A Theory of Justice (Oxford Paperbacks) by John Rawls

By John Rawls

Even though the revised version of A concept of Justice, released in 1999, is the definitive assertion of Rawls's view, quite a bit of the huge literature on Rawls's idea refers back to the first variation. This reissue makes the 1st variation once more to be had for students and severe scholars of Rawls's work.

Since it seemed in 1971, John Rawls's A conception of Justice has develop into a vintage. Rawls goals to precise a necessary a part of the typical middle of the democratic tradition--justice as fairness--and to supply an alternative choice to utilitarianism, which had ruled the Anglo-Saxon culture of political idea because the 19th century. Rawls substitutes the perfect of the social agreement as a extra passable account of the elemental rights and liberties of electorate as unfastened and equivalent people. "Each person," writes Rawls, "possesses an inviolability based on justice that even the welfare of society as an entire can't override." Advancing the guidelines of Rousseau, Kant, Emerson, and Lincoln, Rawls's concept is as strong this day because it was once while first released.

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Extra resources for A Theory of Justice (Oxford Paperbacks)

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27 Doubtless many people would allow that one legitimate function of punishment is to uphold the standards embodied in the criminal law, but the concept of rehabilitation seems dangerously general and manipulable. For it is always possible that an assessment of an offender’s rehabilitation will depend on official belief in a degree of socialisation far broader than a mere willingness to conform to the criminal law, and dependent on adherence to standards far subtler, more pervasive and harder to challenge than those enshrined in that law.

It is worth looking at this central problem in some detail. The problem is not merely that utilitarian theory is willing to countenance the occasional mistaken punishment of innocent 38 · THE TRADITIONAL JUSTIFICATIONS defendants for the sake of general benefits to be had from the creation and enforcement of a system of penal law, and perhaps as an unfortunate and inevitable side-effect of it. It is the much more radical and counterintuitive implication that utilitarian theory would in certain circumstances actually require a judge or some other actor in the penal process, such as a prosecutor (for example, by fabricating evidence), or even a legislator (in the framing of procedural or substantive rules) deliberately to engineer the conviction of a defendant about whose guilt she entertained a substantial doubt, in order to maximise utility.

First of all, the practice could be said to be using THE TRADITIONAL JUSTIFICATIONS · 33 the offender as a mere pawn in a game aimed at the good of society as a whole. Secondly, there is no inbuilt reason why the principle should justify punishing all or only offenders: repentant offenders ought not to be punished since deterrence is unnecessary: those thought likely to offend in the future should be ‘punished’ now in order to deter them and prevent the harm. Again, the principle is overextensive to the extent of justifying ill treatment by the state wherever this would result in a maximisation of utility.

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