Justice, Reason, and the Human Good: On the Applicability of Rawlsian Justice to Non-Democratic and Less-Developed Societies

Dissertation, Stanford University (1993)


Is Rawls's conception of justice as fairness applicable to non-democratic political cultures? To answer this question, I focus on Part III of Rawls's A Theory of Justice, which Rawls himself has not emphasized and critics have neglected. I challenge Rawls's reluctance to acknowledge the implicit conception of the human good, that he relies on to construct justice as fairness. I articulate and develop this implicit conception, which I call "the good as human co-flourishing." Then, I reconstruct the steps Rawls might have taken to construct justice as fairness on the basis of the substantive conception of the human good. Finally, I provide an independent justification for the idea of the good as human co-flourishing. In particular, I use the idea of practical reason to defend it. It follows from these discussions that Rawlsian justice is applicable to non-liberal democratic cultures, and this applicability lies in its deeply seated conception of the human good as human co-flourishing. ;I also consider the application of the principles of justice to less-developed societies. In the constitutional and legal stages of Rawlsian deliberation, when the general social and economic conditions become known to parties in the original position, they are able to deliberate on the issue of how to apply the principles of justice in unfavorable conditions. ;These discussions draw upon notions of the human good and international justice that have been embraced by classical political thinkers from Aristotle and Plato to Locke, Kant, Hegel, Mill, and Marx, as well as by contemporary authors such as Charles Beitz, Thomas Pogge, Brian Barry, Martha Nussbaum, Susan Okin, and Henry Shue. ;My arguments shed light on key Rawlsian notions such as the duty to justice, the supreme value of political liberties, rationality and reasonableness, self-respect, reasonable pluralism, and the development of human moral powers. ;This inquiry concludes by discussing the policy implications of this reconstruction of Rawls. It argues for considering long term and basic conditions for human development in making international aid and trade policies towards repressive regimes under unfavorable conditions

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