Justice and the Social Contract (Essay on Rawlsian Political Philosophy)
(Essay on Rawlsian Political Philosophy)
Author : Samuel Freeman
Publisher : Oxford University Press, 2009
Pages : 352 pages
Freeman is the leading authority on the thought and writing of John Rawls and as one of Rawls's foremost interpreters, Freeman places Rawls within historical context in the social contract tradition, addresses criticisms of his positions, and discusses the implications of his views on issues of distributive justice, liberalism and democracy, international justice, and other subjects.
Justice and the Social Contract contains nine essays on Rawls and Rawlsian justice, two of which are previously unpublished. These nine chapters then divided into three main parts: Part I. A Theory of Justice; Part II. Political Liberalism; and Part III. The Law of Peoples.
Furthermore, Freeman, in this book, rejected that Rawls became more conservative, that he abandoned the difference principle, or that he altogether gave up on the idea of the original position and his social contractarianism. In addition, Freeman also disagree with others who contend that in Political Liberalism, Rawls changed his thinking as a response to communitarian criticisms, or that he was primarily motivated to accommodate religion. He said that all those claims are mistaken. According to him, there are powerful interconnections between A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism that have not been sufficiently acknowledged in the literature. In short, Freeman attempts to provide the intellectual context for the chapters that follow, first by discussing the background to Rawls’s transition to the doctrine of political liberalism and its basis in his social contractarianism, and then by foreshadowing the arguments of each chapter.
The following remarks are description of the main ideas in each chapter.
In chapter 1, “Reason and Agreement in Social Contract Views” (1990), the author attempts to fit justice as fairness within the liberal and democratic social contract tradition of Locke, Rousseau, and Kant, and show how its conception of practical reason and general agreement differ significantly from the alternative Hobbesian contract tradition. The general purpose of the paper is to display that there is a distinctive idea of agreement underlying Rawls’s contractarian position, which stems from the idea of reasonableness that is so integral to Rawls’s account of practical reason. Freeman’s suggestion is that the parties to Rawls’s original position rationally agree to principles of justice in so far as they jointly precommit themselves to upholding cooperative institutions that mutually benefit everyone. This rational agreement among the parties in the original position is designed to reflect the reasonable agreement among free and equal citizens in a well-ordered society who are motivated by their sense of justice, and want to cooperate on grounds of reciprocity and mutual respect.
In chapter 2 and 3, the discussion is about major differences with utilitarianism and consequentialism and topics related to them. The author attempts to clarify Rawl's distinstion between teleological and deontological moral conceptions and his idea of the priority of right over the good. According to Freeman, Ronald Dworkin and Will Kymlicka have misunderstood about Rawl's distinction between teleology and deontology, which addresses the substantive content and requirements of moral principles and not the reasons used to justify or apply those principles. Finally, chapter 3 also discusses alternative economic frameworks supported by utilitarianism and justice as fairness.
For chapters 4, 8, and 9, the author discusses why Rawls regards distributive justice and the difference principle as based in democratic social and political cooperation. This explains in large part why Rawls later rejects the idea of global distributive justice.
In chapter 5, “Congruence and the Good of Justice” (2003), Freeman takes up Rawls’s discussion in part III of A Theory of Justice, his argument for the stability of justice as fairness. He pointed out the importance of the stability requirement to the argument for justice as fairness (continuing the discussion begun in chapter 3). Furthermore, there are two reasons Rawls focuses on the stability of a conception of justice: First, he seeks to show that regularly doing what justice as fairness requires of us is within human capacities and moral sentiments. Second, the purpose of the stability argument is to show how justice and having a sense of justice are not self-destructive and do not undermine our pursuit of important goods but rather are compatible with our good.
Chapter 6 (to some extent also discusses chapter 7) ends with a discussion of Rawls’s position regarding the role of the institution of judicial review in a democracy. It becomes a common criticism that judicial review is incompatible with democracy. Here it is relevant that Rawls does not regard democracy simply as a form of government but rather as a kind of constitution and more generally as a particular kind of society. His aim from the outset was to discover the most appropriate principles of justice for the basic structure of a democratic society, including its democratic constitution and economic and legal systems.
In chapter 7, “Public Reason and Political Justifications” (2004), Freeman discusses Rawls’s idea of public reason as it develops and emerges from his work in its final form, of its centrality to political liberalism, and its role in his account of political justice. Here Freeman distinguishes Rawls’s idea of public reason from accounts and misunderstandings by others. He elaborate how public reason, rather than being simply reasons that are shared by people of different persuasions, is an idea patterned upon Rawls’s conception of democracy. Public reason has to do with the reasons and political values that free and equal citizens can reasonably accept in their capacity as citizens, and on the basis of their fundamental interests as citizens. This chapter also explains how the complex idea of reasonableness is to be understood in Rawls’s later works. It differs from others’ accounts of reasonableness and even from Rawls’s own earlier account insofar as that was influenced by a Kantian account of practical reason. Freeman defends the idea of public political justification and public reason against objections by Joseph Raz and Ronald Dworkin. He further also displays how one can apply the idea of public reason to address the political debate over abortion and therewith justify a limited political right to abortion. In the end, Freeman concludes this paper with further thoughts on the proper role of judicial review, discussing its relationship to Rawls’s idea of public reason.
Thus, for scholars who are interested in Rawls and theories of justice, so this collection will be useful for them, particularly because this book has assimilated large stretches of contemporary and secondary literature, and to have thought deeply about every sentence Rawls ever wrote.
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