Political Science




John Rawls’ Theory of Justice is considered one of the most influential political philosophies of the 20th century. In this theory, Rawls argues for a just and fair society in which everyone has an equal chance to succeed. Rawls’ work has been influential in the fields of political science, philosophy, and economics. This blog post will explore Rawls’ Theory of Justice in detail, including its key principles, criticisms, and applications.

Background and Context

John Rawls was a prominent American philosopher born in 1921 in Baltimore, Maryland. He studied at Princeton University and completed his doctoral dissertation at the University of Oxford. Rawls’ theory of justice was first presented in his book “A Theory of Justice,” which was published in 1971. The book became a landmark work in the field of political philosophy and is still widely studied and debated today.

Rawls Theory of Justice

Rawls’ Theory of Justice is based on the idea of the “original position,” which is a hypothetical state in which individuals make decisions about what kind of society they would like to live in. In this state, individuals are completely equal and do not know anything about their personal characteristics or circumstances, such as their gender, race, or social status.

From this hypothetical state, Rawls argues that individuals would agree on two key principles of justice. The first principle is the principle of equal basic liberties, which states that each person is entitled to the same basic rights and freedoms, such as freedom of speech, religion, and association. The second principle is the difference principle, which states that social and economic inequalities are only justifiable if they benefit the least advantaged members of society. In other words, society should be organized in a way that benefits the least well-off.

Rawls’ theory is often described as “justice as fairness,” as it seeks to create a society that is fair and just for all individuals. Rawls argues that in a just society, individuals would have equal opportunities to succeed and that inequalities should only be allowed if they benefit those who are most disadvantaged.

Criticisms of Rawls’ Theory

Rawls’ Theory of Justice has been subject to a number of criticisms. Some critics argue that Rawls’ original position is too abstract and unrealistic, as individuals are not capable of completely divorcing themselves from their personal characteristics and circumstances. Others argue that the difference principle is too demanding and would require significant redistribution of resources to ensure that the least well-off members of society are adequately supported.

Another criticism of Rawls’ theory is that it does not fully address the issue of group rights and the importance of collective identity. Critics argue that Rawls’ emphasis on individual rights and freedoms neglects the importance of group identity and collective action in achieving social change.

Applications of Rawls’ Theory

Despite these criticisms, Rawls’ Theory of Justice has had a significant impact on political philosophy and has been influential in a number of areas. Rawls’ theory has been used to support a range of progressive policies, such as affirmative action, progressive taxation, and social welfare programs. Rawls’ emphasis on the importance of equal opportunities has also been used to support policies aimed at reducing income inequality and providing access to education and healthcare.

Rawls’ theory has also been applied in international relations, with scholars using his work to develop theories of global justice and to advocate for policies aimed at reducing global poverty and inequality.


John Rawls’ Theory of Justice is a significant contribution to political philosophy and has had a significant impact on political and social thought. While it has been subject to a number of criticisms, Rawls’ emphasis on justice as fairness and his emphasis on equal opportunities for all individuals continue to inspire scholars and activists working to create a more just and equitable society.

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