Lec 12: Justice :A distributive concept


Hello, friends. Today, we are going to start a new topic that
is Justice and we are going to have four lectures on this topic which is justice and the reason
for focusing more on this concept is not just the centrality or in a sense, dynamic in understanding
or inner differentiation between different meanings, interpretations or conceptualization
of this term justice, but we will also, see how justice is related to some of the other
political values, we have discussion so far. So, for example, the value of political equality,
or the question of liberty and also, the rights. So, we will see some of the normative concerns
and the issues that we have discussed, while discussing these concepts like liberty, equality
and rights. We will see the similar kinds of problem or
contestations are also, there when we try to theorize what is justice. So, justice is something, which we all want,
we think that ideal life or ideal society is a just society or a just life. So, justice is the defining characteristic
of a society, of an individual. So, the justness or the due process, what
we call is somewhat related to this procedural notion of justice, where we want a rule which
should be applicable for everyone without any discrimination. So, that is a kind of due process or natural
theory of justice which tries to give everyone equal or similar opportunities. Now, however, on the other hand, we also,
know the hierarchies in the societies or the discrimination that is prevailing in the societies
or the domination or the subordination that is there, the inequalities that exist in society. So, in that kind of given situation, how to
ensure that justice is not only, argued for or define, but also, effectively, achieved
in that society. So, there is a kind of substantive notion
of justice which we will try to understand over the course of this four lectures on justice
and also, different conceptions of justice say from Rawls, A Theory of Justice to his
critique by Robert Nozick and feminist critique of justice as well. So, we will try to understand this concept
of justice through different ideological or through different parameters and also, its
relationship with other political values. Now, today, what we are going to do is to
begin this topic by understanding what is justice and why it is understood as a distributive
concept? So, this we are going to discuss, today and
then, we will discuss also, if it is so; that means, if justice is a distributive concept,
then what should be the ground of that distribution and why to distribute? And, when the distribution is regarded as
just or unjust? Who got to decide which principles of distribution
or re-distribution are just or unjust or so on? So, these are some of the issues which we
will discuss today. So, the first thing, we need to understand
what justice that it is a normative concern. So, there are moral, normal, normative issues
that is involved while discussing about the justice. And this normative or moral issue that is
involved in the question of justice is not something which really, calls for any kind
of disagreements or contestations. So, there is a kind of normative, moral consensus
about justice. So, the desire for justice and the aspiration
for having a just society or a just social, moral, political order is something, which
is not new and there is very few contestation over these aspiration or desire for justice. However, the contestations or the differences
emerge when we actually, tries to unravel. What this justice is all about? What does it mean to be a just society? What does it mean to have a just law or just
order? So, in that sense, justice also, leads to
the question of distribution. So, essentially, justice as a normative concept
is also, a distributive concept in nature and this distribution, the method, the procedure
or the mechanism for distribution makes the whole conception or interpretation of justice
a bit contentious issue. So, what should be the ground, what should
be the mechanism and the procedure for distribution and re-distribution is something which is
contentious. And the reason being primarily, because, the
society has limited resources. So, if a society, has enough resources to
meet the needs and requirements of the every member of that particular society, then there
is a no contestation. The contestation emerges when there is a scarcity
of resources and all the members, and their needs cannot be fulfilled. So, then, on what principles and on what grounds
such distribution should be done? And that makes the question of justice a distributive
concept and also, then essentially, contested concepts in terms of the methods, approaches
and procedure of such distribution. So, let us begin, with let this concept justice
refers to basically, the fairness which is an attribute of law. So, justice as fairness is based on the principle
of non-discrimination or without any differences. So, law, as you know in the positivist tradition
applies to everyone without any discrimination. So, a justice as a normative concept talks
about fairness. Now, fairness, we will discuss is easily said
than done. So, suppose, if a society is unequal and then,
you apply, equal law in that society, will the outcome would be fair? Obviously, the answer is no, because if you
treat unequal equally, the outcome will never be just or fair. So, then, what you require is to treat people
differently, according to their needs, their requirements, their conditions and then provide
to them a kind of level field or a kind of equal opportunity, and let them then excel
it and still if, some inequality prevail. Then, that inequality is acceptable because
that depends on their merit, their individual efforts and so on. So, the fairness is something, which is not
just about treating everyone equally, but also, treating different people, different
groups, different communities depending upon their conditions, their social or cultural
or the economic backgrounds and so on. So, the justice is about fairness which is
much more than merely, equal treatment, entries and attributes of law and how such differences
or differential treatment can also, lead to fair result that we will discuss, as we move
on to discuss, A Theory of Justice by John Rawls. So, it is about fairness as an attribute of
law justice is essentially, a distributive concept. Distributive concept means it Is about distribution
of resources and as I have said as a moral normative concern, there is very less contestation
over this term justice. But it necessarily, inherently, implies re-distribution
or distribution of resources. And the mechanism and the procedure of such
distribution and re-distribution makes this whole conceptualization of justice a bit contentious,
a bit contested concept. So, it is essentially, a distributive concept
because it talks about distribution of resources who should get what and on what grounds, and
if the amount or the quantity they get are justified or not, and how we can justify,
those allocation of resources to different sections of society and so on. So, these are some of the issues which make
the notion of justice very contentious concept. So, it is essentially, a distributive concept
which talks about allocation of resources or distribution of resources in the society. So, it is about impartiality, or unbiasness
in distributing goods and services to people in the society. It refers to a fair distribution of goods
in the society, so, that is about the fair distribution of society. We will discuss in a moment, what should be
the ground for such distribution. But here, we need to understand that justice
as a concept is about distribution of resources. So, essentially, it is a distributive concept. Now, if we look at this urge, the moral normative
urge for justice which is not new to the modern society which is also, in many ways, equal
and simultaneously, unequal society in terms of social, economic conditions of the people
and the opportunities of different peoples depending upon their birth, their social,
cultural and economic background and so on. So, earlier in Greek philosophy, too, focused
on this concept of justice and Plato pointed out that ideal state would be a justice state. So, justice, for Plato is the defining feature
of an ideal society or an idealistic, and he regarded justice along with temperance,
wisdom and courage as the four key virtues of that society. So, for Plato, justice is something, which
is a defining feature of a society or a just society. Now Plato, also, makes a distinction between
different sections in the society. So, Plato, believed in the hierarchy; that
means, different classes in the society are fit to do different kinds of work and if,
they are doing what they are fit to do or they are capable of doing, then that society
can be regarded as the just society. So, essentially, the assumption here, is justice
is about giving everyone his or her due. Now, what is his or her due is something,
which we can debate and discuss, and we will discuss as we move on to the next lecture
and so on. But for Plato as well also, discussing about
justice in say in the Greek tradition is arguing about justice as a principle is giving everyone’s
due and his understanding of giving everyone’s due is not like modern idea of treating everyone
equally. Plato believed in the social hierarchy or
the three sections and the philosophers, the warrior and the artisans or patients. They should do what they are capable of doing
and if they are able to do, what they are capable of doing, the outcome or the society
would be a just society for Plato. Now, Aristotle, came up with the concept of
justice, but unlike, Plato who believed in the hierarchy and so on. Aristotle believed that justice could be attained
through the prevalence of equality or an equilibrium society. So, Aristotle was more about creating a society
which is equal. So, one of the conception that Aristotle has
is that in an ideal polity, everyone should be able to govern and being governed in turn. So, the capability to rule should be available,
to everyone and not just for few. So, Aristotle’s conception of justice is
much more broader certainly, egalitarian than the Plato. However, in both of them of course, in Plato
there is the communism of wives and property, thereby, there is some amount of egalitarianism
there also. But by and large, women or slaves or certain
other sections of society remain outside the sphere of this justice or the justice for
them is about the citizens, or the citizens by default means male citizen and so on. So, their conception of justice remains somewhat
limited, but nonetheless, it is on the basis of this principle of giving everyone’s due. And what are those dues are differently, conceptualized
by Plato and Aristotle. In the modern times, the concept of justice
gains prominence during the renaissance in the industrial revolution in Europe, where
there was the beginning of new discourse about individual, government based on the consent
of the people, government having limited role and must protect certain rights of the individual
that we have discussed in the previous topic. So, in that time which kind of government
is a just government or legitimate government and so on. So, that discourse leads to this conceptualization
about justice as a normative distributive concept. So, the concept of distributive justice, broadly,
provides the basis for distribution of just benefits and services to individuals, groups
and communities in the ideal society. So, the justice as a concept talks about the
re-distribution or distribution of wealth in the society, to different groups, to different
societies, to different communities and so on. Now, what should be the basis of such distribution? So, there are many basis for the distribution
of resources, such as need, desert, freedom or choice, maximization of utility, equality
and least disadvantage. So, in order, to ensure justice in a society,
it is necessary, to distribute resources on the grounds of these above mentioned values. And now, we are going to discuss each one
of such values, to ensure justice is not just something, as a mere moral or normative concept,
but it is also, about creating a society which is more just. So, remember, any society at any given point
of time has some inbuilt tensions or contradictions in terms of the interest of the different
sections of the society. Now, whole politics operates on the basis
of this principle, who gets what because the resources are limited. In the re-distribution of the resources, there
are certain some debates about making the society more equal or more just. So, think about the Greek times, when there
was some sections of society, totally, excluded from the participation in the public life
say, women, children, slave and so on. Now, to a society in 21st century, when we
want every single member, the assumptions being that having same and equal moral worth
must have certain rights and given opportunity to participate in the public political process. Now, this very assumption is also, very radical
or transformative in many sense. In the actual reality, there exist some inequalities
and so on. At normative level, at the theoretical level,
no longer the hierarchies or exclusion are justified on the grounds of tradition, on
the grounds of birth, on the grounds of religion and so on. Now, the hierarchies of all kinds are so between
male and female and so on, we find that those hierarchies are increasingly, challenged now. So, now, to ensure that we just now aspire
for or desire justice, but we also, ensure we also, create the condition in which everyone
has the just or the fair chances to progress, to develop and so on. Now, that requires ensuring that everyone
should have equal opportunity or the equal resources on at least some primary basic goods
or resources. Now, how to ensure that everyone should have
resources or how to distribute the resources of the society or the state? So, there are some principles which can be
a guide for such distribution and all. So, one is the idea of need. Need is like the requirement of different
people in the society. So, it believes the distribution of benefits
and services should be made keeping in mind the needs or requirements of every individual
in a society. So, there is a need to have a minimum set
of resources to be made available to everybody. So, that is a kind of equal principle, but
the needs, principle talks about that in a society different individual has different
needs and the distribution of resources should be done on the basis of the needs of that
individual or a family. So, suppose a family of 4, needs different
kind of rooms, different quantity of grains than a family of 2 or a sick man’s requirement
for the medical care will be different from the medical requirements of a healthy man
or the requirement of an adult is different from the requirement of a child. So, this kind of distribution of justice argues
that the distribution of wealth should be done on the basis of the requirements or the
needs of different individuals in the society. So, one of the famous Marxist Maxim is that
to each according to his capacity, to each according to his needs, that means, everyone
should contribute according to his capability or skills, but rewards should be given on
the basis of his or her needs. So, in this ideal conception of communism
to communism, he conceptualizes a society, where distribution of the resources would
be based on the needs of the individual. However, the individual will participate in
the society or in the economy, according to his capability or skill. The problem, here, is in this idea of needs. So, the need principle of distribution is
possible, when society had enough resources to meet the needs of all the sections of the
society. So, that creates a kind of problem for the
distribution of the wealth. The other more convincing or somewhat, more
just principle of distribution is regarded as the principle of Desert. Desert basically, mean merit or so, it refers
to the individual efforts or merit which helps him or her, to earn additional income or extra
income and he/she deserve that extra income which may be relatively, higher than the rest
or the other and he she deserve to save or keep that extra income. So, the desert appraisal basically, means
that the rewards should be based on the capability or the skill of the individual. So, if the individual is putting extra effort
is innovative and willing to take risk or entrepreneur. So, naturally, he or she should have more
reward and that is perfectly, justified. Because it is result of his or her merit or
efforts and so on. So, the second principle of reward is based
on this idea of what is called desert or merit in the society. So, the distribution of resources should be
based on the merit of individual and not his or her needs. The third principle is what freedom or choice,
that means, any pattern of distribution of benefits and services should be based on the
choice made by human-beings or it must be an outcome of the choice of people make in
their lives to lead a better livelihood and so on. So, the choice principle is closer to the
libertarian ideal of meritocracy or distribution of rewards and resources shared. It is understood that individual should be
given freedom or liberty to take decisions or make choice. And if, the individuals are provided the condition
for making choices or to take decision, then if, the outcome of such decisions or choices
are different or inequal that should not be a problem and they should not be an attempt
to emphasize on equalizing the reward and so on. So, the focus is about providing the individual
with choice or the freedom to make decisions. And once, they are given those conditions
of making choice or freedom to make decision, then the outcome of such decisions or freedom
of choices should be acceptable to everyone. The third is about maximization of utility,
that is, the principle of utilitarianism which talks about… it is necessary, to understand
happiness, pleasure, welfare or success or inner satisfaction of individuals and so,
they should try to drive maximum utility or benefit from the services provided to them. So, this ideal of re-distribution is on the
principle that distribution or re-distribution of resources should be based on the principle
which will lead to maximization of the happiness or the welfare or pleasure of the maximum
number in the society. Similarly, it is for the individual. If such distribution is maximizing his or
her individual happiness, welfare and pleasure, then such re-distribution is just. So, it works for the state or the community
or the society on the one hand. It also, works equally, for the individual. If such distribution is maximizing the happiness,
pleasure or welfare of the individual or the society, then it should be the just principle
of distribution. The principle of equality is based on this
formal idea that the distribution of benefits and services must be made equally. So, that they are accessible to everyone in
equal manner and it provides equilibrium in society. So, this principle of equality, as I have
discussed can be understood with this idea that should we treat two individuals coming
from different backgrounds with different sets of characteristics equally. And if we do so, will the outcome be a just
outcome or a fait outcome and so on. So, the equality principle which believes
that everyone should be given benefits and services which should be equal and same to
the rest of the individuals, and that way, the society will be more equal society and
so on. But this kind of a focus on equality in the
formal sense do not really, transform into creating an egalitarian society, where the
different groups or different societies are not on the same level. They do not have the same level of resources
or same opportunities. Now, in the absence of the same or equal resources
or opportunity; if the laws treat them equally, then outcome will never be the just outcome. And therefore, this equality principle is
not always, a valid principle of justice and so on. Now, the third is a last one is the least
disadvantaged principle which believes that distribution of resources should take great
and a special care of the poor, illiterate and the least well off sections in the society,
to make distributive justice sensitive to the specific needs and requirements of the
different groups in the society and so on. So, we will discuss, these two ideals to treat
everyone equally, that is, the basic premise of justice or fairness and so on and the idea
of how we can deviate from this equal principle. So, the ideal commonsensical understanding
of justice should be treat everyone equally, distribute the resources of the society or
state equally, among everyone that would be the just distribution. So, that is the kind of commonsensical understanding
of justice as a distributive concept. But it is insensitive, to the different needs,
different status, different conditions of living of different sections of the society
and their needs. So, therefore, as for example, in Indian society,
we have Dalits or women or religious or ethnic minorities, they lived or their threats or
their conditions of existence are not similar to everyone else. Now, if the Indian state has the single, equal
or the same principle or laws applied to everyone, the society will remain hierarchical. The condition of existence will remain differential
from each other inequalities will prevail. Now, to create equality to ensure justice,
what is required is a differential treatment depending upon the legitimacy or justification
for such deviation. So, this principle of equality and when, and
where deviation from such equality to justify, difference principle is justified or not,
we will discuss, when we will discuss Rawls theory of justice. So, these are some of them premises for distribution
of wealth and resources in the society and any society that tends to create its society,
more just, more egalitarian follow one of these values or set of these values. So, equality with least disadvantage or married
with needs and so on. Now, another aspect to be taken into consideration
while discussing about distributive justice is that where these distribution of benefits
and services are taking place and whether these are provided to everyone in a just manner
or not. So, the actual implementation of justice or
distribution of resources requires that where these distributions are done, who are the
beneficiaries or are these distributions based on certain just principle or not. So, the concept of distributive justice emphasize
upon the fact that such benefits and services should be provided by various political institutions
through laws and policy made by the state. So, state has a role to play. Here, is the difference which we need to take
into account is a procedural notion of justice. So, the procedural notion of justice or substantive
notion of justice, we will discuss in some details in the next lecture, but here, perhaps,
it is necessary, to understand that the justice and implementation of justice is possible
by laws. And state has a role to pass or enact a law
which should be just. Now, this enactment of law may or may not
treat everyone equally. It may be unjust or it may be just as well. The political philosophers tries to argue
for a law which will lead to just outcome. Now, the philosophers who believed in the
law itself and as a mechanism for ensuring justice in the society are regarded as someone,
who argue for the procedural notion of justice. So, they argued, if laws are just the implementation
of it, will lead to just outcome. However, the substantive notion of justice
talks about not merely, the procedure or the laws, but also the outcome of that just laws
there this difference we will discuss in the next law. So, here, the point is the distribution of
the resources is provided by the political institution through the laws and policy made
by the state. So, the entire political, social, legal and
economic framework is available, to provide benefits and services to individuals or citizens
of the state. So, in the re-distribution of the resources,
the whole mechanism of the state, its institutions, laws and policies are involved in the distribution. Now, whether that distribution is just or
not requires certain criteria to be made whether that distribution follows some of the values
which we have just discussed and also, whether some or few or many are excluded from such
distributions or not. So, it is necessary, to introspect the roles
of every institution or these frameworks while distributing resources. So, the existing structure, that means, the
political, social, legal and economic structure in the society. Now, we constantly, need to introspect or
assess the role of every institution or these frameworks, while distributing resources,
benefits and services to individual in order to ensure a fair or just distribution. While doing so, they should follow some moral
principle and this moral and normative principles make the distribution of resources or the
principle on which the distribution is based a contentious issue and there we see, how
different political philosophers or intellectuals argues about different principle of justice. So, starting from John Rawls to Robert Nozick,
to feminist critique and many others, we will discuss in the following lecture. So, this distribution of resources requires
assessment or introspection of every institution or frame work, that is, prevailing in the
society. Now, while introspecting the role of this
institution or the framework, we may or may not continue with those frameworks on institution. We want some new institution or we may, radically,
alter the existing structure of institution and framework for the redistribution of resources
to make it more just or make it more fair and so on. So, the political process that makes an equal
just or fair distribution possible is different in different societies. So, different societies have different political
mechanism for the distribution of resources which will be just or fair. But in a democratic society, it should be
made on the basis of protection, preservation of ethos of equality, rights and justice. So, the necessary, moral, normative concerns
that guides the distribution of resources in a democratic society or state is the protection
or preservation of equality, rights and justice. Although, the political mechanism is something,
which plays a significant role in the re-distribution. It may, vary from society to society, but
in a democratic society, it must be based on the principles of this protection and preservation
of equality rights and justice. So, the concept of distributive justice has
many dimensions to it. It refers to many kind of distribution; first
is distribution of employment opportunities, to provide welfare, to maximize utility income
and so on. So, the distributive justice is about all
these things employment opportunities or equality of opportunities as we will discuss. So, employment opportunity or the welfare
mechanisms, such as medical care, healthcare, pension, social security schemes and so on,
the maximization of utility and income is also, part of this distributive concept of
justice. So, what matters in such distribution is to
consider as to who are actually, benefiting from the distribution of the services of the
state. So, the problem with distribution is at the
two levels. First is at the theoretical, legal level as
who is going to benefit from the policies of the state or re-distributive policies of
the state. So, the law, itself pose certain limits or
certain definition about the beneficiaries of its policies and all. The second is about the implementation. So, when the laws are implemented so, the
chances are those who are intended to be benefited by these policies are not the actual beneficiary. But those who are already, better off or privileged
or resourceful are getting extra benefit out of this policy of the state. So, the distributive of policies of the state
talks about both at the theoretical level to ensure the rightful or those who are actually,
required the benefit of the state should be provided resources. And also, those who are better off or those
who are already, privileged, they should not manipulate this provisions for their benefit. So, the principle of justice argues for creating
a law or formulating a policy which will be just for everyone and also, what its implementation. So, the government should be sensible and
responsible enough while making such policies and laws. And it can also, make changes in the already,
existing policies to make it more just and to provide these services such as education,
legal services, health to everyone in the society. So, the government constantly, tries to formulate
or to make the implementation of earlier policy, if it is just to more effective, to more economical,
to target the real beneficiary of these policies and programmes. And it can also, formulate new policies or
new programs for the welfare of every citizen in the state. So, the society can be adaptable to these
policies, if they are really beneficial and meant for their welfare and progress. Society has choice to make whether they follow
not follow a particular policy for the re-distribution of resources. So, the re-distribution of resources is something,
which can be constantly alter modify depending upon the new requirements of the society. So, the society may follow the earlier method
of redistribution, but it can also, follow the new method of re-distribution depending
upon whether that new mechanism of re-distribution is in the benefit or the welfare of everyone
in the society or not. Now, the many writers and philosopher approved
of such moral principles. So, the distribution of the resources required
some moral or normative concerns on the part of state or society. So, society believes that everyone should
be treated equally. So, that is a kind of moral normative judgement. Now, society may also believe that since our
society is not equal so, let us give preferential treatment to someone, so, we call it reservation
and so on. So, reservation deviate from this ideal of
equal treatment, yet, it deviation is justified in the name of creating a level playing field
or giving equal opportunity to everyone or preferential treatment therefore, is justified. So, these are some of the normative, moral
concerns which society as a whole as a collective entity decides and then, justified certain
distributive mechanism. So, distributive principles are recognized
for providing moral principles or a moral guidance for making such choice. So, for example, Rawls difference principle. So, Rawls theory of justice is one of the
principles of justice is different principle argues for making changes to the existing
basic structure of the society that can improve the condition of the worse off and make various
prospects and opportunity better for everyone in the society. So, the Rawls theory of justice talks about
creating a more equal and just society. In creating a more equal and just society,
he also, justified the difference principle on the condition of that it will improve the
conditions of the worse off in the society or the least disadvantage in the society and
thereby, overall it lead to create a society which will be more equal and more just. So, the question of morality is deeply, embedded
in the question or discussion of on justice which we will come again and again, when we
will discuss different theories of justice in the next class. So, there are certain methods, while making
distributive justice the method is necessary to make a choice out of different principles. So, at any given point of time, there can
be many multiple options. So, for example, on this question of whether
we should give reservation to the historically, and socio-economically, disadvantage section
in Indian society or not. Now, there are many arguments in favour of
such kind of mechanism, but there are also arguments against such mechanism now. So, at any given point of time on the issue
of re-distribution, you have multiple principles or a mechanisms argued for the re-distribution. Now, which principle or mechanism is regarded
most suitable or more just or which principle will lead to the just outcome is something
that is society needs to decide collectively. So, it requires the moral or the normative
judgement on the part of society as a whole also. So, the distributive principle in terms of
which principal will lead to what kind of a distribution of benefits and services to
individual. Philosophers like John Rawls used the method
of wide reflective equilibrium. This we are going to discuss in the next class,
I will not discuss now. So, reflective equilibrium which we will discuss
in the next class. So, many philosophers argued that a democratic
process or methods of distributive justice is necessary, for sustaining a fair and equal
distribution of resources in the society. So, the broader consensus about distribution
of resources is it requires a moral or normative judgement on the part of the society, the
democratic process or method of re-distributive justice. That means, which does not favour or does
is not partial to anyone even if it serves the differential needs of different section
of the society. So, many philosophers argue that a democratic
process or method of a re-distributive or distributive justice is necessary for sustaining
a fair and equal distribution of resources in the society. So, these are some of the contentious issues
at it is related to the idea of justice as a distributive concept. In the next class, we will discuss a procedural
and substantive notion of justice and also, Rawls theory of justice as fairness. Topics that we have discussed today, you can
refer to some of these books like Rajeev Bhargava and Ashok Acharya’s – Political Theory and
also, Hoffman and Paul Graham’s – Introduction to Political Theory. Then, from Catriona Mckinnon, you can refer
to come Issues in Political Theory and Robert Nozick’s- ‘Distributive Justice’, you
can also refer to understand some of these issue which we have discussed. So, that is all for today. Thank you for listening. Thanks.

Maurice Vega

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