Thomas Hobbes: John Rawls And Social Justice

1159 Words5 Pages
Thomas Hobbes famously said that in the "state of nature", human life would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short". In the absence of political law and order, everyone would have the freedom to do as they pleased and thus the freedom to plunder, rape, and murder; there would be an endless war of all against all. To avoid this, free men contract with each other to establish political community i.e. civil society through a social contract in which they all gain security in return for subjecting themselves to an absolute Sovereign, one man or an assembly of men. Harvard professor, John Rawls,…show more content…
If society were in agreement, Rawls asks, what kind of arrangement would everyone agree to? He states that the contract is a purely hypothetical one: If no one could knew what place he or she would have in society? Then what sort of society would they choose? Rawls maintains that the choice would be for a social structure that would best benefit the unknowing chooser if she or he happened to end up in the least desirable position. This, he calls the veil of ignorance. Critics claim that rational individuals behind a veil of ignorance might well choose a social structure with large rewards for the majority of people and small rewards for the minority on the grounds that one is more likely to end up as part of a majority than a minority. Moreover, the veil of ignorance of where one will be in a society also takes away all knowledge of what one will…show more content…
However, even supporters of Rawls acknowledge that his work raises many questions. One of the earliest major responses to the book came from his Harvard colleague, philosopher Robert Noziick. In Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974) Nozick offers a libertarian response to Rawls. The assumptions behind A Theory of Justice are essentially redistributive: That is, Rawls puts forward equal distribution of resources as the desirable state and then argues that inequality can be justified only by benefits for the least advantaged. Nozick points out those resources are produced by people and that people have rights to the things they produce. Thus, attempts to improve the condition of the least advantaged through redistribution are unjust because they make some people work involuntarily for others and deprive people of the goods and opportunities they have created through time and effort. Nozick attacks John Rawls's Difference Principle on the ground that the well-off could threaten a lack of social cooperation to the worse-off, just as Rawls implies that the worse-off will be assisted by the well-off for the sake of social cooperation. (JF, 78-83) Nozick asks why the well-off would be obliged, due to their inequality and for the sake of social cooperation, to assist the worse-off and not have the worse-off accept the inequality and benefit the well-off. Nozick argues that

    More about Thomas Hobbes: John Rawls And Social Justice

      Open Document