Paper Example. Rawls' Principles: Justice as Fairness

Published: 2023-03-16
Paper Example. Rawls' Principles: Justice as Fairness
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Philosophy Ethical dilemma Social justice
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1541 words
13 min read

John Rawls developed the Theory of Justice in 1971. It is a work of ethics and political philosophy. In his theory, Rawls addresses the concern of distributive justice - the distribution of goods in society in a manner that is socially just (Goldman et al. 313). The Theory of Justice borrows many ideas from Kantian philosophy and the theory of conventional social contract. The Theory of Justice by John Rawls is a full political theory of justice (Tyler & Tom n.p). The original publication of the Theory of Justice has undergone refinements several times over the decades, "Justice as Fairness," is a significant reappraisal that was published in 1985.

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Rawls' First Principle of Justice

This principle is known as The Greatest Equal Liberty Principle. It states that "Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all." (Goldman et al., 314). This first principle is applied only if all the other variables are equal. It means there is always a justification to deviate from the initial ground of equal liberty. The foundations of equal liberty include the patterns of the rights of individuals and their duties and powers and liabilities as developed by practice. In the case of an individual departing from this position of equal liberty, the burden of proof is placed upon him or her, while they're always is the justification for doing so.

The fundamental equal liberties of the first principle include freedom of speech and assembly and political liberty. Another is the liberty of freedom of thought and conscience, and the right to hold individual property, and the freedom from arbitrary arrest and seizure. However, it is not clear whether the freedom of contract can be included among the basic liberties (Colquitt et al., 76). Examples of the liberties not highlighted include ownership of certain properties and freedom of contract as underlined by laissez-faire. It means, therefore, that the first principle does not protect such rights.

Rawls' Second Principle of Justice

The principle defines the sort of inequalities that are permissible. It highlights the circumstances by which the specifics first principle might be ignored. Generally, Rawls' Second Principle of Justice states that "If there is just that the practice of inequality benefits both parties that have engaged in it, then the inequality is permissible." (Goldman et al., 314). The principle underlines that every party must be a beneficiary of the inequality.

Apart from the general statement, the second principle of justice can be split into two smaller groups; 2(a) and 2(b) (Colquitt et al., 76). 2(a) is referred to as The Difference Principle, while 2(b), The Equal opportunity principle. Sub-principle 2(a) states that the economic and social inequalities should be aligned in a manner that the least advantaged members of the society turn out to be the greatest beneficiaries of the inequality (Colquitt et al., 76). It holds that the unequal distribution of primary resources can only be justified if it aims at improving the situation of those who are worse off in society. 2(b) holds that the economic and social inequalities should be arranged to attach to positions and offices that are open to all under the fair opportunity to all (Colquitt et al., 76). The principle requires that offices and positions not to be merely shared on merit, all should be given the opportunity to acquire the merit.

Case Application of Rawls' Principles

Justice in Business.

There is not a single ethical framework that perfectly fits any era entirely. However, Rawls' justice theory possesses some advantages that make it possible to be applied in businesses of the twenty-first century (Colquitt et al., 76). Firstly, as the field of business expands to globalization and interdependence, individual businesses ought to pay attention to diverse leadership settings, human resources, and quality control. Fairness is the main factor that would give businesses legitimacy.

The concept of fairness is, however, defined differently in different cultures and social groups. People with different personalities tend to give different forms of meaning to fairness. For example, people have varied ideas on how diversity is supposed to be achieved. The topics of redistribution of resources and incomes and affirmative action are given different opinions by different people around the world (Goldman et al., 315). It means that what is fair to one might be completely unfair to another. This reality gives Rawls' Theory of Justice an opportunity to be considered for application.

Rawls' justice theory provides a way of engaging outwardly as corporate social responsibility and inwardly in the form of employee development. The theory is effective in the integration of business ethics into an organization. According to Rawls, both the corporate and employees have a role to play as far as ethics in the business is concerned. Every stakeholder in the organization has the responsibility to uphold ethics in all spheres of the business (Colquitt et al., 76). The spheres of business include advertising and marketing, client relations, board development, among others. Ethics in business includes the broad sphere of fairness. In a corporate, the stakeholders can apply fairness by ensuring a strong culture of openness and trust in sharing the benefits of the business venture, as well as in the application of all the other spheres of the business. Ethics would be effectively integrated into a business when all stakeholders understand the significance of fairness.

When all stakeholders in an organization internalize the practice of fairness, the responsibility of maintaining ethics in the organization no longer solely rests on the legal team and compliance department (Colquitt et al., 76). The scope of fairness would include the integration of the principles of Rawls' theory of justice. The procedural steps of the theory of justice would ensure a complete practice of fairness. Firstly, business management enters into a contract with employees. Then, the terms of the contract are agreed unanimously between the parties. Thirdly, the contract ensures the inclusion of basic conditions such as freedom of speech. Fourthly, the contract should maximize the welfare of the highly disadvantaged persons, and lastly, all stakeholders ensure the stability of the contract (Colquitt et al., 76). The result of the application of these principles is a business whose stakeholders exist harmoniously and all the scopes of the business are driven by ethical integrity.

Personal Opinion.

The application of Rawls' theory of justice in businesses as a way of improving business ethics is satisfactory. The procedures of fairness are categorical and easy to follow, which makes it easier to be applied in the field of business. Fairness and ethics are inseparable. Fairness often results in ethical integrity. Some of the determinants of fairness are trust and openness in the distribution of the benefits of the business. By applying this virtue, the management is being fair to all the stakeholders who will respond by being fair to both the company and the consumer.

Employees in an organization are the greatest beneficiaries of fairness. When the management of an organization practices fairness on its employees, the employees readily pay back the kind gesture by becoming more efficient in the organization and producing high-quality products for the consumers. The practice improves trust between employers, stakeholders, and consumers.

The theory of Justice articulates its principles that can be applied in the application of justice in the business environment, in a satisfactory way that anybody who understands these principles cannot deny. Justice as Fairness distinguishes the meanings of the two terms, despite a general assumption by many people that they hold the same meaning. The theory focusses on the application of fairness to provide justice.

In the business environment, fairness would mean allowing employees to exercise their rights and freedoms. The management of the business gives more privileges to the most disadvantaged stakeholders. The contracts of the organization maximize the welfare of the disadvantaged group in the business. Maximization of welfare might include providing incentives to the employees, which might not be available to the top management (Colquitt et al., 76). Well-performing employees might be awarded trophies that are accompanied by monetary rewards, or increment in allowances or salary.


Rawls' theory clearly stipulates the concept of Justice as Fairness, which is accompanied by principles that are easy to understand. They successfully distinguish the terms justice and fairness. It provides for the application of fairness in the interpretation of justice. Justice as Fairness can be applied in many scopes of society. In business, for example, fairness can be practiced to improve ethics, which leads to increased efficiency and customer loyalty. In the business framework, fairness would mean permitting workers to exercise their rights and freedoms freely without restrictions. Examples of the determinants of fairness include trust and openness in the supply of the benefits of the business. By implementing the virtue of trust and openness, the management is being fair to all the stakeholders who will respond by being fair to both the company and the consumer

Works Cited

Colquitt, Jason A., and Kate P. Zipay. "Justice, fairness, and employee reactions." Annu. Rev. Organ. Psychol. Organ. Behav. 2.1 (2015): 75-99.

Davoudi, Simin, and Derek Bell, eds. Justice and Fairness in the City: A Multi-disciplinary Approach to'ordinary' Cities. Policy Press, 2016.

Goldman, Barry, and Russell Cropanzano. "Justice" and "fairness" are not the same thing." Journal of Organizational Behavior 36.2 (2015): 313-318.

Tyler, Tom R. "Social justice." (2015).

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