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INTRODUCTION

Themainfocusofthisessayistofirstlyhighlighttheattributesofthetraditionalsocial
contracttheorybydefinition.TheessaywillalsofocusonRawlsideaandthenanswer
thequestiononifheadjournshisideainparlancetopreviousdogma.Itwillalsofocuson
the application of Rawls concept in its achievements in advancing the hypothetical
contractinanabstractdomainontheformationofwellordersocieties.
1.WHATISASOCIALCONTRACTTHEORY?Thesocialcontract,whichbringsinto
existenceawellorderedsociety"stateofstates",issaidtobeofthreekeyelements.The
firstelementisanimageryofhowasocietywillbelikewithnolaws,underthestateof
nature.Thesecond,Individuals'attempttoescapefromsuchbrutalitybringsaboutthe
secondelement,whichisrecognizingthe"state"tohavethepowertobringaboutorder
andstabilitytoasociety;recognizingthesovereignpower. Thethirdandfinal people
underthesocialcontracttorespectandobeythelaiddownlawsbythestate.
2WHATISTHEIDEAOFTHESOCIALCONTRACT?
2.1imageryofhowasocietywillbelikewithnolaws,underthestateofnature.Rawlsin
thisrespectconnoteshisstateofnature,asanoriginalposition theoriginalpositionof
equalitycorrespondstothestateofnatureinthetraditionaltheoryofthesocialcontract. 1
Thisoriginalpositionisnot,ofcourse,thoughtofasanactualhistoricalstateofaffairs,
muchlessasaprimitiveconditionofculture.Itisunderstoodasapurelyhypothetical
situationcharacterizedsoastoleadtoacertainconceptionofjustice.ThereforeRawlss
Stateofnatureiscomposedofonethatconstitutesanoriginalposition,whereby,the
essentialfeaturesofthissituationisthatnooneknowshisplaceinsociety,hisclass
1

John Rawls A Theory of Justice, (published in 1971 by Harvard University Press) p.33

positionorsocialstatus,nordoesanyoneknowhisfortuneinthedistributionofnatural
assetsandabilities,hisintelligence,strength,andthelike.Rawlsevenpresupposesthat,
the parties do not know their conceptions of the good or their special psychological
propensities.2 TheimagerycreatedbyRawlsinhisperceptionofthestateofnatureis
some ought similar toLockes state ofnature buthowever this will be attributed in
comparison subsequently. Rawls characterized this original position to constitute an
original agreement whose principle objects are the principles of justice for the basic
structure of society (original position). They are the principles that free and rational
personsconcernedtofurthertheirowninterestswouldacceptinaninitialpositionof
equalityasdefiningthefundamentaltermsoftheirassociationTheseprinciplesareto
regulateallfurtheragreements3;theyspecifythekindsofsocialcooperationthatcanbe
enteredintoandtheformsofgovernmentthatcanbeestablished.Thiswayofregarding
the principles of justice I shall call justice as fairness. It is understood as a purely
hypotheticalsituationcharacterizedsoastoleadtoacertainconceptionofjustice.How
thenaretheseprinciplesofjusticeselected?Rawlsgivesaratherfigurativedescriptionto
statethattheseindividualsareunderaveilofignoranceconstruedliterally,toensurethat,
nooneisadvantagedordisadvantagedinthechoiceofprinciplesbytheoutcomeorthe
contingenciesofsocialcircumstances4.Sinceallaresimilarlysituatedandnooneisable
todesignprinciplestofavorhisparticularcondition,theprinciplesofjusticearethe
resultofafairagreementorbargain.ThisthenmaybeattributedtoLockesformationof
societiesandcommunities.2.2Individuals'attempttoescapefromsuchbrutalitybrings
2 ibin2
3 supra
4 Ibidn2p16

aboutthesecondelement,whichisrecognizingthe"state"tohavethepowertobring
aboutorderandstabilitytoasociety;sovereignty.InthisrespectRawlsstatesthatthen,
having chosen a conception of justice, we can suppose that they are to choose a
constitution and a legislature to enact laws, and so on, all in accordance with the
principlesofjusticeinitiallyagreedupon.Rawlsdoesnotdescribeindividualsasbeingin
astateofbrutalityasHobbes5contractarianapproachdivulges,butratherundertheveil
ofignoranceindividualsareabletochooseprinciplesofjusticeasfairnessstillintheir
original positionundertheoriginalagreement orinitial agreement. 6 Onefeaturealso
laboredbyRawlsistheaspectthatthepartiesintheinitialpositionarethoughtofas
rationalbeingsthataremutuallydisinterested,theyareconceivedasnottakinginterestin
oneanothersinterestscontrarytoHobbesanalogy.
2.3ThefinallyRawlsssocialcontractapproachin,theobligationofthepeopleunderthe
socialcontracttorespectandobeythelaiddownlawsbythestate.Incomparisontothe
finalissuesRawlsarticulatesthat, assumingthattheoriginalpositiondoesdeterminea
setofprinciples(thatis,thataparticularconceptionofjusticewouldbechosen),itwill
thenbetruethatwheneversocialinstitutionssatisfytheseprinciplesthoseengagedin
themcansaytooneanotherthattheyarecooperatingontermstowhichtheywouldagree
iftheywerefreeandequalpersonswhoserelationswithrespecttooneanotherwerefair.
Theindividualswouldthenobeytheseprinciplesbytheiragreementsasmeetingthe
stipulations which they would acknowledge in an initial situation, referred to as the
originalstateorthestatusquo.Rawlsscontractarianattemptisfocusedontheinitial
5 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (first published 1651, Penguin 1985) 268
6 supra n2

approachtojusticeasfairnessasopposedtoaformationofgovernmentoracommon
wealthattributedbyhispredecessorsonthesame.

3.DOES RAWLS ADJOURN HIMSELF TO THE TRADITIONAL SOCIAL


CONTRACTTHEORY?
The social contract theory is based on the formation of a state or government or a
commonwealth.Rawlsontheotherhandadjournshissocialcontracttheoryintoonethat
constitutestheformationofjusticeasfairness.Ifweassumethatthestateofnatureand
the social contract are hypothetical (not actual), wecan then ask the question: is an
agreementreachedinthestateofnaturefair?Theanswertothisquestionmightbe,"No,
asocialcontractreachedinthestateofnaturewouldnotbefair,becauseitwouldfavor
thosewhoareadvantagedbytheconditionsofthestateofnature,e.g.thestrong,the
smart,andthepowerful."7Rawlsattemptedtocorrectthatproblemwithclassicalsocial
contract theory by positing what he called the "original position. 8" In this original
position,thepartiesaretoagreeonprinciplesofjusticetogovernthebasicstructureof
society.Unlikethestateofnature,however,theoriginalpositionincludes a"veilof
ignorance,"whichpreventsthepartiesfromknowingthespecificcharacteristicsofthose
whomtheyrepresent,previouslylaboredon. 9Rawlsarguesthatthepartiestotheoriginal
positionwouldchoosetwoprinciplesofdistributivejustice:

7 http://www.e-ir.info/2012/10/09/the-social-contract-theory-in-a-global-context/ <accessed June 25, 2015>


8 ibidn1
9 ibinn7

1.The Equal Liberty Principle:Each person has an equal claim to a fully adequate
schemeofequalbasicrightsandliberties,whichschemeiscompatiblewiththesame
schemeforall;andinthisschemetheequalpoliticalliberties,andonlythoseliberties,
aretobeguaranteedtheirfairvalue.10
2.The Difference Principle:Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two
conditions: (a) They are to be attached to positions and offices open to all under
conditionsoffairequalityofopportunity;and(b),theyaretobetothegreatestbenefitof
theleastadvantagedmembersofsociety.Thefirstprinciplehaspriorityoverthesecond
incasesofconflict.11
Nevertheless,canwethensaythatheprogressedthetraditionalsocialcontractarian
approach? His angle is not more towards the formation of a sovereign but towards
administrationandmechanismsinwhichajustsocietymayexistthereforeIamofthe
view that Rawlss contractarian approach is aimed at highlighting the mechanisms
neededforajustandfairsociety,fairmeaningthateachindividualhasequalrightsand
libertiesandnotsomuchbasedontherelinquishingoftheserighttoasovereignfor
safeguardortoprotectionofsocietybutrather,themechanismsonhowtheserightand
libertiesarechosenequally.12

4.WhatistheapplicationofRawlsSocialContractarianapproach?

10 ibidn1
11 johnrawls'stheoryofjusticenotesfortheoriesofjusticedickarnesonusdschooloflawfall,2008
12 supra

Rawlssayshewilltakethesocialcontractideatoahigherlevelofabstraction.According
toRawls,justiceiswhatfreeandequalpersonswouldagreeto,asabasictermsofsocial
cooperationinconditionsthatarefairforthispurpose.Inthisrespect, Rawlsconstrues
the task to be choosing principles for a "wellordered society," a society that is (a)
effectivelyregulatedbyapublicconceptionofjusticeand(b)whosemembersunderstand
andgiveallegiancetothispublicconception.Moreover,athirdcondition,(c),holdsitis
common knowledge among all members of society that a and b hold. This
cumulativelybeingtheoveralloutcomeinachievingawellorderedsociety, 13canRawlss
wellorderedsocietyexist?WiththeprevailingexerciseofHomosexualitysocietiesare
contrarytoRawlsanalogyofawellorderedsociety.Inthefirstinstanceathepublic
conceptionofjusticemaybedifficulttoachieveespeciallysincetheweightofjusticeis
subjectivewhenitcomestohomosexualityconstruingjusticeinthis caseasfairness
shouldntthesocietythenallowforsamesexmarriagesandadoption.Notallmembersin
societywouldgiveallegiancetoHomosexualitylawsbymeaningitselfisdebatable.
Finallywecannotexpect,alltoagreeonawellorderedsocietyasbeingonethatisin
agreeancetoHomosexuality.
5.CONCLUSION
Inconclusiontherefore,Rawlsextendshissocialcontracttheory,intothemechanismof
justice as fairness in the formation of a wellordered society. Unlike the traditional
contractarianonewhoseaimistotheformationofgovernment,inhaslaterpublication
hetakesthehiscontractarianapproachfromthedomesticfieldintotheinternationalreal

13 Ibidn2

sotospeakwhereheplaceshisjusticeasfairnessunderthelawsofpeoplewhichisnot
relevanttoasinthiscase.

Bibliography
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Harvard University Press, 1999), 29-30, 36.
Immanuel Kant, To Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical
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Politics, History, and Morals. Trans. Ted Humphrey.
(Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., Inc., 1988), 117.
Law of Peoples, 5.
Greg Hakos, Rawls and Cosmopolitanism: Peoples,
Persons, and Human Rights. Federal Governance: A
Graduate Journal of Theory and Politics. 1:3 (2004)
http://cnfs.queensu.ca/ federal governance/index.html
Charles Beitz, Rawlss Law of Peoples, Ethics, Vol.
110. (July, 2000), 681