John Rawls (1921-2002)

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  • Created by: Carysjjj
  • Created on: 19-03-16 15:20


  • he formed a bridge between modern liberal and social democratic thought

His beliefs:

  • he saw his main task as reconciling the firm liberal belief in freedom with the need to prevent excessive inequality in society
  • in tackling this, he addressed a problem faced by both liberals and socialists-that measures taken to reduce inequality, or prevent it from occuring, will inevitably involve the loss of liberty for some
  • for example, if income is to be more evenly spread, there must be higher tax for the rich and lower for the poor, representing a loss of liberty as taxpayers are no longer free to spend their income in the way they wish
  • similarly, any attempt to manipulate wages to prevent poverty among low-paid workers interferes with labour markets and curtails the freedom of entrepreneurs to run their businesses as they wish
  • he tackled the problem, his objective is to reconcile individual liberty with social justice and to establish criteria under which inequality or state regulation may be tolerated
  • he uses a philosophical device which he calls the 'original position' to develop his conclusions

The 'original position' and the 'veil of ignorance':

  • Rawls imagines humankind in the situation that would have existed before society came into being, that is, a natural state, which he terms the 'original position'
  • if people are to create a society from this state of nature, they need to decide how wealth and goods are to be distributed within society
  • however, Rawls places a condition on them before they can make their decisions. People are placed behind a 'veil of ignorance'- by this he means that they do not know how successful


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