NCERT Textbook - Social Justice Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

Political Science Class 11

Humanities/Arts : NCERT Textbook - Social Justice Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


Chapter 4
Social Justice
Overview
Just as we intuitively understand what love means even if we cannot explain all its
different shades of meaning, we also have an intuitive understanding of justice even
though we may not be able to define it precisely. In that sense justice is a lot like love.
In addition, both love and justice evoke passionate responses from their advocates.
And as with love, no one hates justice, everyone wants justice for oneself and to some
extent for others also. But unlike love, which is an aspect of our relationships with a
few people whom we know well, justice concerns our life in society, the way in which
public life is ordered and the principles according to which social goods and social
duties are distributed among different members of society. As such, questions of
justice are of central importance for politics.
After going through this chapter you should be able to:
o Identify some of the principles of justice which have been put forward in different
societies and at different periods of time.
o Explain what is meant by distributive justice.
o Discuss John Rawls’ argument that a fair and just society would be in the interest
of all members and could be defended on rational grounds.
2020-21
Page 2


Chapter 4
Social Justice
Overview
Just as we intuitively understand what love means even if we cannot explain all its
different shades of meaning, we also have an intuitive understanding of justice even
though we may not be able to define it precisely. In that sense justice is a lot like love.
In addition, both love and justice evoke passionate responses from their advocates.
And as with love, no one hates justice, everyone wants justice for oneself and to some
extent for others also. But unlike love, which is an aspect of our relationships with a
few people whom we know well, justice concerns our life in society, the way in which
public life is ordered and the principles according to which social goods and social
duties are distributed among different members of society. As such, questions of
justice are of central importance for politics.
After going through this chapter you should be able to:
o Identify some of the principles of justice which have been put forward in different
societies and at different periods of time.
o Explain what is meant by distributive justice.
o Discuss John Rawls’ argument that a fair and just society would be in the interest
of all members and could be defended on rational grounds.
2020-21
Justice
Social Justice
54
Political Theory
4.1 WHAT IS JUSTICE?
All cultures and traditions have grappled with questions of justice
although they may have interpreted the concept in different ways.
For instance, in ancient Indian society, justice was associated with
dharma and maintaining dharma or a just social order, was
considered to be a primary duty of kings. In China, Confucius, the
famous philosopher argued that kings should maintain justice by
punishing wrong doers and rewarding the virtuous. In fourth century
B.C. Athens (Greece), Plato discussed issues of justice in his book
The Republic. Through a long dialogue between Socrates and his
young friends, Glaucon and Adeimantus, Plato examined why we
should be concerned about justice. The young people ask Socrates
why we should be just. They observe that people who were unjust
seemed to be much better off than those who
were just. Those who twisted rules to serve their
interests, avoided paying taxes and were willing
to lie and be deceitful, were often more successful
than those who were truthful and just. If one
were smart enough to avoid being caught then
it would seem that being unjust is better than
being just. You may have heard people
expressing similar sentiments even today.
 Socrates reminds these young people that
if everyone were to be unjust, if everyone
manipulated rules to suit their own interests,
no one could be sure of benefiting from injustice.
Nobody would be secure and this was likely to
harm all of them.  Hence, it is in our own long-
term interest to obey the laws and be just.
Socrates clarified that we need to understand
clearly what justice means in order to figure
out why it is important to be just. He explained
that justice does not only mean doing good to
our friends and harm to our enemies, or
pursuing our own interests. Justice involves the
well-being of all people. Just as a doctor is
“They say that to do
injustice is, by nature,
good; to suffer injustice,
evil; but that the evil is
greater than the good. And
so when men have both
done and suffered
injustice and have had
experience of both, not
being able to avoid the one
and obtain the other, they
think that they had
better agree among
themselves to have
neither; hence there
arise laws and mutual
covenants; and that
which is ordained by law
is termed by them lawful
and just.”
(Glaucon to Socrates in
The Republic).
2020-21
Page 3


Chapter 4
Social Justice
Overview
Just as we intuitively understand what love means even if we cannot explain all its
different shades of meaning, we also have an intuitive understanding of justice even
though we may not be able to define it precisely. In that sense justice is a lot like love.
In addition, both love and justice evoke passionate responses from their advocates.
And as with love, no one hates justice, everyone wants justice for oneself and to some
extent for others also. But unlike love, which is an aspect of our relationships with a
few people whom we know well, justice concerns our life in society, the way in which
public life is ordered and the principles according to which social goods and social
duties are distributed among different members of society. As such, questions of
justice are of central importance for politics.
After going through this chapter you should be able to:
o Identify some of the principles of justice which have been put forward in different
societies and at different periods of time.
o Explain what is meant by distributive justice.
o Discuss John Rawls’ argument that a fair and just society would be in the interest
of all members and could be defended on rational grounds.
2020-21
Justice
Social Justice
54
Political Theory
4.1 WHAT IS JUSTICE?
All cultures and traditions have grappled with questions of justice
although they may have interpreted the concept in different ways.
For instance, in ancient Indian society, justice was associated with
dharma and maintaining dharma or a just social order, was
considered to be a primary duty of kings. In China, Confucius, the
famous philosopher argued that kings should maintain justice by
punishing wrong doers and rewarding the virtuous. In fourth century
B.C. Athens (Greece), Plato discussed issues of justice in his book
The Republic. Through a long dialogue between Socrates and his
young friends, Glaucon and Adeimantus, Plato examined why we
should be concerned about justice. The young people ask Socrates
why we should be just. They observe that people who were unjust
seemed to be much better off than those who
were just. Those who twisted rules to serve their
interests, avoided paying taxes and were willing
to lie and be deceitful, were often more successful
than those who were truthful and just. If one
were smart enough to avoid being caught then
it would seem that being unjust is better than
being just. You may have heard people
expressing similar sentiments even today.
 Socrates reminds these young people that
if everyone were to be unjust, if everyone
manipulated rules to suit their own interests,
no one could be sure of benefiting from injustice.
Nobody would be secure and this was likely to
harm all of them.  Hence, it is in our own long-
term interest to obey the laws and be just.
Socrates clarified that we need to understand
clearly what justice means in order to figure
out why it is important to be just. He explained
that justice does not only mean doing good to
our friends and harm to our enemies, or
pursuing our own interests. Justice involves the
well-being of all people. Just as a doctor is
“They say that to do
injustice is, by nature,
good; to suffer injustice,
evil; but that the evil is
greater than the good. And
so when men have both
done and suffered
injustice and have had
experience of both, not
being able to avoid the one
and obtain the other, they
think that they had
better agree among
themselves to have
neither; hence there
arise laws and mutual
covenants; and that
which is ordained by law
is termed by them lawful
and just.”
(Glaucon to Socrates in
The Republic).
2020-21
Justice
Social Justice
Political Theory
55
concerned with the well-being of his/her patients, similarly the just
ruler or the just government must be concerned with the well-being
of the people. Ensuring the well-being of the people includes giving
each person his due.
The idea that justice involves giving each person his due continues
to be an important part of our present day understanding of justice.
However, our understanding of what is due to a person has changed
from the time of Plato. Today, our understanding of what is just is
closely linked to our understanding of what is due to each person as
a human being. According to the German philosopher Immanuel
Kant, human beings possess dignity. If all persons are granted dignity
then what is due to each of them is that they have the opportunity to
develop their talents and pursue their chosen goals.  Justice requires
that we give due and equal consideration to all individuals.
Equal Treatment for Equals
Although there might be broad agreement in modern society about
the equal importance of all people, it is not a simple matter to decide
how to give each person his/her due.  A number of different principles
have been put forward in this regard. One of the principles is the
principle of treating equals equally. It is considered that all individuals
share certain characteristics as human beings. Therefore they deserve
equal rights and equal treatment. Some of the important rights which
are granted in most liberal democracies today include civil rights
such as the rights of life, liberty and property, political rights like the
right to vote, which enable people to participate in political processes,
and certain social rights which would include the right to enjoy equal
opportunities with other members of the society.
Apart from equal rights, the principle of treating equals equally
would require that people should not be discriminated against on
grounds of class, caste, race or gender. They should be judged on
the basis of their work and actions and not on the basis of the
group to which they belong. Therefore, if two persons from different
castes perform the same kind of work, whether it be breaking stones
or delivering Pizzas, they should receive the same kind of reward. If
a person gets one hundred rupees for some work and another receives
only seventy five rupees for the same work because they belong to
2020-21
Page 4


Chapter 4
Social Justice
Overview
Just as we intuitively understand what love means even if we cannot explain all its
different shades of meaning, we also have an intuitive understanding of justice even
though we may not be able to define it precisely. In that sense justice is a lot like love.
In addition, both love and justice evoke passionate responses from their advocates.
And as with love, no one hates justice, everyone wants justice for oneself and to some
extent for others also. But unlike love, which is an aspect of our relationships with a
few people whom we know well, justice concerns our life in society, the way in which
public life is ordered and the principles according to which social goods and social
duties are distributed among different members of society. As such, questions of
justice are of central importance for politics.
After going through this chapter you should be able to:
o Identify some of the principles of justice which have been put forward in different
societies and at different periods of time.
o Explain what is meant by distributive justice.
o Discuss John Rawls’ argument that a fair and just society would be in the interest
of all members and could be defended on rational grounds.
2020-21
Justice
Social Justice
54
Political Theory
4.1 WHAT IS JUSTICE?
All cultures and traditions have grappled with questions of justice
although they may have interpreted the concept in different ways.
For instance, in ancient Indian society, justice was associated with
dharma and maintaining dharma or a just social order, was
considered to be a primary duty of kings. In China, Confucius, the
famous philosopher argued that kings should maintain justice by
punishing wrong doers and rewarding the virtuous. In fourth century
B.C. Athens (Greece), Plato discussed issues of justice in his book
The Republic. Through a long dialogue between Socrates and his
young friends, Glaucon and Adeimantus, Plato examined why we
should be concerned about justice. The young people ask Socrates
why we should be just. They observe that people who were unjust
seemed to be much better off than those who
were just. Those who twisted rules to serve their
interests, avoided paying taxes and were willing
to lie and be deceitful, were often more successful
than those who were truthful and just. If one
were smart enough to avoid being caught then
it would seem that being unjust is better than
being just. You may have heard people
expressing similar sentiments even today.
 Socrates reminds these young people that
if everyone were to be unjust, if everyone
manipulated rules to suit their own interests,
no one could be sure of benefiting from injustice.
Nobody would be secure and this was likely to
harm all of them.  Hence, it is in our own long-
term interest to obey the laws and be just.
Socrates clarified that we need to understand
clearly what justice means in order to figure
out why it is important to be just. He explained
that justice does not only mean doing good to
our friends and harm to our enemies, or
pursuing our own interests. Justice involves the
well-being of all people. Just as a doctor is
“They say that to do
injustice is, by nature,
good; to suffer injustice,
evil; but that the evil is
greater than the good. And
so when men have both
done and suffered
injustice and have had
experience of both, not
being able to avoid the one
and obtain the other, they
think that they had
better agree among
themselves to have
neither; hence there
arise laws and mutual
covenants; and that
which is ordained by law
is termed by them lawful
and just.”
(Glaucon to Socrates in
The Republic).
2020-21
Justice
Social Justice
Political Theory
55
concerned with the well-being of his/her patients, similarly the just
ruler or the just government must be concerned with the well-being
of the people. Ensuring the well-being of the people includes giving
each person his due.
The idea that justice involves giving each person his due continues
to be an important part of our present day understanding of justice.
However, our understanding of what is due to a person has changed
from the time of Plato. Today, our understanding of what is just is
closely linked to our understanding of what is due to each person as
a human being. According to the German philosopher Immanuel
Kant, human beings possess dignity. If all persons are granted dignity
then what is due to each of them is that they have the opportunity to
develop their talents and pursue their chosen goals.  Justice requires
that we give due and equal consideration to all individuals.
Equal Treatment for Equals
Although there might be broad agreement in modern society about
the equal importance of all people, it is not a simple matter to decide
how to give each person his/her due.  A number of different principles
have been put forward in this regard. One of the principles is the
principle of treating equals equally. It is considered that all individuals
share certain characteristics as human beings. Therefore they deserve
equal rights and equal treatment. Some of the important rights which
are granted in most liberal democracies today include civil rights
such as the rights of life, liberty and property, political rights like the
right to vote, which enable people to participate in political processes,
and certain social rights which would include the right to enjoy equal
opportunities with other members of the society.
Apart from equal rights, the principle of treating equals equally
would require that people should not be discriminated against on
grounds of class, caste, race or gender. They should be judged on
the basis of their work and actions and not on the basis of the
group to which they belong. Therefore, if two persons from different
castes perform the same kind of work, whether it be breaking stones
or delivering Pizzas, they should receive the same kind of reward. If
a person gets one hundred rupees for some work and another receives
only seventy five rupees for the same work because they belong to
2020-21
Justice
Social Justice
56
Political Theory
different castes, then it would be unfair or unjust. Similarly, if a male
teacher in a school gets a higher salary than a female teacher, then
this difference would also be unjustifiable and wrong.
Proportionate Justice
However, equal treatment is not the only principle of justice. There
could be circumstances in which we might feel that treating
everybody equally would be unjust.  How, for instance, would you
react if it was decided in your school that all those who did an exam
should get equal marks because they are all students of the same
school and did the same exam? Here you might think it would be
more fair if students were awarded marks according to the quality
of their answer papers and also, possibly, the degree of effort they
had put in. In other words, provided everybody starts from the same
base line of equal rights, justice in such cases would mean rewarding
people in proportion to the scale and quality of their effort. Most
people would agree that although people should get the same reward
for the same work, it would be fair and just to reward different
kinds of work differently if we take into account factors such as the
effort required, the skills required, the possible dangers involved in
that work, and so on. If we use these criteria we may find that
certain kinds of workers in our society are not paid a wage which
takes such factors sufficiently into account. For instance, miners,
skilled craftsmen, or people in sometimes dangerous but socially
useful professions like policemen, may not always get a reward
which is just if we compare it to what some others in society may be
earning. For justice in society, the principle of equal treatment needs
to be balanced with the principle of proportionality.
Recognition of Special Needs
A third principle of justice which we recognise is for a society to take
into account special needs of people while distributing rewards or
duties. This would be considered a way of promoting social justice.
In terms of their basic status and rights as members of the society
justice may require that people be treated equally. But even non-
discrimination between people and rewarding them proportionately
to their efforts might not be enough to ensure that people enjoy
equality in other aspects of their lives in society nor that the society
2020-21
Page 5


Chapter 4
Social Justice
Overview
Just as we intuitively understand what love means even if we cannot explain all its
different shades of meaning, we also have an intuitive understanding of justice even
though we may not be able to define it precisely. In that sense justice is a lot like love.
In addition, both love and justice evoke passionate responses from their advocates.
And as with love, no one hates justice, everyone wants justice for oneself and to some
extent for others also. But unlike love, which is an aspect of our relationships with a
few people whom we know well, justice concerns our life in society, the way in which
public life is ordered and the principles according to which social goods and social
duties are distributed among different members of society. As such, questions of
justice are of central importance for politics.
After going through this chapter you should be able to:
o Identify some of the principles of justice which have been put forward in different
societies and at different periods of time.
o Explain what is meant by distributive justice.
o Discuss John Rawls’ argument that a fair and just society would be in the interest
of all members and could be defended on rational grounds.
2020-21
Justice
Social Justice
54
Political Theory
4.1 WHAT IS JUSTICE?
All cultures and traditions have grappled with questions of justice
although they may have interpreted the concept in different ways.
For instance, in ancient Indian society, justice was associated with
dharma and maintaining dharma or a just social order, was
considered to be a primary duty of kings. In China, Confucius, the
famous philosopher argued that kings should maintain justice by
punishing wrong doers and rewarding the virtuous. In fourth century
B.C. Athens (Greece), Plato discussed issues of justice in his book
The Republic. Through a long dialogue between Socrates and his
young friends, Glaucon and Adeimantus, Plato examined why we
should be concerned about justice. The young people ask Socrates
why we should be just. They observe that people who were unjust
seemed to be much better off than those who
were just. Those who twisted rules to serve their
interests, avoided paying taxes and were willing
to lie and be deceitful, were often more successful
than those who were truthful and just. If one
were smart enough to avoid being caught then
it would seem that being unjust is better than
being just. You may have heard people
expressing similar sentiments even today.
 Socrates reminds these young people that
if everyone were to be unjust, if everyone
manipulated rules to suit their own interests,
no one could be sure of benefiting from injustice.
Nobody would be secure and this was likely to
harm all of them.  Hence, it is in our own long-
term interest to obey the laws and be just.
Socrates clarified that we need to understand
clearly what justice means in order to figure
out why it is important to be just. He explained
that justice does not only mean doing good to
our friends and harm to our enemies, or
pursuing our own interests. Justice involves the
well-being of all people. Just as a doctor is
“They say that to do
injustice is, by nature,
good; to suffer injustice,
evil; but that the evil is
greater than the good. And
so when men have both
done and suffered
injustice and have had
experience of both, not
being able to avoid the one
and obtain the other, they
think that they had
better agree among
themselves to have
neither; hence there
arise laws and mutual
covenants; and that
which is ordained by law
is termed by them lawful
and just.”
(Glaucon to Socrates in
The Republic).
2020-21
Justice
Social Justice
Political Theory
55
concerned with the well-being of his/her patients, similarly the just
ruler or the just government must be concerned with the well-being
of the people. Ensuring the well-being of the people includes giving
each person his due.
The idea that justice involves giving each person his due continues
to be an important part of our present day understanding of justice.
However, our understanding of what is due to a person has changed
from the time of Plato. Today, our understanding of what is just is
closely linked to our understanding of what is due to each person as
a human being. According to the German philosopher Immanuel
Kant, human beings possess dignity. If all persons are granted dignity
then what is due to each of them is that they have the opportunity to
develop their talents and pursue their chosen goals.  Justice requires
that we give due and equal consideration to all individuals.
Equal Treatment for Equals
Although there might be broad agreement in modern society about
the equal importance of all people, it is not a simple matter to decide
how to give each person his/her due.  A number of different principles
have been put forward in this regard. One of the principles is the
principle of treating equals equally. It is considered that all individuals
share certain characteristics as human beings. Therefore they deserve
equal rights and equal treatment. Some of the important rights which
are granted in most liberal democracies today include civil rights
such as the rights of life, liberty and property, political rights like the
right to vote, which enable people to participate in political processes,
and certain social rights which would include the right to enjoy equal
opportunities with other members of the society.
Apart from equal rights, the principle of treating equals equally
would require that people should not be discriminated against on
grounds of class, caste, race or gender. They should be judged on
the basis of their work and actions and not on the basis of the
group to which they belong. Therefore, if two persons from different
castes perform the same kind of work, whether it be breaking stones
or delivering Pizzas, they should receive the same kind of reward. If
a person gets one hundred rupees for some work and another receives
only seventy five rupees for the same work because they belong to
2020-21
Justice
Social Justice
56
Political Theory
different castes, then it would be unfair or unjust. Similarly, if a male
teacher in a school gets a higher salary than a female teacher, then
this difference would also be unjustifiable and wrong.
Proportionate Justice
However, equal treatment is not the only principle of justice. There
could be circumstances in which we might feel that treating
everybody equally would be unjust.  How, for instance, would you
react if it was decided in your school that all those who did an exam
should get equal marks because they are all students of the same
school and did the same exam? Here you might think it would be
more fair if students were awarded marks according to the quality
of their answer papers and also, possibly, the degree of effort they
had put in. In other words, provided everybody starts from the same
base line of equal rights, justice in such cases would mean rewarding
people in proportion to the scale and quality of their effort. Most
people would agree that although people should get the same reward
for the same work, it would be fair and just to reward different
kinds of work differently if we take into account factors such as the
effort required, the skills required, the possible dangers involved in
that work, and so on. If we use these criteria we may find that
certain kinds of workers in our society are not paid a wage which
takes such factors sufficiently into account. For instance, miners,
skilled craftsmen, or people in sometimes dangerous but socially
useful professions like policemen, may not always get a reward
which is just if we compare it to what some others in society may be
earning. For justice in society, the principle of equal treatment needs
to be balanced with the principle of proportionality.
Recognition of Special Needs
A third principle of justice which we recognise is for a society to take
into account special needs of people while distributing rewards or
duties. This would be considered a way of promoting social justice.
In terms of their basic status and rights as members of the society
justice may require that people be treated equally. But even non-
discrimination between people and rewarding them proportionately
to their efforts might not be enough to ensure that people enjoy
equality in other aspects of their lives in society nor that the society
2020-21
Justice
Social Justice
Political Theory
57
People with special needs or disabilities could be considered
unequal in some particular respect and deserving of special help.
But it is not always easy to get agreement regarding which inequalities
of people should be recognised for providing them special help.
Physical disabilities, age or lack of access to good education or health
care, are some of the factors which are considered grounds for special
treatment in many countries. It is believed that if people who enjoy
very different standard of living and opportunities are treated equally
in all respects with those who have been deprived of even the basic
minimum needs to live a healthy and productive life, the result is
likely to be an unequal society, not an egalitarian and just one. In
our country, lack of access to good education or health care
and other such facilities is often found combined with
   LET’S THINK
Examine the following situations and discuss whether
they are just. In each case discuss the principle of justice
that might be used in defence of your argument.
o Suresh, a visually impaired student, gets three hours
and thirty minutes to finish his mathematics paper,
while the rest of the class gets only three hours.
o Geeta walks with a limp. The teacher decided to
give her also three hours and thirty minutes to
finish her mathematics paper.
o A teacher gives grace marks to the weaker students
in class, to boost their morale.
o A professor distributes different question papers
to different students based on her evaluation of
their capabilities.
o There is a proposal to reserve 33 per cent of the
seats in the Parliament for women.
as a whole is just. The principle of taking account of the special needs
of people does not necessarily contradict the principle of equal
treatment so much as extend it because the principle of treating
equals equally could imply that people who are not equal in certain
important respects could be treated differently.
2020-21
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