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John Rawls theory of justice | Social Justice, Dr. Ambedkar, and John Rawls

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Social Justice, John Rawls, and Dr. Ambedkar.

Welcome to this episode of Dr. Ambedkar Thoughts. Since our last 9 videoes we have been discussing the three principles of Dr. Ambedkars philosophy Liberty- Equality-Fraternity and to what extent they have been established in 21st-century Indian society. We tried to explain this on the basis of recent survey reports and research. We have also discussed how Dr. Ambedkar uses this trinity to explain his notion of

The ideal society, Ideal democracy, and Ideal religion.

 In this video, we will try to understand how these three principles are integral to the concept of Social. It is important to understand the concept of social justice as the provision of protective and positive discrimination made by the governments throughout the world evolves from this concept including constitutional caste-based reservation in India.

To begin with, let us understand the concept of social.  At the root of the principle of Social Justice is that all human beings are equal in dignity and rights.

This is the basic principle.

Social justice is based on such values which aim is to minimize the inequity in the society and create an environment for fair equality of opportunity for all which enable all humans to live with dignity.

 The concept of Social Justice is directly linked with social equality. According to the theory of social equality, there should not be any discrimination between man and man on any basis. the status of all groups in the society in the should be the same. equality of opportunity for all should be available in a real sense

Social justice is a remedy corrective measure to make social equality a reality. Social justice is the mechanism to establish social equality in society.

To ensure that the weaker and backward sections of the society are equal shareholders in the development of the country. Social justice is a remedial measure to end historical and prevalent discrimination in society.

If any group or community in society is lagging behind other groups because of historical social discrimination and social exclusion then to bring all groups in the society at the same level the social justice is the key.

This is the idea behind protective or positive discrimination.

 The idea of the welfare state and social justice are inter-linked and cannot be separated from the idea of social justice. The concept of social justice says there should not be glaring inequalities in society, and there should be remedies to end all kinds of glaring inequalities. The theory also says that to implement such a measure if we need to resort to discrimination then such protective discrimination or well-intentioned discrimination shall not be treated as discrimination. The constitution of the International Labor Organization i.e. ILO says that universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based on social justice.

ILO’s first director General Albert Thomas argued that Economic and social questions are indissolubly linked and economic reconstruction can only be sound and enduring if it is based on Social justice. On accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969, then ILO director General David Mores said, ‘’the building of the truly peaceful world order based on social justice is the task of the ILO’’

Now let us see What is John Rawls’ theory of Justice is? And why it is so important?

John Rawls is considered as the most influential philosopher of the latter half of the 20th century. His world famous book published in 1971 Theory Of Justice is translated in more than two dozen languages. This book made John Rawls famous in the world. John Rawls principles of justice have given fresh energy to the concept of Social Justice. John Rawls principles of justice were so effective that after the 70s, developed nations of Europe and America took cognizant of them in their policy formulation.

John Rawls 1971 book establishes that social justice as an essential requirement for a just society. In this book Rawls he tries to find what make society Just?  What should be the governing principles of a civilized society which make society Just?

The objective of Rawls was to identify those principles that establish justice in society. Who shall decide on those principles?

These principles will be decided by representatives of the society. Rawls begins with the just distribution of Primary Social Goods.

What are these Primary Social Goods?

Primary social goods are essential for every human being. By seeking these they can be successful in satisfying their wants. Social primary Goods of Rawls includes

1)    Basic Rights and Liberties

2)    Freedom of movement, free choice of occupation against a background of diverse opportunities.

3)    Powers and prerogatives of offices and positions of authority and responsibilities.

4)    Income and wealth

5)    The social base of self-respect

It is important to note that the Primary Social Goods listed by Rawls were not available to Dalits and backward section of society till the advent of Britishers In India. You may have noticed that social goods listed as serial no 1and 2 are nothing but fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution.

How these primary social goods which are natural and societal resources should be distributed in the society so as to established Just society. Who Shall distribute these primary social goods? These will be distributed by the representatives of society.

Here John Rawls creates a hypothetical situation Which he terms as the original position. What is this original position?

The original position in which representatives of society do not know who they are whether rich or poor strong or week, man or women, which race or social class they belong to, and in the Indian context they do not know which caste they belong to.

Here Rawls implies that representatives will not be just if they are aware of their socio-economic religious status in any form then they may In these original position representatives have stripped off their identities.

Thus representatives of the society who decides the governing principles are rational people who have an elementary knowledge of economics and psychology. They only know that all members of society desire Primary social goods to satisfy their wants. Rawls argues that any rational person trying to establish a just social order from this original position under the veil of ignorance would certainly want two things

1)    Basic liberties for all

2)    And a decent life for everybody

In their words, he would seek equality among all and try to distribute natural and social resources in an equitable manner.

Those who possess  more  goods and those who are devoid of goods if these resources distributed equally among them inequality in society would increase so he would give more to the disposed and weaker section

Thus he would try to reduce social and economic inequality meaning that

John Rawls identified two principles of justice

1)    Equal basic liberties for all.

2)    He divided the second principle into two sections.

  1. a)Fair equality of opportunity-  demands not merely that public offices and social positions be open in a formal sense but all should have a fair chance to attain them.
  2. b)Difference principle which is related to social and reservation.

According to this principle, Primary social goods should be distributed in such a manner that maximum benefit goes to that section which is the weakest in the society. Here John Rawls implies that inequality is fair and justified when such inequality benefits the weakest section. Inequality is an injustice but when such inequality gives maximum benefit to the weakest section of the society and provides them an opportunity to rise to the level of others then that inequality is fair and just.

There is a famous quote of Rawls any society is like the chain, and no chain is stronger than its weakest link. John Rawls says that justice exists where there is Liberty and equality. John Rawls identified Liberty and equality is necessary for Just society. John Rawls insists that the principles of justice should be followed in the sequence given by him. In other words, basic liberties should be ensured first then fair equality of opportunity. And later the difference principle. Which is related to social justice.  Eminent economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen in his book ‘Idea of Justice’, criticizes John Rawls for keeping ‘Difference Principle’; which is related to social justice, after basic liberties and fair equality of opportunity, Amartya Sen wants Social Justice is to be given first priority.

Dr. Ambedkar :  An uncompromising crusader of social justice.

Now coming to Dr. Ambedkar, 43 years before John Rawl’s theory of Justice, in 1928, in his memorandum on behalf of Bahishkrut Hitkarini Sabha to Simon Commission, Dr.  Ambedkar had demanded representation of Dalits in proportion to their population and also demanded inclusion of two articles in the proposed constitution.

1)    Dalits should have the first claim on the revenue of the provinces for their education,

2)    Depressed classes should be given priority in recruitment against all gazetted and non-gazetted post for thirty years.

Dr. Ambedkar wanted above demands to be enshrined in the constitution as fundamental rights. This should be ensured by constitutional provision in the form of fundamental rights.

Motilal Nehru Committee had also prepared the draft of the constitution in which it had rejected any special provision representation for Dalits. ( Nehru Committee is of the view that the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution will take care of justice to Dalits.)

Dr. Ambedkar had criticized the Motilal Nehru Committee report on the future constitution for India did not make any provision for the representation of the depressed classes in the legislature.

In 1938, 33 years before John Ralws Dr. Ambedkar while speaking in the Bombay Legislative Assembly

“Equality is not necessarily equity, I am going to prove it. In order that it may produce equity in the society different people had to be treated unequally……. What we want is equity. I am going to prove it. This equity cannot be produced, if we proposed to treat the strong and weak, the rich and poor, the ignorant and intelligent on the same footings’’.

In his book published in 1947,  States and Minority writes, Depressed class is more than a minority. By this he meant that compare to other minorities Dalits are weaker socially .

A very important thing he said that Scheduled caste is more than a minority. Any protection given to the citizens and to the will not be adequate for the minority. Their social, economic and educational condition is so much worse than citizens and other minorities the scheduled caste would require special safeguard against tyranny and discrimination of majority.

ON   1.2.1929,

 In his fortnightly, Bahishkrut Bharat editorial ‘Samatesathi hi vishmata’, ‘This inequality for equality’. Dr. Ambedkar while answering why he has demanded caste based representation as caste leads to inequality. Explains the aim of samatavadi is not to treat all equally but establish equality. To treat a few unequally will lead to inequality where people are equal. But where people are unequal they shall be treated unequally for establishing equality.

Social Justice has a unique context in India, here schedule caste, schedule tribe shudras and women have been deprived of education, wealth and self- esteem because of Hindu social order. For them, all doors for self -development were permanently shut.

For hundreds of year, because of unjust, discriminatory exploitative caste -based social order, those who were deprived of education and wealth and all avenues of progress and development were closed to them. Those who have lagged far behind because of hundreds of years of discriminatory, exploitative and unjust social system were deprived of education and wealth, remained excluded for thousands of years, it is the obligation of any supposedly civilized society.

While discussing what he meant by principles of Justice,  

 In his essay, ‘Philosophy of Hinduism’,

I want to explain what I mean by principle of justice-the Principle of justice is a compendious one and includes most of the other principles which have become the foundation of the moral order. 

 Justice has always evoked ideas of equality, of the proportion of “compensation”. 

Equity signifies equality. Rules and regulations, rights and righteousness are concerned with equality in value. If all men are equal, all men are of the same essence and therefore, common essence entitled them to the same essence and common essence entitled them to the same fundamental rights and equal liberty. In short, justice is simply another name for liberty, equality, and fraternity

Philosophy of Hinduism.

For John Rawls, Liberty and Equality for the establishment of Justice but for Dr. Ambedkar to establish justice in real sense along with Liberty and Equality Fraternity is a must. Dr. Ambedkar did not see these  principle separately and in isolation but he treated them as inter-dependent.  In his last speech at constituent assembly from 25th November, he said,”

                    Dr. Ambedkar is a greater Visionary than Rawls who was convinced that without fraternity only the principles of liberty and equality together are not sufficient to established social justice in true sense.

                The proof is there to see. In spite of a large number of atrocities being committed against Dalits, social Justice measures guaranteed by the constitution like reservation are resented by upper castes in India.

UN’s 1993 Declaration on Human Rights says,’’ Social justice is the aim of Human Rights Education.

The ultimate aim of human existence? What is it? – Money, passion, inspiration, growth of one’s mind. I guess the idea is philosophical here. The moment we try to focus on the expansion of one’s mind, we also focus on improving our chances of achieving our dreams and reaching out to the true aspirations which we are made of.

John Rawls is world famous for his Theory of Justice, which propounded that social justice is essential for the establishment of Just society. This video explained how Dr. Ambedkar 43 years before John Rawls demanded, before Simon Commission, special provision and safeguards for depressed classes and sought social justice for them. John Rawls established that Liberty and Equality are necessary for Justice. For Dr. Ambedkar, Justice is another name of liberty equality and fraternity.

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