperation, starting from the idea that, a priori, we are all moral equals, which means that, a priori, we all have the same capacity to use them morally and the same dignity to receive something from the fruits of this cooperation. The concept of moral equality is to say that we are all human beings, so we owe us equality of respect, we must consider ourselves as moral actors, which means that these are abstract but also very general criteria which do not necessarily make it possible to distinguish between different theories. For Kymlicka, in his book Theories of Justice published in 2003, "The idea of moral equality... is too abstract to allow us to infer a theory of justice. Political argumentation[relies] on a single idea and competing conceptions or interpretations of that idea. The different theories are not deduced from the ideal of equality, they aspire to that ideal, and each of them must be judged on its success in expressing that aspiration".

A distinction must be made between the general concept of freedom, equality and the different conceptions that flow from it. We are also talking about different specifications that are different designs that have a common base. The theory of justice and the tensions that characterize it essentially revolve around specifications and conceptions and less around the great principle of moral equality. To be part of the family of liberal theories in the broadest sense, all these theories are supposed to presuppose in their basic principle, the acceptance of the theory of moral equality. If a theory radically challenges the idea that we share, something that is part of our condition of humanity, in general, the theories that challenge it is somehow outside the liberal paradigm. We will have to deal with theories that generally share a commitment to a principle of moral equality.

At the level of the grand concept, there is some agreement, but different conceptions that will focus on modalities in order to think about justice that will be a little different. For example, if we start from the idea that having a decent wage in order to be able to live and start from the idea that it is through work that these resources are possible, on the other hand, a just society is a society in which individuals have globally equitable resources to function, to be free, to make choices, and so on. We think differently about how to arrive at or think about this justice when we talk about equal resources, that is to say that everyone must have the same endowment, which is not the same as equal opportunities, that is to say that what is important is that everyone can have a chance and therefore occupy a place. One can also imagine that an equal result is that after the distribution, everyone has the same endowment.

What a communist system can be ethically and in a very abstract way by pooling resources, implementing a distribution grid that does not disadvantage any other. On the side of equal opportunities, that is to say that everyone must have equal opportunities, moreover, everyone must be treated correctly, but deserving people will have more than demerited, the best people will have more than the worst, which translates into wages of several million or wages that are below the poverty line. We can imagine that as long as the equal treatment procedure is the same for everyone, we could ask ourselves what is wrong with it. With the university, it is possible to postulate that with better training, it will be possible to apply for higher-paying jobs. To say that there will be better paying jobs is also based on the idea that, somewhere, not everyone will have the same salary. This means that, depending on merit or competence, it is perfectly legitimate for some people to benefit more from the fruits of social cooperation than others.

Theory of Justice (1971 [1987])[edit | edit source]

cThe question that Rawls' political philosophy tries to resolve is what are the fair and just criteria for distribution. He is going to propose a theory of justice that is highly criticized, but which is somewhat the foundation on which the understanding of liberal justice in the 20th century is based and which is the standard against which many other theories are positioned. Rawls formalized a theory in the Theory of Justice first published in 1971, according to which "justice is the first virtue of social institutions".

The aim is to present the main key insights of the theory of justice. The book, Theory of Justice, published in 1971, laid out a theory of social justice. In 1993, Rawls published the book Political Liberalism. In this book, he sets out the principles of justice. It is a more political work seeking to find out how the theory of justice can fit into an understanding of political relations that characterizes democratic societies. It repeats the same things that it puts more in a democratic perspective of political justice. This book also comes as a critique to communitarian thinkers who began to attack the validity of the whole rawlsian model in 1971. In this book, Rawls responds to a number of these criticisms and incorporates some of the insights of communitarians members. The book, La justice comme équité is the French translation of a book written in 1999 entitled Justice as Fairness: A Restatement. He goes back over thirty years of philosophy and clarifies his position even further. The approach proposed by John Rawls has greatly influenced social policy. There are intuitions that seem obvious, but were much less obvious in the past.

In 1971, Rawls attempted to propose a third way between the liberal approach that characterized the western world and the Marxist approach. This led Rawls to be characterized excessively left-wing or even Marxist in the United States and sometimes excessively liberal and conservative in Europe. He tried to present some sort of synthesis. Presumably there is something left and a bunch of liberal premises.

Some general elements of John Rawls' egalitarian liberal position[edit | edit source]

John Rawls.jpg

One of Rawl's enemies is utilitarianism. As a good liberal, Rawls cannot accept the sacrificial drift of utilitarianism. For Rawls, who participates in an ethical position, there is something about the inviolability of the person that cannot be sacrificed in the name of collective utility or happiness. For Rawls, utilitarianism has many interesting elements, but the problem is that it can lead to completely immoral practices in order to serve the usefulness of as many people as possible. It tries to propose a model of justice that somehow respects the idea that all people are moral equals and therefore free and equal. Utilitarianism, as long as it can sacrifice one to increase the usefulness of the others, does not make it possible to respect the dimension of inviolability.

Among the various declensions of the deontologist, there is according to Kant's inspired perspective, the idea that moral action implies the adequacy to a moral duty that we have. For Rawls, considering his deontological position is to say that it is necessary to distinguish between the just and the good, because the pursuit of the good could go to the detriment of the just.

What is the society for John Rawls? In Justice as Equity, society is "a fair system of cooperation over time, from one generation to the next, in which those engaged in cooperation are regarded as free and equal citizens and as normally cooperating members of society throughout their lifetime". For Rawls, the company is not a cooperative system. It is not the adherence to cultural values or the sharing of loyalty networks or gemainshaft which is a kind of organic society where everyone knows each other and lives in social networks. For Rawls, this is possible, but he sees society as a system of cooperation based on the existence of free and equal citizens. The question that arises from this definition is how we should justly manage and distribute the products and fruits of this cooperation.

To say that people are free and equal is a normative conception. Rawls argues that people, under the principle of moral equality, are free and equal in the same way. These people have two important faculties of being able to have a sense of justice (1), which means being able to adapt, become involved or act from a certain conception of justice; and every person is able to rationally define a conception of good (2), i.e., a conception of everything to which to direct his life and for which that person lives. The conception of good, for some, is what gives the value of our life. This is the life we choose. We should not see the conception of good as something religious, it can be a lot of things.

From these two moral faculties, Rawls says that it is possible progressively to achieve what he calls a "thoughtful balance", that is, a kind of interplay of mutual adjustments between moral principles and the intuitions we have with respect to particular situations that emanate from our existence. Thoughtful balance, that is, trying to find a solution that is morally acceptable and possibly effective between moral principles and the complexity of the situations that may arise. This is good pragmatism in the philosophical sense, i. e. the continuous flow of intuition and the context or problems that arise. We can imagine that even if we start from the deontological principle that we should not kill others, we can say that by reflexive equilibrium it is possible to justify self-defence, namely that self-defence leads to an infringement of a principle because someone dies, but at the same time, in a reflective and reflective way, it is possible to justify the fact that in particular situations it is a morally acceptable solution. We know this from the back and forth between our intuitions, what seems to us to be just, unjust, morally good or bad of the cases that arise and the moral theories to which we try to bring meaning.

What is justice for? According to Rawls, there is a need for thoughtful conclusions on principles of justice that aim at specifying the equitable terms of social cooperation. That is to say, the fair terms in the way in which social cooperation is organised and, if necessary, the products of this social cooperation. For Rawls, it's possible to have a whole bunch of intuitions that lead us to refine a number of principles.

The justice theory model developed in the 1970s is the question of primary social goods. Rawls' primary social goods are the basic goods for Rawls, namely freedom and opportunity, income and wealth, power, and the social bases of self-respect that are necessary for any opportunity offered to people to be free. For Rawls, being free means being able to pursue a certain conception of the good. Rawls identifies a foundation of social prime goods that are a product of society and that are not only talents that we have as an individual human being and that are prime because without these goods, we cannot be free. For Rawls, in order for people to live freely, it is necessary that they have a certain number of possessions. Some are rights, but others come from the social distribution of the fruits of a country's wealth. For Rawls, the theory of justice deals with the just distribution of primary goods. What interests him is the basic structure of society, i. e. the social structure that allows the distribution of social goods. He does not have a general theory of justice that would apply to everything, but a particular theory of justice that deals with the basic structure of society.

How is it possible to establish and determine the principles of justice?[edit | edit source]

Rawls' entire approach is a contractualist one. It will have it as a mechanism for defining these principles. Rawls will determine the principles of justice based on what individuals would choose. For him, the best way to arrive at the definition of the principles of justice that are supposed to be accepted and followed by everyone is to imagine an ideal situation, i. e. an "original position", in which individuals would agree under certain conditions on the superiority of certain principles over others. As long as they accept a contract, these principles will become principles of justice that will try to organize social interactions regarding the primary social goods.

The theory of justice is basically a theory of equity. John Rawls talks about fairness. It is based on the idea that it is necessary to find a theory that makes it possible to reconcile the equality of persons with the particularity of situations. It is based in part and not only on an Aristotelian conception which is to treat similar cases in a similar way and different cases differently. It seems to be obvious, but in some cases the question of evidence may be raised. Any asociological formalisation, because it is meaningless, has a strong impact on the possibilities of being treated equally. It is not easy to treat equally. For this reason, Rawls proposes a theory of equity that is flexible enough to allow for a number of characteristics to be considered.

Rawls tries to ideally pose a theory of justice and principles of justice that should apply in the ideal society. For him, the ideal society is a society that is thought on the principle of adequacy. It is based on the idea that individuals, in the ideal society, once the criteria of justice have been identified, will adapt to them because they will consider them as just and superior to others. For Rawls, it is not possible to build a theory of justice by thinking of particular sub-groups, that is the work of non-ideal politicians and theorists, namely those who deal with reality more as it is.

Rawls starts from the anthropological observation that is shared by the whole pluralist and democratic movement that Western free societies are characterized by pluralism. In reality, it is moral pluralism with many different positions, beliefs, conceptions of the good, different groups or interests; for Rawls, this is the product of freedom. The idea that we can have a society organized around a conception of the good, for him, is unfounded sociologically and philosophically. It is for this reason that he says that the fact that there is such a plurality of conceptions of the property that one cannot agree on a common understanding of a parsimonious number of principles of justice. The communitarians dispute this point, saying that Rawls is wrong because he dissociates good from righteousness and this makes his theory insipid and ontologically unfounded. For the Liberals, on the whole, the idea of a separation between right and good as the product of our freedom is more or less accepted.

Rawls is trying to base his criteria of justice on a hypothetical contract. Rawls aims to determine the principles of justice as equity, trying to set out the principles that make it possible to organise society and thus social cooperation in an equitable manner. This is done through a hypothetical contract based on putting people in an equitable situation. It will show that if people are thought equitably, they will accept the principles of justice as being fair. The idea is that it is a hypothetical contract trying to think in a fictitious way about the original position that does not exist, that is not psychologically coherent, but philosophically coherent in order to try to show that when people think of themselves as equals, they will define and decide together equitable principles.

Moral equality remains the cornerstone of Rawls' perimeter. Beyond the utilitarianism he contests, there is the idea that individual merit must be a criterion of justice. Rawls attacks the idea that the fair and just distribution of the fruits of social cooperation must be based on the idea that it deserves. According to Rawls, this calls for a morally arbitrary conception; for him, merit is morally arbitrary. We have no merit in being physically deserving, it's the chance of life. Even the fact that positions reach higher positions is not a solid enough basis for saying that morally, one has the right to keep the fruits of one's cooperation. It is a strong thesis in a fairly advanced capitalist world as in the 1970s in the United States. He argued that a distance had to be set aside from the idea of merit, which was basically the idea of social cooperation. For Rawls, we are never alone in doing something, there is a work of the last society and it is therefore normal that in relation to the definition of the criteria of justice, this is taken into account. This implies a protection of fundamental rights that preserves the possibility for people to function freely. It aims to ensure that these basic rights and freedoms protected by the Constitution are not challenged by sacrificial utilitarian logic. One could imagine that when the Swiss people vote against the construction of minarets by a constitutional article, this principle is not respected. This is a rather flagrant case where the Swiss population composed at this time about 96% of non-Muslims, decides for a practice of others. Many people do not see the problem of injustice. For Rawls, it would be an illegitimate majority preference.

What interests Rawls are the basic structures of society, the principles that organize our cooperation and social collaboration. Rawls argues that a democratic society will be more stable and peaceful if it is organized around just principles. Rawls' work is very much inspired by Locke's work, which had in mind the issue of religious wars. The paradigm of religious wars is truly something that has structured the idea of an unstable and unjust society. Rawls tells us that if we can find the right way to get back on track and organise social cooperation, if we have a just society, we will be more likely to have a stable society.

According to Rawls, there's nothing significant about having superior natural abilities, there's nothing to be rewarded by luck, because these are circumstances. Rawls talks about his model as a realistic utopia. This seems utopian because it is very abstract, but realistic because it is based on rational arguments that seem obvious or acceptable to us in a democratic logic. Rawls tries to give general principles that he tries to defend and justify. It will try to show what inequalities are unfair. For Rawls and liberalism, not all inequalities are necessarily unfair. There may be inequalities that are part of the social characteristics of humanity and not defined as unfair. The question of the determination between just and unjust inequalities is not always so obvious. Rawls tries, in relation to a very precise vision of these prime properties, to propose some criteria.

The experience of thought as envisioned by Rawls[edit | edit source]

What is the framework of John Rawls' thought experiment? Three elements must be distinguished: the original position, the veil of ignorance and the type of strategy that individuals will choose.

The conditions of the contract: the original position[edit | edit source]

The original position represents the initial status quo that guarantees the fairness of the fundamental agreements that could be concluded there. This is equivalent to the state of nature of classical contractual theories such as Hobbes, Locke or Rousseau. Rawls thinks of a fictitious, hypothetical, original position in which he tries to put and predispose a situation of choice of principles of justice that is already foreseen as being equitable, namely, based on the idea that individuals are moral equals and that they must have a fair chance of deciding the principles. What is important is that this original position is not a historical or sociological experience. The purpose of contractualist theories was somewhere to define what individuals would choose from a natural state. Individuals are fed up with war, so they give Leviathan the power to guarantee their survival, individuals are fed up with the denial of their property rights by others like Locke, so they give the state the ability to arbitrate interindividual relations so that property is guaranteed, individuals are fed up with being perverted by a politically and morally failing society, and thus Rousseau.

Rawls does not question the fact of knowing what people in a fictitious position and given the problems of the state of nature would choose. He proposes to think of a form of contract that is based on a number of principles of justice and to see whether rational individuals considered equal and free capable of the sense of right and a conception of good if they could support them. So he reverses the contractualist logic. People accept the principles of justice because they are just, they do not agree together to define the principles of justice, the situation is already right at the beginning. Rawls shows that people in this just and equitable situation will defend the principles of justice. It is a different situation to show how people should give power to a Leviathan without knowing what underlies the power of that Leviathan. Rawls has a more basic level of defining principles of justice.

The veil of ignorance: ignorance as a condition of impartiality / equality[edit | edit source]

What are the presuppositions of this equitable situation which allows it to constitute the original position with individuals who have to decide together by contract what principles they will adopt and organise social cooperation?

For Rawls, given that this contract must be fair and equitable in its conception, it is necessary to put people in a situation of impartiality, that is, non-injustice. This means that in order for people to be able to make an informed decision about what the principles of equity are, paradoxically, they have to ignore a lot of things about themselves. For Rawls, fictitious individuals do not know their natural talents, whether they are old or young, their social status, gender, social class, race, psychological dispositions such as courage or prudence or otherwise, and do not fully understand their conception of the good. Otherwise, they do not know whether they will have the majority or minority view of the property, whether they will have a view of the property that is accepted or not. They are fictitious individuals who do not know all the things that are already accessed on social injustices. In their original position, there is a veil of ignorance that blinds us to who we are from a social point of view. Even the question of our natural talents depends on our social conditions. Our talents depend on particular contexts that will make them fair or unjust. With Rawls, if we want to be fair, we don't have to know that because otherwise we will tend to defend our interests and value certain things.

On the other hand, there are certain things we know, such as knowing that we are capable of having a certain conception of good or doing certain things. We know that we will be able to make choices, that there are things we will enjoy more than others, and we also know that it is not certain that others will guarantee them.

What would individuals in such a situation choose? The strategy of maximizing the minimum (maximin) [so, risk aversion][edit | edit source]

Rawls' question is what are rational individuals in the sense that they will choose the most effective means to achieve their goals, namely freedom and equality in the equity that interests them, and who are disinterested, that is, they do not necessarily have relationships of friendship or love for others, what will they choose?

Rawls' answer is to say that there is a strong likelihood that in this situation, there are individuals who are using the maximine strategy, the reverse risk strategy. There are rational individuals who want to preserve their ability to be free in the sense of having a conception of good, but who do not know whether they will be of the right generation, they do not know whether they will be part of the right race or the right sex, they do not know whether their talent or not natural will be evaluated, considered or not.

For Rawls, in this situation, individuals would tend to choose the principles of justice that will guarantee their minimum. So, the principles of justice that allow them to maximize their worst-case situation. It is based on the idea that individuals would tend to accept principles that would allow them to maximize the minimum resource endowment. Individuals choose precautionary criteria and for him they are "the very principles that free and rational people, desirous of promoting their own interests and placed in an initial position of equality, would accept and, according to them, define the fundamental terms of their association". What may seem counter-intuitive is that we are dealing with free and rational people, namely that it is rational to maximize its minimum. The maxim is not only fear, it would be a rational choice.

A B Total wealth
Distribution 1 5 5 10
Distribution 2 6 8 14
A B C Wealth
D1 10 8 1 19
D2 7 6 2 15
D3 5 4 4 13

The strategies followed must respect Pareto's optimum, i. e. the idea that any change in strategy aimed at improving the situation of X would lead to a decrease in Y's situation.

Les deux principes de justice selon Rawls[edit | edit source]

1) Everyone has an equal right to the widest set of fundamental freedoms which is compatible with the granting to all of those freedoms (principle of equal freedom) It is the first and most preponderant principle of justice that is the principle of equal freedom, saying that we cannot question equal freedom for everyone in the name of freedom. By this principle, Rawls, somewhere, cuts the grass under the foot of any utilitarian possibility that would mean sacrificing the freedom of people and some in the name of greater wealth or even in the name of the greatest happiness of others. The only reason to question someone's freedom is in the name of freedom.

2) Inequalities in socio-economic benefits are justified only if:

  • they help to improve the lot of the less fortunate members of society (principle of difference), and
  • they are committed to positions which everyone has a fair chance of occupying (principle of equal opportunities)

Les relations entre les principes sont dans un ordre lexicographique, à savoir un ordre de priorités d'un principe sur les autres au sens ou 1. est prioritaire sur 2(b) et 2(a).

The principle of equal freedom (1) must take precedence over social or economic considerations in order to avoid any "sacrifice" in the name of maximizing collective utility. Freedom can only be limited by considerations related to freedom itself, and not to promote substantive or even social equality. In order to preserve their ability to pursue a conception of the good or enrich their lives, individuals will agree to establish the principle that freedom takes precedence over any other consideration. The only way to ensure that it does not take precedence and is questioned, but always in the name of freedom and not for other reasons.

The principle of equal opportunities (2b) implies that individuals should not be discriminated against on morally arbitrary grounds such as sex, race, religion or other grounds when applying for jobs. Rawls states that everyone must have equal access to positions and not be discriminated against on morally arbitrary grounds such as gender or race. We have the definition of principles that are very much in line with the idea of maximin. Individuals would agree that these qualifying factors should in no way determine our ability to access jobs. Rawls, who needs to be resituated in the 1970s, starts from the idea that social wealth is produced by work. For him, this form of cooperation must be determined by principles of justice.

It implies that equality is the default position and that inequality must be justified.

This third point is more controversial: if inequalities exist, they can only be justified if they contribute to improving the lot of the most disadvantaged. Rawls implicitly says the standard would be equality. He has a rather progressive conception for his time which is equality which should be the standard. From the moment that this equality is not possible, inequality can be justified only if it improves the position of people who are lowest on the scale.

This model seems to be virtuous at first glance, namely that if everyone increases their wealth, the world will be better off; So in a phase of economic growth, one could imagine that the fact that the richest people continue to get richer, if this still result in an improvement in the situation of the poorest people, one could say that somewhere rawlsian justice is fulfilled because the poorest people have more or in any case no less. The problem is that if we are in a situation of economic growth, it is possible to imagine a virtuous circle where everyone wins. Nevertheless, if we enter a phase of economic non-growth where global resources are shrinking and we need to redistribute them more, the question that may arise is that of determining when this kind of redistribution begins, because the surplus of wealth accumulated by the most advantageous must benefit the situation of the most deprived, which means having a State that essentially redistributes resources. In such a situation, the question that might arise is the question of when the most advantageous would retain the motivation and incentive to always produce more if subsequently a considerable part of the production would be taken away from them, to be distributed to the most disadvantaged.

For Rawls, the problem is principled. It is not an analysis of tax policy, it basically says that this principle of difference is the principle that the most gifted people would choose in the original position, precisely because they know perfectly well that it could be on the wrong side of the barrier, so they will choose to have their situation as little worse as possible. This criterion is not a question of the majority of the poorest against a minority of privileged individuals. Rawls is not in a group logic, but in a logic where everyone would have signed these agreements on the basis of a rational argument given the starting position, i.e. a situation in which they are not sure. For Rawls, from the moment one engages with these principles, it is reasonable to preserve them even if one is actually in a much more advantageous situation than the hypothetical one that could not have been.

(Some) internal problematic aspects of the Rawlsian approach[edit | edit source]

Can we really choose principles of justice without having a conception of good? It is possible to imagine a whole host of critics. For example, one may wonder how it is possible to have a conception of the just without having a conception of the good; or wonder whether it might not be possible to imagine different originating positions where individuals function differently.

Is the person's conception (the ontology of the self) on which the theory is based convincing? Can a shared and reciprocal conception of justice be based on a representation process based on the model of the rational individual? Do these individuals, even if they are placed in the situation envisaged by Rawls, have enough faculties to reach an agreement? For some, these individuals cannot enter into an agreement because they do not know the terms of the contract. This contract, in order to have a scope, must be based on something. A hypothetical contract would not be a contract that causes the exercise of Rawls to present logical problems.

Why choose maximin, so pessimism? Why not imagine people who in their original position would say that they are taking the risk of being slaves, of being destitute, but who also want to have the freedom and opportunity to become the master of the world. Why not choose the maxim and not the maximax. Rawls has arguments that didn't convince everyone.

Why not give more consideration to the implications of natural heritage properties? We must not forget that the resources that will be distributed are used to give content to the primary social goods. Rawls speaks of the crucial importance for our lives as free and equal people of the social goods of respect, power and even the minimum of wealth. For some, if indeed they are prime property, the characteristic that makes or not a life worthy of being lived, but then is Rawls not too prescriptive or too vague about prime property? For example, if we talk about the idea that there are people who are born with disabilities or who become disabled in their lifetime, what does it mean, somewhere, to improve the lot of these people? If one thinks of a term of social class or socio-economic redistribution of resources, one can vaguely imagine that targeted economic and social policies could reinforce by means of redistribution programmes or support the income and purchasing power of certain categories of the population.

Is the universalist basis, in the sense of a theory applicable at any time and in any place, plausible? It is possible to imagine how tax distributions can support this type of property. But what does it mean to improve the fate of a person with a severe handicap, what does it mean in practice to improve the fate of the first good, the self-respect, power or wealth of someone who needs a world of steel to survive? For some, and especially Rawls, it is not that he forgets the handicapped, but it is that he does not treat them for the simple reason that if he were to treat them, the whole arithmetic and realistic side of his proposal would be completely overwhelmed because one can imagine that perhaps even all the wealth of the world redistributed to a person would not be sufficient to substantially improve his quality of life. One could imagine that any form of tax levy that would be hypothetically addressed to a person with a severe physical handicap, all this redistribution would not be sufficient to improve his or her life.

What about expensive individual preferences, i. e. the difference between choice and circumstances? By Rawls, one can imagine that there is a circumstance in life that makes it necessary in some way or another to try to improve the fate of this person. For some, there is a time when we are also partially committed to the choices we make. Starting from the idea that the state must redistribute resources to take into account the misadventures of a disadvantaged person's situation, when that situation is the product of a choice, this would be tantamount to saying that Rawls gives a kind of joker for luxury tastes. That is to say, it will allow people to make luxury choices that only appeal to them, and then they count on the solidarity and redistribution of others to be able to finance the bribes. This argument does not hold water, it is not fair for the simple reason that forms of redistribution of equality support must absolutely act when it comes to preserving the possibilities of individuals to be free, autonomous and live their conception of the good, but not at all when it comes to socialising the means by which some people can live in luxury, idleness or otherwise. At some point, people have to take responsibility for their choices. This means that some of the inequalities that would result from choices, which are not in Rawls' radar because he sees the position of the poor as a metric between those who live well and those who don't, so it's totally unfair to fund by what one makes health or other choices in the sense of financing risk aversion or the luxury pleasures of some people. Thus, the original position and this rather rapid vision of the prime goods do not achieve a better justice, it is necessary to refine them.

Is the universalistic basis in the sense of the theory applicable at all times and thus in all places plausible? This question refers to the idea that, regardless of the human context of any group or culture, individuals would choose this conception. For some, this refers to an ethnocentric form of reflection that calls upon categories of reason specific to Western modernity. Here we find the eternal debate between relativists and universalists.

Criticisms of rawlsienn theorye[edit | edit source]

All these debates continue with libertarians such as Hayek in The Mirage of Social Justice (1976) and Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), which challenge the issue of redistribution, among other things, saying that there is no reason to take resources accumulated and produced by individuals because it would be like taking away part of them, that is the concept of self-property. Communautarians like MacIntyre in After Virtue (1981), Sandel in Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (1982), Walzer in Spheres of Justice (1983) and Taylor in Positive illusions (1989) challenge the somewhat disembodied universalist bases of the approach. As for Republicans like Barber in Strong Democracy: Participatory Politics for a New Age, published in 1984, they challenge a concept of citizenship that they say is completely null and void. Post-structuralists such as Young in Justice and the Politics of Difference (1990) and Fraser in Transnationalizing the Public Sphere: On the Legitimacy and Efficacy of Public Opinion in a Post-Westphalian World (2005) call into question but fundamentally argue that it is necessary to revert to a conception of justice that is much finer than the existing historically constructed power relations. Neomarxists like Roemer in Market Socialism: A Case for Rejuvenation, published in 1982, criticizes a certain number of shortcuts to Rawls' position for the simple reason that at one point the rawlsian model continues to justify far too many inequalities for us to actually arrive at a situation of social solidarity, fair, in which, as Marx said, everyone, in relation to their needs and according to their means.

From Theory of Justice (1971) to Political Liberalism (1993)[edit | edit source]

The question is that of political liberalism, namely, what are the bases for the justification of our institutions and the passage that Rawls makes between the theory of justice and political liberalism. The concept of political liberalism was introduced by Rawls already to counteract or respond to a set of communitarian objections and in particular the idea that Rawls had a theory that was too abstract, too general, too disjointed from the specific conditions of production of the categories it implied.

From a certain point onwards, it is in reference to a community of meaning that these categories will make sense. We need to put Rawls' theory into context. This is what Rawls does in part in political liberalism or what he tries to do, among other things, is that of pushing much further the metaethical conception that underlies his theory. For some, with the universalist base, Rawls' theory was too universalist, too abstract and too ideal. For some, this theory embodied a conception of the universalist good. For Rawls, the hallmark of his theory of justice is to be political. The idea is that Rawls' theory of justice is not at the same level as other theories of justice that are based on good. For him, it is a political theory of justice, i. e. who deals only with questions of the political management of justice and not with other things being therefore very limited and specific, but above all a conception that can be legitimized and justified on the basis of a political understanding of the needs of this management of social cooperation without having to mobilize conceptions of the metaphysical good.

In saying that this is a conception of political justice, Rawls says that it can be politically accepted by individuals who do not share the same conception of good. If Rawls' theory of justice or liberalism were centred on a conception of the good, he would be confronted with the problem of sectarianism, namely the problem of being able to define principles that can be accepted by people with different conceptions of the good. Rawls says it's not the case. Thus, it is possible to have reasonable agreement around these principles even if we disagree profoundly about what is good. There are many intuitions that feed Liberal regimes, and our understanding of democracy is somehow intuitive. In general, there will be general agreement on the legitimacy of the majority democratic procedure, for example. It is possible to imagine adhering to a number of procedures and criteria of justice on how to regulate our cooperation that are independent and autonomous. For Rawls, the idea of justice as equity is not a moral doctrine, is not a conception of ethical good, but it is a political concept that is therefore acceptable, but acceptable to reasonable individuals in a context of public discussion and that results in a contract from everyone to accept these terms.

Why is Rawls moving to a political dimension? Why should citizens accept the principles of justice as the standard for a just basic structure?

  1. because they are preferable to utilitarianism in the definition of righteousness and unjustness. According to the conception of justice as evoked in Rawls' theory, it is preferable to utilitarianism because it avoids any form of sacrifice.
  2. because they are the result of a fair choice. So they can be justified for everyone. For Rawls, as long as everyone can agree to accept these principles, then we are dealing with good principles of justice, in any case that respect the idea that it is everyone's adherence that gives them legitimacy and justification.
  3. because the act of acting in righteousness and justice as having a first priority over other motives of action makes our freedom possible in the face of chance and contingency. What also emerges, in part from his 1971 argument, is that he implicitly implies that the fact that those who decide to act in a just and just manner have a first priority over others. For him, the idea of acting for the just is what would allow the exercise of freedom in the face of chance and contingency in particular. With communitarian criticism, Rawls came to the conclusion that this interpretation is excessively Kantian. This means that it gives too strong a role to the concept of autonomy and justice in particular. In the conception of the person of Rawls, the individual had, if he had the faculty to choose his conception of good, but especially if he had the faculty to act according to the righteous; Now, given the very Kantian basis of his conception of justice, which is based on the autonomy of not being able to treat others as means, but which must be treated as ends, Rawls realizes that this closeness can be too restrictive in a society characterized by moral pluralism and pluralism of conceptions of the good. For him, this conception would be too inclusive, and therefore it would run the risk of being sectarian, of not finding the support of people who start from the idea, for example, that one can quite simply live a good life without being autonomous at all.

It is the Kantian basis of the third justification that is challenged by Rawls and pushes him to adopt a political conception of justice as equity. For Rawls, this third interpretation had to be qualified a little bit, and it is for this reason that he says he will try to put in place a political theory of justice and not an overly Kantian theory.

The question Rawls raises in Political Liberalism, once he has asked his theory, is to know to the extent that it is becoming increasingly clear that we disagree on the good, then how do we ensure that this disagreement does not break the principles of justice; In other words, how can we ensure that, despite the moral disagreement that characterizes us, we can still make a public case for the superiority of these principles of justice? The question at the heart of his book is "How is it possible that a just and stable society, made up of free and equal citizens who are deeply divided among themselves because of their understanding doctrines, moral, philosophical and religious, which are incompatible with each other but reasonable? In other words, how is it possible that deeply opposed yet reasonable doctrines can coexist and all justify the political conception that forms the basis of a constitutional regime? ». His 1993 work aims to answer this question, namely, what makes us, despite the fact that we are in deep philosophical disagreement about what is good, how is it that, despite the fact that we do not have the same conception of good at all, how is it possible, despite the fact that we are in deep philosophical disagreement about what is good, to meet around political principles and acceptable to everyone? The challenge is how to organize moral, social and cultural pluralism fairly. The proposal goes even further than distributive justice action.

From the moment when political conception is the only way, the question that Rawls asks is "what is the most acceptable political conception of justice to specify the equitable terms of cooperation between citizens regarded as free and equal, as reasonable and rational, and[...] as normal and fully cooperating members of society throughout their lives, from one generation to the next? ». This is the question that Rawls addresses in an attempt to put in place a defence strategy, a philosophical framework to say that these principles of justice encapsulate in a broader political concept that gives very good reasons to accept them as reasonable and therefore to make sure that everyone can accept them by contract.

The political conception of justice: three characteristics[edit | edit source]

The political conception of justice is not an exhaustive moral doctrine. Yes, indeed,

  1. It must be formulated for a specific purpose: the basic structure of the company. For Rawls, this is not an exhaustive theory. In other words, it is not a theory of justice that goes beyond what it sets itself, namely to focus on a specific object: the equitable principles that must govern social cooperation.
  2. It is presented independently of any exhaustive doctrine, so accepting it does not presuppose accepting a particular encompassing doctrine. It must be presented and justified independently of other comprehensive, all-encompassing doctrines, which is to say that there must be some form of conception that allows acceptance even if there are fundamental disagreements for the good.
  3. It is formulated exclusively through fundamental ideas that are familiar or implicit in the public political culture of a democratic society as told in Theory of Justice. This is seen as an excessive concession to communitarian criticism. For Rawls, this theory is formulated exclusively through fundamental ideas that are familiar or implicit in the public political culture of a democratic society.

Thus, for Rawls, this theory is not completely abstract and universalist, but it is embodied in the tradition of public culture theories of existing democratic models and democratic regimes. Somewhere, he makes it quite substantial. For the universalist liberals who start from the idea that the principles of justice apply wherever they are because they are justified in an ideal way, which is even more important if we accept this communitarian criticism. Rawls tells us that he does not propose anything overwhelming, but that he is systematizing in a certain way, categories, resources that we already have in our democratic tradition. It does not summon things that seem completely absurd to us a priori because they are completely disembodied philosophical categories. In this sense, if we are a rational minimum in relation to the values and practices that are generally agreed to be considered as characteristic of the public culture of democratic countries, we should be able to find the possibility of systematizing this understanding in principles that are just and therefore acceptable to everyone.

In approaching the main ideas, we will try to clarify the argumentative structure.

The main ideas[edit | edit source]

Concept I – The fact of pluralism[edit | edit source]

The conception of justice must be compatible with the fact of pluralism, namely "the fact of the profound and irreconcilable differences between reasonable and encompassing world views, whether philosophical or religious, to which citizens are attached, and in their vision of the moral or aesthetic values that must be realized in a human life" as stated in Theory of Justice.

The fact of pluralism is somewhere the concept that guides Rawls' need to define the contours of this political theory of justice. If every philosopher has his own indignation, for Rawls there was that legacy of the wars of religion in Locke and Hobbes's reading of the wars of religion in terms of truly saying, but how is it possible to avoid fratricidal wars in the name of two conceptions of property. It lays down a theory which should make it possible to avoid the domination of conceptions of the good somewhere. Rawls starts from the idea that this fact of pluralism and something unbeatable.

We simply have to start from a theory based on this anthropological constraint, which is the idea that pluralism is a characteristic of any culture or democratic society. Rawls divides his theory into democratic systems.

Concept II – The encompassing doctrine[edit | edit source]

In his Theory of Justice, Rawls defines all-encompassing doctrine as follows: "an all-encompassing doctrine of a religious, philosophical or moral nature[is] a conception that applies to all subjects and includes all values", that is, to everything that shapes our conduct and, ultimately, our life as a whole. Many religious doctrines aspire to be both general and comprehensive, and the utilitarianism or moral visions of Kant or Mill also fall into this category.

What characterizes the fact of pluralism, what is the problem inherent in the fact of pluralism? It is composed of all-encompassing or comprehensive doctrine. They are doctrines of a religious, philosophical or moral nature that apply to all subjects and include all values. They are all-encompassing because they give us a very broad cosmology of who we are, what we are here to do and why we should do it. It is all-encompassing because it attempts to give an understanding that is intended to give meaning to practically all practices and moments of life.

It's not just religious doctrines. For some, the French secularist position that comes from the republican model is similar to an all-encompassing doctrine, which is a conception of "battle" secularism that goes beyond the posture of neutrality with regard to confessions, but is centred on a conception of reason as well as freedom. For some, it is a kind of secular religion. Thus, it is just as comprehensive as a religious belief, namely a civil religion, could be. This is an extremely restrictive conception of autonomy in the Kantian sense. It is through the exercise of one's autonomy that one becomes visible, i. e. one must develop to autonomy in order to acquire full freedom.

For Rawls, all conceptions of the atheist and religious enter into all-encompassing conceptions, and none is capable of defining principles of justice that might be acceptable to individuals who come from other philosophical traditions. We must disconnect the principles of justice, make them political in another dimension which is not the ethical dimension, which is not the dimension of good, and try to see to what extent these principles could be acceptable to all individuals regardless of the encompassing philosophical conception that guides their lives.

Concept III – The basic structure[edit | edit source]

It must be kept in mind that what Rawls believes political justice is about is the basic structure. It does not propose a moral theory aimed at managing our lives, managing our conception of the good, telling us what is good and what is not good:"the basic structure of society is the way in which the main political and social institutions of society fit together in a single system of social cooperation, assigning to them fundamental rights and duties and structuring the distribution of the benefits that result from social cooperation over time". He is looking for principles to govern our cooperation somewhere. It is the basis of justice, ethics is the basis of good and it does not interest him. Rawls just wants a position on justice. Society "shall be regarded as an equitable system of cooperation for the mutual benefit of free and equal citizens".

A whole bunch of people coming from a particular inclusive conception of the property would not necessarily agree with this definition of society. For some, society would simply be the emanation of God's will or for some, society would be just the relationship of the strongest or society would be something based on individual merit and the most deserving would be at the top and the least deserving would be at the bottom. It is possible to imagine a whole host of rather normative definitions of society. Thus, it is clear that Rawls proposes a definition of society that is compatible with his conception of the basic structure and obviously that is compatible with his general framework of justice as equity. A society cannot be fair to be stable.

Concept IV – Stability and its (pre)conditions[edit | edit source]

What makes management or the relationship between different groups that embody concepts of the encompassing good, somewhere, what is done to ensure that cooperation between these groups is equitable enough to ensure that society is stable is not marred by wars of religion as with Locke? From the Theory of Justice came out in 1993, in full swing of multiculturalism criticism which criticized a whole lot of things concerning the power of majorities which criticized a whole lot of concepts like the nation or the people who were part of our general categories to think politics, but was also the moment when we started to ask questions with the wars in former Yugoslavia, with ethnic conflicts on the right and on the left or the question of "Theory of Justice".

Somewhere, Rawls' position is part of this broader reflection on how we can imagine stable and peaceful societies, despite the fact that pluralism gives us all the ingredients to explode. Stability is something Rawls has in mind. This stability also has preconditions because this stability also implies that individuals must have a position on the forms of behaviour that are compatible with the principles of political justice. Rawls proposes a theory of citizenship, a theory of the basic civil virtues that an individual must have in order for his or her actions to be compatible with the righteous and thus finalized, or to be able to defend and align with this conception of justice.

According to Guillarme Bertrand in Rawls and Political Liberalism published in 1996,"a liberal conception can only be stable if every citizen of a well-ordered society freely accepts it. Its support for the principles of justice, which is a prerequisite for the stability of the conception, must therefore be seen as a moral motivation. This individual then acts according to (and not only in conformity with) the sense of justice defined by this conception. Rawls' idea is that the more a situation is right, the more stable it will be, because if it is right, it is because it has been accepted and from the moment it was accepted by everyone, there are fewer reasons for people to question it and what would lead to stability. For some, in his theory, Rawls introduces more righteousness and more goodness than he seems to say.

A moral motivation means that we still need something more than simply agreeing on political principles. We still need a minimum of provisions that lead us at some point to sanction or distance ourselves from our philosophical understanding, from our conception of good in order to accept to support the righteous. This is not always obvious.

Concept V –The reasonable[edit | edit source]

That's why Guillarme Bertrand still needs a little more motivation. It is not enough to expect everyone to support this political view, but it is also necessary for people to demonstrate the ability to say that following these principles of justice is better and better than not doing so.

Rawls anticipates this in part by introducing the concept of reasonableness. It is a concept that is less demanding than the concept of rationality. Starting from the idea that the rational individual would imply that the rational individual would function in any situation in order to maximize his utility and maximize his interests, for Rawls, this conception of rationality that resonates somewhat with Kant and others is too restrictive, it does not allow to think of a form of justice that is, if not acceptable, at least sustainable by everyone. That is why he uses the concept of reasonableness. Rawls is talking about the reasonable person. The reasonable person recognizes that his or her moral conceptions are symmetrically important to the moral conception of other individuals if they are also reasonable. The world of reasonableness comes at a time when, when we are confronted with a moral dilemma, we say to ourselves, that at certain times it is possible to accept a management of this principle by virtue of the idea that we accept it because we know that other people who would have just as much reason not to accept it as we do, but accept it because it is reasonable for everyone that these principles allow us to accept it. To have stability, we must put in minimum adequacy to the behavior with this, we must accept at some point that perhaps it is reasonable to accept the terms of a certain conception of justice even if our conception of the good would tell us not to do so. It would be unreasonable to accept a specific comprehensive moral doctrine as the basis for the justification of principles because accepting an all-encompassing doctrine undermines, discriminates against, and has a sectarian effect on others.

Rawls' idea of reasonableness is "People are reasonable... when, in a context of equality, they are prepared to propose principles and criteria that represent fair terms of cooperation and to obey them voluntarily, if they have the assurance that others will do the same.

There are very good reasons to believe that we can be convinced that accepting this principle is a rational position and therefore acceptable to everyone, but we have to remember it afterwards in real life:"They think it is reasonable for everyone to accept these standards and they therefore consider them acceptable to them as well; they are ready to discuss the fair terms that others propose. Reasonable persons[...] are not motivated by the general good as such, but desire as an end in themselves a social world in which they, as free and equal beings, can cooperate with others in terms that all can accept ". The criterion of reasonableness or the attribute of the person to be reasonable is basically that anthropological possibility which allows individuals to be able to agree on this political conception of justice even if a priori they would have excellent rational reasons therefore of conformity with the conception of the good to oppose it. Somewhere we find the idea that at some point in time, the management of pluralism, the ability to achieve stability, implies a minimum ability that individuals would have to distance themselves from their conception of the good to support political principles.

Concept VI – Public Justification[edit | edit source]

The idea that this should be formulated in terms that we can all agree with implies asking ourselves the question of the procedure by which these constitutional provisions imply reflecting on the procedures for expressing this common acceptance. For this reason, Rawls places great importance on the idea of public justification. We can see the influence of Habermas with the deliberative conception of democracy that Rawls integrates a little bit in his approach without going perhaps to the habermasian point, because Habermas also remains a little too much on an all-encompassing approach, but public justification "from the implicit fundamental ideas of the political culture, which is the soil somewhere that informs us as an understanding of democracy, we try to elaborate a bass".

This justification is essentially based on citizen action. Rawls did not have a very overwhelming conception of democracy to continue to believe that the classic parliamentary representative system, if it functions properly, is through public discussion that must be free and thus managed by procedural norms allowing the exercise of this public reason. Individuals, through their representatives, needed to be able to sanction and establish the terms of their adherence to common principles, such as deciding whether or not a certain law should be included in the constitution.

Somewhere, public justification is the contractual dimension of political liberalism. The contract therefore presupposes the acceptance of the terms which bind us, which are part of a contractualist logic according to Rawls, and which take place somewhere, after an exercise of public reason and public justification showing somewhere the adhesion to individuals, of the citizens in equitable terms which make it possible to give a certain particular content to social cooperation or to the way in which the products of this social cooperation are distributed.

We are dealing with a democratic citizenship that is theorized as instrumental to the reasonable defence of the constitution. It is a conception of citizenship that will be very radically criticized by other thinkers who start from the idea that security must be much freer and much more advanced than the holy defence of the constitution and especially the Republicans. Democratic citizenship therefore has a function of public justification and social regulation.

What is the artifice that Rawls proposes being one of the key concepts that summarizes a little the concept of Rawls which is this very interesting idea of consensus by cross-checking?

Concept VII – Consensus by cross-checking[edit | edit source]

In this idea of ensuring that these diverse, all-encompassing doctrines of pluralism can nevertheless coordinate and cooperate in the acceptance of criteria of common political justice, the result of this cooperation would be what he calls the acceptance of a consensus by cross-checking, namely the idea that there would be a consensus that could be acceptable to the whole of this position around it, but all would agree that there would be an overlap across the board. The conceptions of individuals who have conceptions of the good may agree, but not all are based on a particular conception. All designs can support it, but you don't have to defend a design to defend this. He calls this consensus by cross-checking.

Citizens have opposing religious, philosophical and moral views and affirm that political conceptions based on inclusive, different and antagonistic doctrines do not preclude political conceptions from constituting a shared viewpoint from which they can answer questions about key constitutional issues. What Rawls is interested in is defending a conception of justice that is subsequently embodied in a constitution that represents the formalization of the basic principles that govern our society.

It is a conception of the very American constitution where the constitution is summed up in the fundamental points that guide the basic rules of social cooperation and which then leave to the groups, associations, to a whole bunch of other actors, the care to defend the conceptions of the good by the churches or the associative world discussed by Tocqueville. The greatest possible freedom must be allowed and then it is individuals who, through their actions and commitments, will decide what they want. Rawls advocates intervention in redistributive and justice issues.

If we accept that the test of equal freedom is successful, namely that we are able to show that this position respects everyone's equal freedom, which is already problematic in itself, then at that point in time, we would have something behind this argument that is fairly similar to the rawlsian conception, which is the idea that there is a time when one must be reasonable.

If we start from the idea that the individual is an individual in the sense of Kant, a little bit of what the liberalism of Mills leads us to say, namely that we are individuals who come into the world with a disposition to autonomy, a faculty to be autonomous and we will be able to use this disposition in any social situation. With this conception, it is possible to say that any decision we make about our practices should at least be a product of an independent exercise in deciding and revising our design of the property. If we start from the idea that everything is negotiable, if we start from the idea that basically any belonging can be negotiated, that any position in relation to our religious beliefs can be negotiated, we risk harming individuals who have identities that are more inclusive and thicker than, for example, the question of whether we smoke or not.

The question is whether it is really so easy for everyone, for any actor to join this consensus by cross-checking or does this conception of the individual who informs Rawls' position, at the end of the day, not focus too much on our Kantian and liberal understanding of the individual of his or her own autonomy and which puts itself at odds with other conceptions of the individual that would be different and that would be different?

The more philosophical question is what are the philosophical but also anthropological premices about who we are as social animals, which must be implicitly posed in order to allow this consensus to be reached by cross-checking. For some people, the Rawls cross-check consensus is basically a way of preserving the power of the powerful by asking minorities somewhere to accept the terms of this justice, which is presented as political and acceptable to everyone, but which in reality is going in the direction of some cultural groups to the detriment of others. This is typical of multiculturalist criticism. Multiculturalism says that it doesn't work because we don't know what cultures do when the very idea of political justice doesn't make sense. One could imagine that these groups would exclude themselves from politics.

Rawls' approach is interesting if we accept all this idea that we have to agree on a political concept, but basically what is the reason for this agreement? The communities will say that without a somewhat thicker conception of the good, one cannot defend this motivation to accept the political conception. This conception of the good that we need to do more will make sectarian theory and we start again the quest for the theory that would allow us to base politics.

Rawls has a realistic utopian theory and gives us relatively utopian general principles, but they are realistic in the sense that we can imagine by our insertion into public culture what it might be.

Some criticism[edit | edit source]

An important criticism is that of the relationship between the procedural conception that Rawls evokes for distributive, social, but also political justice and the communautarians questioning whether one can imagine a political justification that does not involve conceptions of the good. This goes hand in hand with the idea of public neutrality. The liberal egalitarian idea is neutralist in the sense that in order for the state to discriminate against any conception of property, it is imperative that the state be as neutral as possible. It is the idea that in order for the State to be the regulator among different conceptions of the good, it must be as neutral as possible so that none of the conceptions of the good are discriminated against. Basically, this public neutrality is already a decoy in itself, because every state embodies a certain language and attributes a certain value to certain cultural forms. This shows that the state cannot be completely neutral and has much more of a connection to some values than others. The question is how a state in the name of neutrality can avoid further protection of the majority at the expense of minorities.

Rawls says at some point in time that from the moment when it is reasonable to agree and accept the terms of consensus by cross-checking, once he has shown the logic inherent in this device, he says somewhere that it is necessary to avoid that issues that might call into question the consensus not crosschecking be injected into the political space. It is necessary to avoid questioning these principles by dealing politically with things that might call this position into question. For many, this implies de-politicization. In order to prevent cross-checking consensus from being called into question, the issue is to depoliticize the policy, remove the policy from what the conflict management policy is for. It is often a criticism of liberalism to desterilize politics, which leads to a lack of politics in liberal politics.

Finally, does Rawls' conception of what Rawls has in mind work from an anthropological point of view, are we able to systematically separate things within ourselves between what is right and what is right? Is it not inevitable that this conception of the righteous does not hold because it will be torn between the different conceptions of the good that the actor will have to face?

Involvement of the difference principle[edit | edit source]

This is one of the important points of Rawls' theory of justice which is the critique of meritocracy. In his theory of justice, Rawls contests utilitarianism and thus the sacrificial idea, but also the meritocratic criterion for the adjudication of justice. It's the idea that if we deserve what we have, it's right that we keep it. For Rawls, this idea of individual merit is unfounded. It starts from the idea that our talents, that the resources that allow us to be deserving are already the product of forms of collective cooperation. For him, individual merit is morally arbitrary because, on the one hand, we have no merit in having the talents we have, and very generally, this merit presupposes social preconditions. There is not something morally relevant in individual merit. Rawls questions this meritocratic principle. For Rawls, at a time when there is something that comes from cooperation among the individuals who make up a society in the production of merit and therefore some people's wealth, it is perfectly legitimate to tax them so that the poorest people can benefit from it.

The question that arises is whether the justification of taxation activity is legitimate, whether it is legitimate to appropriate a part of the wealth produced freely by individuals and redistribute it, and does the interference that the State might have in taking part in research to reproduce wealth is basically tantamount to calling into question the free production of the wealth of individuals? Rawls' criticism is that nothing justifies questioning the intrinsic freedom that all actors carry in the name of redistribution.

What is liberty?[edit | edit source]

The question that is asked is what is the ultimate faculty that drives us. Since Kant, this ultimate faculty has been autonomy. It is the fact of being autonomous that allows us to be free, we are not free if we are confronted with choices that we have been able to determine autonomously. Choosing between A and B does not make us autonomous. The concept of autonomy is quite complicated. Acting freely consists in acting autonomously and acting autonomously consists in acting according to a maxim that can be given by reason. Somewhere, we are able to give the maxim of our reason, to exercise our autonomy without any social pressure that would exert pressure on our autonomous judgment. Kant's idea, which is still inherent in any liberal position, is, first of all, the idea that we are able to carry out an exercise of autonomy and which gives us the moral maxim that can be translated into a maxim that can be universalized. We should be able to do it alone in our soul and conscience. Autonomy implies that we are not treated by a means because in this case, we break our autonomy used for someone else's freedom. The idea of freedom through autonomy is fundamental to a certain thought of liberalism. The issue of autonomy is complicated because it can be replicated in a wide range of practices that are not necessarily easy to decide.

Annexes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]