John Rawls (contemporary contractarian)

Denial to utilitarianism (laissez-faire)

He held that justice cannot be derived from utilitarianism, because that doctrine is consistent with intuitively undesirable forms of government in which the greater happiness of a majority is achieved by neglecting the rights and interests of a minority. It also tends to produce an unjust distribution of wealth and income (concentrated in the hands of a few), which in turn effectively deprives some (if not most) citizens of the basic means necessary to compete fairly for desirable offices and positions.

Denial of Communism

In Rawls’s view, Soviet-style communism is unjust because it is incompatible with most basic liberties and because it does not provide everyone with a fair and equal opportunity to obtain desirable offices and positions.

Components of Justice

Equality principle: decision-makers must consider that all people have equal rights in all spheres of life.

Differential principle: redistribution of resources by a sovereign body by recognising the existing differences in the society to reduce inequalities.

Reflective equilibrium: decision-makers should not be outsiders, and they should reach an agreement/law/rule/norm by using free will and full knowledge.

They must follow the veil of ignorance while making a law/agreement.

Veil of Ignorance

It is the method of determining the morality of political issues. As per Rawls, discision makers should make decisions based on the assumption that they know nothing about the talents, abilities, tastes, social class and positions they will have in the social order, once they become part of it. Such people with a veil of ignorance make decisions based on morality, since they may not be able to make choices based on their self-interest or class interest.


Although Rawls generally avoided discussion of specific political arrangements, his work is widely interpreted as providing a philosophical foundation for egalitarian liberalism as imperfectly manifested in the modern capitalist welfare state or a market-oriented social democracy. 

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