In this essay I intend to give an account of Rawls’ arguments for justice and fairness as outlined in his A Theory of Justice and demonstrate that, while noble in intentions his theory is somewhat problematic. Furthermore I plan to demonstrate why I don’t necessarily agree that: “social and economic inequalities can only be justified if they are to the benefit of the least advantaged”.

Rawls Theory of Justice is an universalist system of justice. In the tradition of Kant, Locke and Rousseau it seeks to address the issues surrounding the social contract theory in an egalitarian manner in attempt to provide an answer to utilitarian approaches that have gone before from the likes of Jeremy Bentham and J. Stuart Mill. Inspired by David Hume he seeks to give an account of the circumstances of justice and endeavours to incorporate a Kantian style approach to morality. His theory is concerned primarily with distributive justice, thus seeking to design an approach that will provide a guide for the governing of the distribution of benefits and burdens inherent in society. His distributive theory is an outcome-based theory of justice, and measures justice according to how well it delivers in reducing inequality. It is thus an egalitarian theory to the problems of society.

The Utilitarian approach that had preceded Rawls sought to offer a moral theory (the ‘good’) and a theory of justice (the ‘right’).In utilitarian theory-- a consequentialist  form of  theory --says the moral worth of an action is discerned according to its contribution to overall utility, as the name suggests, and furthermore it’s sum total to all persons measured in some way according to net pleasure, or happiness.-“The greatest good for the greatest number”

Rawls theory on the other hand attempts only to provide a solution of justice. He is thus not unduly concerned with individual morality, but that of social justice. Rawls takes a pluralist attitude to that of the ‘good’ because as he rightly observes in a society such as ours there are so many diverse conceptions of morality due to differing religions etc. a universalist approach must require such if an attempt is to be made not to violate the rights of our fellow person.

Rawls argues in his theory of Justice that utilitarians have their priorities in the wrong order. That by focussing on the sum of utility as a result inequality in the distribution of the benefits and burdens is overlooked.

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 “The concerns of individuals are subordinated to finding an efficient means of                allocating scarce resources to people with different, sometimes conflicting, needs, interests and preferences. Utilitarian justice thus enshrines no principled protection of individual rights and so leaves open the possibility that the rights of some individuals may be overridden.”

Moreover, Rawls’ argues that Utilitarians make the error of extending individual principles of choice to the collective.

Therefore Rawls attempts to offer an alternate theory by which we may achieve some level of social justice. He begins by attempting to get ...

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