John Rawls, a renowned philosopher, delves into the realm of justice rather than general ethics, outlining the concept of “Justice as Fairness.”

In his examination of social justice, Rawls emphasizes the paramount importance of fairness, applying it universally to all segments of society, including both the most talented and the most disadvantaged.


  • Rawls posits two fundamental principles of justice as the foundation for a morally acceptable society:
  • Equal Basic Liberties: Every individual should possess an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties, provided that these liberties coexist harmoniously for all members of society.
  • Social and Economic Inequalities: Any social and economic inequalities must be structured in a way that:
    • Maximizes the benefits for the least advantaged members of society.
    • Ensures that opportunities and positions are accessible to everyone under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.

Significance of John Rawls’ Theory:

  • The first principle guarantees civil liberties for all citizens, while the second principle aligns with the concept of “positive discrimination” seen in India’s affirmative action policies.
  • Rawls employs the hypothetical “veil of ignorance” to illustrate the universal adoption of these principles, which moves beyond theoretical ethics and reflects practical societal considerations:
    • The “original position” places individuals in a scenario where they possess only general knowledge about societal conditions.
    • Each individual makes a “rationally prudential choice” regarding the type of social institutions they would willingly enter into a contract with.
  • Rawls contends that, based on these assumptions, individuals would prefer liberal societies characterized by freedoms and liberties grounded in equal opportunities, while also acknowledging the challenges faced by marginalized groups.

Rawls’ theory of justice harmonizes with a foundational principle of the Indian constitution, which advocates for reservations to rectify historical injustices against specific communities.

By seeking to equalize differences and address historical wrongs, the Indian constitution aligns with Rawls’ principles of social justice, reflecting a commitment to fairness and equality in the Indian context.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish May 15, 2024