Term Paper, 2005
17 Pages, Grade: 2,7
1. The notion of justice in an international context – formulation of the research question
2. John Rawls’ vision on justice
3. The notion of justice in the circumstances of a global society
The political changes in Europe from the years 1989-1991 and onwards are often referred to as the starting point of the world market expansion and the establishment of a globalised world of states for first time in the modern history. This poses both new challenges before the societies and new needs of respecting the same universal values and rules by all its members. How that can be effectively ensured is, thereby, a crucial issue.
Only if all members of our globalised reality perceive the rules of conduct as just, fair and equal to everyone it can be expected that these rules will be respected and will remain into force as indicators outlining the distinction between right and wrong, good and bad.
In today’s globalised world, however, there is a great variety of moral, religious, social and political doctrines that deal in quite a different way with the notions of right vs. wrong and good vs. bad. As states in their function as basic entities and members of nowadays globalised society are represented in the latter by individuals who have in turn their own perceptions shaped in accordance with the values of the environment the individuals have grown up it can be easily outlined how speculative can be a discussion on norms like right and wrong, good and bad if extended on an international scale.
The other way round, our globalised world that, as such, is still in its child age of development needs some clear principles on which to build on its structure and its institutions that in turn will be called to perform and employ the same universal values and rules to all its members.
If there is no universal perception on these values and rules then what can serve as an orientation light when the international community develops its international institutions and sets its principles?
Should the misbalance in the economic development and the political power of some states over the rest of the countries be used as a basis for outlining the parties who have ‘right’ and those who are ‘wrong’?
Or these issues will be dealt with and decided on also in the future within the presently existing international bodies the way of functioning of which dates back to the post World War II. and the Cold War periods of time when there was no globalised world yet (at least not in the way it exists today) and much of the challenges of nowadays did not exist?
Deficiencies in the United Nations system of world order have many times missed an effective and timely solution of a problem. As the international law develops as a rule from the ‘gap areas’ in the relations between states, which areas outline the scope and the depth of the conflicts between the latter as well as their willingness, ability and power to provide a reasonable solution to certain problems in order to create a basis for a long lasting stability in international matters, it can be argued that keeping international organisations, like e.g. the UNO, unchanged would make them better meet the altered challenges of today and tomorrow.
In the contrary, this can be easily disproved if having in mind that the point of departure in the international law notions on justice have also altered in the course of the time. Thus, while the classic conflicts between states as a basis for development in international affairs seem to be decreasing in relevance, there are new global threats that are emerging. Environmental crises, pandemics, global economy sustainability, and world peace are thereby key endangered areas in the global order.
The structure of international organisations prove itself inefficient for solving these problems. The other alternative, that became especially easily distinguishable upon the multinational endeavours from the last years in fighting against international terrorism and dictatorial regimes, is the one of assigning one powerful state the role of an international guarantor for peace.
That, however, would question the universality of the so enforced international values and rules and strongly contradicted to the democratic and egalitarian principles that nowadays globalised world pretends to have emerged on.
It also would question to what extent the rest of the states would respect the rules of international behaviour as developed accordingly to the notion on justice of one state only.
The fundamental question that stands before the international society is therefore:
Can the notion of international justice be extracted from a certain regime of socio-political systems that are currently existing in the world and thus, be successfully extended and applied to the global society, too and this in a way, in which to satisfy the principles of justice as suggested by Rawls?
There are, therefore, three key aspects that should be analysed in more detail in order to be able to offer a reasonable answer to the fundamental question as it was defined above. These aspects are: 1) What the fair principles of justice do indeed encompass? 2) What kind of regimes of social systems can be identified as forming today’s global society? And finally: 3) What should be the perspectives, from which justice as fairness is to be approached in order to analyse the notion of justice in the light of a global society?
John Rawls is often cited as a theorist who suggests in-depth analysis in the area of justice, fairness and their implications in the circumstances of a society’s way of functioning. Thus, Rawls determines in its book “Justice as Fairness” two fundamental principles of justice that each society should be based on. Whereas the first principle points out the indefeasible claim of each person to “a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties” for all, the second principle focuses on the social and economic inequalities within a society and the two conditions they should satisfy – the inequalities’ attachment to “offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity”, and they being “to the greatest benefit of the least-advantaged members of society” (the so-called difference clause) (Rawls 2003: 42-43). On this way, Rawls stresses two major perspectives when analysing the essence of justice – its aspects relating to the persons as the basic units of a society on one hand and the society itself as a complete entity on the other hand.
Following the logic of these ‘shift’ from the basic elements forming an entity to the entity itself we should go further up to the last level of analysis – the superstructure that comprises all the entities called ‘societies’ and therefore all the persons forming the latter, too. In other words, we should move to the global society as representing such a superstructure that consists of all societies (the entities that form the superstructure) and all their individuals (the basic units of each superstructure’s entity). If then the two principles of justice, as defined by Rawls, are truly fulfilled and relevant to the components of the superstructure it should be suggested that they should be applicable to the superstructure itself, too.
In order to prove, falsify or modify this hypothesis and thereby to discuss on the universality of the two principles of justice as defined by Rawls it is necessary, as a second step, to have a closer look over the typology of regimes that form the global society, i.e. the ‘superstructure’, as this typology is developed by the author.
Rawls distinguishes five kinds of regimes viewed as social systems that are complete with their political, economic, and social institutions. These five kinds of regimes are: “(a) laissez-faire capitalism; (b) welfare-state capitalism; (c) state socialism with a command economy; (d) property-owning democracy; and finally, (e) liberal (democratic) socialism.” (Rawls 2003: 136). Rawls stresses, thereby, that a regime still may fail to realise certain values even if it may include institutions explicitly designed for that purpose. Thus, the author assumes that “if a regime does not try to realize certain political values, it will not in fact do so” (Rawls 2003: 137). With a view to this assumption, he then points out that the regimes (a), (b) and (c) violated the two principles of justice “in at least one way”. Thus for example, (a) secured only formal equality and rejected “both the fair value of the equal political liberties and fair equality of opportunity”, (b) also rejected the fair value of the political liberties and the “principle of reciprocity to regulate economic and social inequalities”, and (c) violated both the equal basic rights and liberties and their fair value. Only the last two regimes mentioned – (d) property-owning democracy and (e) liberal socialism had, according to Rawls, an ideal description and included “arrangements designed to satisfy the two principles of justice” (Rawls 2003: 137-138). Important, thereby, was to look to the historical circumstances as well as to the traditions of political thought and practice of a society in order to be able to making a practical decision between (d) and (e). Therefore, the notion on justice as fairness consisted at the very end not in a decision between these two regimes but in the attempt to set out guidelines for how such a “decision can reasonably be approached” – especially if placing it in an institutional context (Rawls 2003: 139).
The notion of justice as fairness should, however, be viewed from a more conceptual perspective. As it directly deals with political regimes, as they have been introduced into the global society by different state-societies, a crucial point of analysis seems, therefore, to be the review of the various ideas of the good as a political conception. Rawls stresses in that respect that the right and the good were complementary to each other whereby any conception of justice, including a political one, needed both aspects. The interconnected importance of these two categories is explained by the author on the basis of their complementary roles according to which “the justice draws the limit, the good shows the point” (Rawls 2003: 141).
The meaning of the notion of justice as fairness consisted, therefore, in a perfect fitting of the right within the framework of admissible ideas of the good as a political conception. Hence, two assumptions should be made: “(1) that the ideas used are, or could be, shared by citizens generally regarded as free and equal; and (2) that they do not presuppose any particular (or partially) comprehensive doctrine” (Rawls 2003: 141). If these restrictions are accepted so that the notion of justice, as suggested by Rawls, can be legitimated, then the coercive political power and the power of free and equal citizens as a collective entity should be justifiable to all of them in terms of their free public reason, stresses also the author.
Keeping these assumptions in mind, Rawls develops six ideas of goodness as appearance forms of justice as fairness. These are: goodness as (i) rationality; (ii) primary goods; (iii) permissible conceptions, i.e. “only those conceptions of the good are permissible the pursuit of which is compatible with the principles of justice – in the case of justice as fairness, with the two principles we have discussed” (Rawls 2003: 141); (iv) political virtues, i.e. “these virtues specify the ideal of a good citizen of a democratic regime” (Rawls 2003: 142); (v) the idea of the political good of a society well ordered by the two principles of justice; and (vi) the idea of the good of such a society as a social union of social unions.
On this way, Rawls refers to both the essence of the notion of justice as fairness and goodness as well as its social value as a grounding element keeping an entity stable – in our case, keeping a society stable.
The notion of justice should, therefore, be analysed from a third perspective, too – the necessity of preserving it stable in terms of time and space if whishing it to be respected as a relevant and universal basis for both values and institutions.
Rawls points out that there were two ways, in which justice as a political conception may be concerned with stability – by viewing it as a purely practical matter or by analysing the nature of the forces that secure it. The author outlines two separate tasks if stability of the notion of justice was to be discussed on from a practical view: (a) a political conception should be elaborated that seemed sound or reasonable at least to those who were promoting it; and (b) ways should be found to bring others who may reject it to share it, “if need be prompted by penalties enforced by state power” (Rawls 2003: 185).
In contradistinction to that first way of analysing it, if viewed as a liberal conception the stability of justice should be “secured by sufficient motivation of the appropriate kind acquired under just institutions” (Rawls 2003: 185). It then should aim at acceptance by citizens who are in turn reasonable and rational as well as free and equal. On this conceptual basis, Rawls concludes that “if justice as fairness were not expressly designed to gain the reasoned support of citizens who affirm reasonable though conflicting comprehensive doctrines – the existence of such conflicting doctrines being a feature of the kind of public culture that conception itself sustains – it would not be liberal” (Rawls 2003: 185-186).
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