Front cover image for A theory of justice

A theory of justice

John Rawls (Author)
This volume is a widely-read book of political philosophy and ethics. Arguing for a principled reconciliation of liberty and equality, it attempts to solve the problem of distributive justice (this concerns what is considered to be socially just with respect to the allocation of goods in a society). The resultant theory is known as "Justice as Fairness", from which the author derives his two famous principles of justice. The first of these two principles is known as the equal liberty principle. The second principle is split into two parts; the first, known as fair equality of opportunity, asserts that justice should not benefit those with advantageous social contingencies; while the second, reflecting the idea that inequality is only justified if it is to the advantage of those who are less well-off, is known as the difference principle
Print Book, English, 1971
The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1971
xv, 607 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
9780674880146, 0674880145
Part 1: Theory
Chapter 1: Justice as fairness
Role of justice
Subject of justice
Main idea of the theory of justice
Original position and justification
Classical utilitarianism
Some related contrasts
Priority problem
Some remarks about moral theory
Chapter 2: Principles of justice
Institutions and formal justice
Two principles of justice
Interpretations of the second principle
Democratic equality and the difference principle
Fair equality of opportunity and pure procedural justice
Primary social goods as the basis of expectations
Relevant social positions
Tendency to equality
Principles for individuals: the principle of fairness
Principles for individuals: the natural duties
Chapter 3: Original position
Nature of the argument for conceptions of justice
Presentation of alternatives
Circumstances of justice
Formal constraints off the concept of right
Veil of ignorance
Rationality of the parties
Reasoning leading to the two principles of justice
Reasoning leading to the principle of average utility
Some difficulties with the average principle
Some main grounds for the two principles of justice
Classical utilitarianism, impartiality, and benevolence. Part 2: Institutions
Chapter 4: Equal liberty
Four-stage sequence
Concept of liberty
Equal liberty of conscience
Toleration and the common interest
Toleration of the intolerant
Political justice and the constitution
Limitations on the principle of participation
Rule of law
Priority of liberty defined
Kantian interpretation of justice as fairness
Chapter 5: Distributive shares
Concept of justice in political economy
Some remarks about economic systems
Background institutions for distributive justice
Problem of justice between generations
Time preference
Further cases of priority
Precepts of justice
Legitimate expectations and moral desert
Comparison with mixed conceptions
Principle of perfection
Chapter 6: Duty and obligation
Arguments for the principles of natural duty
Arguments for the principle of fairness
Duty to comply with an unjust law
Status of majority rule
Definition of civil disobedience
Definition of conscientious refusal
Justification of civil disobedience
Justification of conscientious refusal
Role of civil disobedience. Part 3: Ends
Chapter 7: Goodness as rationality
Need for a theory of the good
Definition of good for simpler cases
Note on meaning
Definition of good for plans of life
Deliberative rationality
Aristotelian principle
Definition of good applied to persons
Self-respect, excellences, and shame
Several contrasts between the right and the good
Chapter 8: Sense of justice
Concept of a well-ordered society
Morality of authority
Morality of association
Morality of principles
Features of the moral sentiments
Connection between moral and natural attitudes
Principles of moral psychology
Problem of relative stability
Basis of equality
Chapter 9: Good of justice
Autonomy and objectivity
Idea of social union
Problem of envy
Envy and equality
Grounds for the priority of liberty
Happiness and dominant ends
Hedonism as a method of choice
Unity of the self
Good of the sense of justice
Concluding remarks on justification