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John Rawls' Sociopolitical Order Essay

1894 words - 8 pages

Rawls presents a social contract theory of politics that is based on the principle of justice as fairness; the aim is to create procedurally illustrate the principles for the “basic structure of society”.The basic structure of society for Rawls involved all of a society's political, social and economic institutions, and how they fit into a unified whole by means of the first principle. Rawls articulates the first principle of the modern institution as being “justice as fairness”, focused predominately on distribution of basic social goods, such as rights, products, duties, and freedoms, without stipulations on what or how one should go about sing them. This conception of the modern state ...view middle of the document...

It is known as revisionism precisely because it separates itself from traditional Marxism by working within the established system, rather than through revolution. That is not exactly social democracy as we know it today however (Social democracy, 2013).
The form of social democracy we recognize now began to emerge after World War II throughout western Europe, as governments were required to implement social welfare systems. In Canada and the United States, the same was arguably happening with the rise of the welfare state. From that point on, social democracy gradually changed to reflect a moderation of the 19th century socialist ideals, such as the wholesale nationalization of industry and business. Since the fall of the welfare state and the rise of a more Neoliberal state, social democracy has had to make changes once again; while retaining its stance on anti-violence and anti-revolution, social democracy now takes a stance against totalitarianism and deems democracy as essential. Social democracy as we now know it also advocates from state regulation of business and industry, rather than state ownership. Most pertinent to Rawls, social democracy still retains its outlook on social welfare, and is in essence a state system based on positive freedom. (Social democracy, 2013)
Rawls defines a social contract as being to do with the relationships of cooperation between rational beings, and suggests that his version, the “modern state”, offers the best approach to understanding proper procedures for cooperation. He does this by giving three stipulations of those procedures. (Rawls, 1971)
Principles should be rationally agreed to with full information and full knowledge of alternatives. Rawls argues this requirement will result under conditions where everyone's interests are considered equally and without coercion. True to the revisionism ideal, Rawls is opposed to using force as a means, and instead proposes a system based on transparency and informed consent. This differs greatly from Hobbes' idea of coercion being the next step in the bargaining equation, and instead pushes the social democratic envelope further by providing support for the idea of “fairness” including freedom from fear, an ideal argued for by many western nations (and Japan) as being the true benefit of the spread of democracy. (Rawls, 1971)
Further, Rawls purports that proper procedure requires a fair system with cooperation between free and equal beings. The type of procedural fairness is truly summed up in Rawls' most iconic term, “justice as fairness”, and Rawls argues that correct principles of justice should drop out of and meet the conditions of that stipulation. Furthermore, any principle that follows from a proper procedure will meet the requirements of the first listed stipulation. These principles will be such that “any rational person in the initial situation would choose” them. It is important to note that for Rawls, “rational” is treated in terms of...

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