Last Updated 15 Apr 2020

John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice

Category Theories
Essay type Research
Words 349 (1 page)
Views 174

In his influential book A Theory of Justice, John Rawls structured his concept of society around two principles of justice that he argues were best chosen under a “veil of ignorance” (1971).

Rawls maintains “that the first requires equality in the assignment of basic rights and duties, while the second holds that social and economic inequalities are just only if they result in compensating benefits for everyone, and in particular for the least advantaged members of society” (1971). His argument for the second, while not purely and purposefully classifying society as equitable and impartial, supports the idea that contribution should be proportionate to one’s ability or capability.

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There are a multitude of ways to interpret Rawls’s second take on the concept of justice, some agreeable and some not. He argues that in order for others to prosper, some should have less (Rawls, 1971).

He also asserts the idea that in looking at the bigger picture, everyone in the society achieves benefits by catering to what seems like a monopoly of wealth, power and therefore, opportunity. Rawls’s justice supports the socialist idea that majority of society’s responsibilities and burdens should be carried by those who can—those who are wealthy, have power, and therefore, are more capable of managing the said responsibilities.

While these may be good points to support his ideas, Rawls’s theory fails by theoretically preventing change in societies where these so-called social inequalities already exist—societies where those high up already enjoy the benefits of good living standards, while those in the lower brackets either continue or further suffer in their disadvantages. It is also faulty in the sense that the poor essentially “pick up the scraps” that the rich had left.

Rawls idea that inequality can actually be just and fair leaves much to be desired. It should have been more egalitarian in the sense that both the rich and the poor would have equitable access to wealth and power. It would be difficult to guarantee justice in a society that separates those who can afford justice from those who can afford justice more.


Rawls, J. (1971). A Theory of Justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice. (2016, Jun 25). Retrieved from

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