POLITICAL THEORY – John Rawls


Many of us feel that our societies are a little
– or even plain totally – ‘unfair’. But we have a hard time explaining our sense
of injustice to the powers that be in a way that sounds rational and without personal
pique or bitterness. That’s why we need John Rawls, a twentieth-century
American philosopher who provides us with a failproof model for identifying what truly
might be unfair – and how we might gather support for fixing things. Rawls: http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/35/100835-004-0A003A0A.jpg Born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA in 1921,
Rawls—nicknamed Jack—was exposed, and responded, to the injustices of the modern
world from a very young age. As a child, he witnessed at first hand shocking poverty in
the United States, http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-qhA2oMrxkIQ/Tj6AiqtlZqI/AAAAAAAAErs/djyozUjG9A8/s1600/There%2527s_no_way_like_The_american_way.jpg the death of his brothers from an illness
he unwittingly transmitted to them, and the horrors and lawlessness of the Second World
War. http://haveblogwilltravel.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/old_town_warsaw_waf-2012-1501-311945.jpg All this inspired him to go into academia:
he wanted to use the power of ideas to change the unjust world he was living in. It was the publication of A Theory of Justice
in 1971 that properly made Rawls’s name. http://c2.bibtopia.com/h/565/846/734846565.0.m.jpg Having read and widely discussed his book,
Bill Clinton was to label Rawls ‘the greatest political philosopher of the twentieth century’–
and had him over to the White House for dinner on a regular basis. What, then, does this exemplar of fairness
have to tell the modern world? TEXT: 1. Things as they are now are patently
unfair The statistics all point to the radical unfairness
of society. Comparative charts of life expectancy and income projections direct us to a single
overwhelming moral. Here are three important example charts but
we probably should re-draw them (a small graphic design task) for the film so that we haven’t
stolen theirs: http://pgpf.org/sites/default/files/sitecore/media%20library/PGPF/Chart-Archive/0015_life-expectancy-full.gif I’d also suggest the first graph on this
website–it’s from a video: http://ethericstudies.org/responsibility/one_percent.htm Here’s for the whole world:
http://thesocietypages.org/graphicsociology/files/2009/05/conley_champagne_distribution.png But day-to-day, it can be hard to take this
unfairness seriously, especially in relation to our own lives. That’s because so many
voices are on hand telling us that, if we work hard and have ambition, we can make it.
Rawls was deeply aware of how the American Dream seeped through the political system
and into individual hearts – and he knew its corrosive, regressive influence.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/15/THIS_IS_AMERICA…_WHERE_EVERY_BOY_CAN_DREAM_OF_BEING_PRESIDENT._-_NARA_-_515762.jpg He was a statistician who knew that the rags-to-riches
tales were overall so negligible as not to warrant serious attention by political theorists.
Indeed, mentioning them was merely a clever political sleight of hand designed to prevent
the powerful from having to undertake the necessary task of reforming society. Rawls understood that debates about unfairness
and what to do about it often get bogged down in arcane details and petty squabbling which
mean that year after year, nothing quite gets done.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ee/Barack_Obama_presidential_debate_preparations.jpg What Rawls was therefore after was a simple,
economical and polemical way to show people how their societies were unfair and what they
might do about it. TEXT: 2. Imagine if you were not you Rawls intuitively understood that a lot of
the reason why societies don’t become fairer is that those who benefit from current injustice
are spared the need to think too hard about what it would have been like to be born in
different circumstances. So he devised one of the greatest thought experiments in the
history of political thought, He called it: ‘the veil of ignorance.’ Show in text: THE VEIL OF IGNORANCE and show a picture Rawls asks us to imagine ourselves in a conscious,
intelligent state before our own birth, but without any knowledge of what circumstances
we were going to be born into; our futures shrouded by a veil of ignorance. Hovering
high above the planet (Rawls was fascinated by the Apollo space programme), we wouldn’t
know what sort of parents we’d have, what our neighbourhoods would be like, how the
schools would perform, what the local hospital could do for us, how the police and judicial
systems might treat us and so on… satellite view: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/61/Flat_earth_night.png The question that Rawls asks us all to contemplate
is: if we knew nothing about where we’d end up, what sort of a society would it feel
safe to enter? The ‘veil of ignorance’ stops us thinking
about all those who have done well and draws our attention to the appalling risks involved
in entering, for example, US society as if it were a lottery– without knowing if you’d
wind up the child of an orthodontist in Scottsdale, Arizona one option//example: https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8340/8240125300_bb65771f96_b.jpg or as the offspring of a black single mother
in the rougher bits of eastern Detroit. one option/example: http://pixabay.com/p-279457/?no_redirect Would any sane birth-lottery player really
want to take the gamble of ending up in the society we now have? Probably not–they’d
insist that the rules of the entire game had to be changed. Otherwise it would be too risky. TEXT: 3. You know what needs to be fixed Rawls answers the question for us: any sane
participant of the veil of ignorance experiment is going to want a society with a number of
things in place: they’ll want the schools to be very good, the hospitals to function
brilliantly, unimpeachable and fair access to the law and decent housing for everyone.
The veil of ignorance forces observers to accept that the country they’d really want
to be born randomly into would almost certainly be a version of Switzerland or Denmark. In
other words, we know what sort of a society we want to live in. We just haven’t focused
on it properly until now – because the choices have already been made. Rawls’s experiment allows us to think more
objectively about what a fair society looks like in its details. When addressing major
decisions about the allocation of resources we need only ask ourselves: ‘how would I
feel about this issue if I were stuck behind the veil of ignorance?’ The fair answer
emerges directly when we contemplate what we would need in order still to be adequately
positioned in the worst case scenario. TEXT: 4. What to do next A lot will depend on what’s wrong with your
society. In this sense, Rawls was usefully undoctrinaire – he recognised that the veil
of ignorance experiment throws up different issues in different contexts: in some, the
priority might be to fix air pollution, in others, the school system. But crucially, Rawls provides us with a tool
to critique our current societies based on a beautifully simple experiment. We’ll know
we finally have made our societies fair when we will be able to say in all honesty, from
a position of imaginary ignorance before our births, that we simply wouldn’t mind at
all what kind of circumstances our future parents might have and what sort of neighbourhoods
we might be born into. The fact that we simply couldn’t sanely
take on such a challenge now is a measure of how deeply unfair things remain – and
therefore how much we still have left to achieve. All this John Rawls has helped us to see.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. This is all good, but how do you address poor decisions by members of society? And how do you address cosmic injustices such as disparity in IQ without becoming tyrannical?

  2. @3:00 "Greatest thought experiment in the history of political thought."
    Really??
    This has to be one of the most facile thought experiments I've ever heard of.
    Oooh, can we imagine we land randomly in candy land too?

  3. Who was the guy from school of life who said that in the United States class stratification was less obvious than in the UK, it was in one of the school of life videos that I watched a while ago.

  4. Economics doesn't take care of itself. Conservativism really just means the gay people are still "damned"; and applying rules without the inequality of taking others' lives' times is not pure unquantifiable unfairness, like war. When we reformed, in the modern era, we went beyond being gracious the way prosperity allowed some classes relaxation in the past hundreds of years, to democracy's pure rational good-will… and the nature of the gentler, more beautiful feeling of consciousness as required by grace, or a right. That is spiritual progress. It would ideally – in the eventual healing of the universe – include all animals, if we measured what it is about their similar value of life.

    Right-wingers overestimate the gay threat, thinking the direction of spirit is perverse – to left-wingers, too. They just haven't calculated the cost of relying on strange whole new random! possibilities of estimations of value – from bedrocks of presumed rights, … of traditional correctness; which relates to defenses. That kind of leftism, as it has its own light, just like careless totally free libertines taking over liberalism without correction or honor, rejects its own respect as an even cheaper mocking of value of the religion that simply fails as a spiritual competition that simply isn't relevant to unselfishness, or its mere creative measures as its own right and place, just like the place of any individual animal freely purely valuable as its being.

  5. This "veil of ignorance" is stupid.
    Before you were born, you didn't have a brain neither would you have the knowledge and experience necessary to judge anything at all.
    People are more or less risk-averse depending on personal preference. Some would prefer an "unfair" society where they could get very rich with some luck.
    I prefer taking big risks when in a relationship with someone. I choose to be very honest with my girlfriend, at the risk of a very quick termination of our relationship. In exchange, if I happen to fall upon a good partner, then the relationship gets even better.
    Another illustration of this is how the poor play the lottery, basically all giving a bit of their money to randomly create one big winner.
    Therefore, Rawls has to be put in History's trashbin.

  6. Hinduism has a concept of Kharma.. Similar to this. It says "You never know what kind of circumstances you're born into in your next birth. If you're treated bad and are suffering in this birth, that's because of your previous birth's Karma. So do some good deeds now, exactly how you'd expect people to do to you in your next birth and earn karma credits.. You'll be treated the way you treated others in this birth.. " There is almost a lookup table for every kind of Karma (deed) the reaction/reward you get in the next birth..
    I know, this sounds irrational and I know this is totally spiritual and it's up to the one, to believe it or not, but the concept, intention and the moral values are expected to work..

  7. Rawls didn't just apply this to human beings as this video graphically displays, he was an ethical vegetarian. Look from behind the veil of ignorance at a factory farm or a slaughterhouse. An intilectually honest person would take only a few seconds to arrive at Rawls' conclusion.

  8. The problem with the theorizing of this kind is that there is already an underlying intrinsic structure of justice in the world we are living in. Namely, the stronger organism deserves and gets more for justice is proportionate to one's abilities. You either adopt to its peculiarities or you propound nonsense resembling Rawls' or Marx's ideas and get societies like Venezuela, USSR, North Korea and etc.

  9. I disagree with a lot of what Rawls puts forward. I do agree, however, with his view of injustice and how we've abandonded Tabula Rasa.

  10. Switzerland or denmark have very little diversity (at least not till very recently) in comparison with the U.S. so you cannot compare the two. Diversity has positives but it also brings very real challenges that the U.S. has to account for more than country that are essentially ethnostates. How can you measure social injustice in those countries when there are hardly any ethnic minorities at all?

  11. I like your psychology videos your political ones are ridiculous. Humans are not entitled to a free ride through life. If that were the case human achievement would go into the toilet. Life isn't fair it never was and it never ever will be. All you can do is make the path to success accessible to everyone despite the amount of work you need to output to get there. I know tons of people born extremely disadvantaged myself included through hard work and persevering achieve amazing things. Rawls is incorrect he doesn't understand human nature.

  12. It's hard for me to put my question words so here I go anyway

    Rawls is saying that society has much to build on because people can be born in the worst case scenario such as poverty and others will be born into inherit riches.
    My question is that would this not also be directed towards citizens in that country and not just the governing power. He says "decisions have been made already" I'm thinking this relates to the end of civilizations (history)???

  13. 1 state of nature thought experiment gets you from Anarcho-Primitvism to a a Tribal system. 1 veil of ignorance thought experiment then takes you from a Tribal system to a Nation-State system. The state is the natural evolution of human beings. Environmental development (ideally sustainable, ecofriendly infrastructure that facilitates bartering and liberty), psychological improvement (and thus innovation and individual flourishing), morality (and subsequently a creation and protection of rights) and collective bodies like the State are clearly natural extensions of human evolution.

  14. For people new to this subject, this is an opinion piece. This is not an objective view of Rawls' political theory. This video makes me wonder about the bias and opinion hidden in other videos 'sold' to the viewers as objective educational material.

  15. I agree with this experiment, but I disagree that Western people are happier than non-Westerners… Our GDP per capita has so many problems.

  16. I tried the experiment the veil of ignorance and I wish that I had been born to the 'Unfair' USA. From the fair communist country. 🙂

  17. The school of Life should make vidoes about Iris Marion Young and Nancy Fraser, who both problemtices Rawls on important points. (but looks like the school of life thinks only men have been poltical theorists, lmao. )

  18. 1:53 Trump success lol. Kind of reminds us what his public perception actually was and how he ascended to the the white house. Bet they wouldn’t dare label him with that now lol.

  19. Why don’t we make everyone equal like wtf why hasn’t anybody done this before in history and what’s the worst that could happen like where the government owns everything and gives it to people equally like duhh what dumbass doesn’t think that sounds good

  20. I love the irony in how people asks someone else for a video on Nozick, a man proclaiming that you don't owe others shit.

  21. Veil of ignorance, great idea. However, why use the example of a single black mother in Detroit? It does not take into account the choices that people make but more along the lines of how certain people are seen. Life is hard and it’s harder if you’re stupid. I believe it’s a good idea. However definitely doesn’t take into account many things that really affect life

  22. If there is no inequality there is no ability to compare. Would you prefer the cake of chocolate or the bean bozle cake. you will only ever get one. One is consistant the other diverse.

    Problem 2:compared to what. Someone/somthing else. Or its self? When comparing to other if you compare children to eachother they in turn can start to argue. Societal psychology.

  23. People's choices and biological nature leads to different outcomes. Only way to insure a egalitarian society in both possibilities and outcomes is through force and massmurder. Any society that is based on individual freedom and the right to fail at life leads to "unfairness". The single black mother could be argued is where she is because of the states need to meddle with wellfare. Since before the wellfare programs that was not the black norm in the USA. Also the ordodontists can be complete assholes that abuse their children, and the black single mother can be a great mother despite being poor.

  24. hmmm, i think the main point or Rawls was combining Kant and mills to make utility in politics through his description reasonable.

  25. There is one problem with the "veil of ignorance". It assumes the person thrown into a certain class of society that they will always be a product of their environment. Even though the person may have been put into a poor persons family in Detroit they still have the opportunity through 1-12 school years to make good grades and elevate their own social mobility. In America 1-12 is public school an opportunity everyone is afforded. Everyone has this opportunity. The "veil of ignorance" assumes that the child will always be no better than the environment they grew up in. But in reality the individual still has the opportunity to be better than their environment. In other words, policies that originated from this line of thought treat people as cattle and products of their environment and not as individual proprietors of their decisions in life and captains of their own destiny.

  26. I`ve never heard of this man but I get the feeling that he`s either misunderstood in this video or very wrong in his beliefs. As a classical liberal I can`t agree with his views on fairness at all.

  27. John Rawls was Right to let us Understand under which circumstances somebody becomes poor but he didnt had a Solution to change things and how to make a better World! Instead Jacque Fresco has the Solution for a better World! And I have a much better Understanding of Everything!

  28. Shouldn't it be parents don't aware what kind of baby they are going to have? Cause a baby don't have a choice, a baby don't know anything before he is borned.

  29. The narrator in this video cleverly omits one very important detail when discussing the two examples of Detroit and Scottsdale: the slice of the pie is considerably larger today than it was, say, at the time John Rawls was ruminating on the structural inequality in our society. It's easy to condemn a society when we compare it to a vague utopia in which those least fortunate among us have a "larger slice of the pie."

    And if the pie is something you can eat, seems as though the poor in our country are eating quite a bit of it. Can't remember the last time I heard of cities in the US suffering from pie shortages. Venezuela, on the other hand. Boy, are they suffering from pie shortages.

    But hey, what do I know? It's not the economic philosophy at fault in Venezuela! It's the the current leadership. If only the perfect oracle would come along to precisely plan how much pie citizens have access to. Then, then a Rawlsian utopia would bloom. And so the people of Venezuela wait. As they dream of pie.

  30. An ideal society =/= a functioning society. Plato understood this with his Kallipolis: it was not ideal for the serfs, but it functioned best for society's flourishing.

  31. But what you’d hope for behind the veil (eg Switzerland & Denmark) aren’t places without unfairness but places at the top of an unfair hierarchy.

  32. You know… I feel like I've heard this "veil of ignorance" summed up in a different way somewhere before…

    Luke 6:31? Weird how "one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century" focuses on the same principle of something taught 2000 years ago

  33. Strange how if the lottery ended up that you would be born to a Black mother in America you would still have to flip a coin AFTER the lottery to see if you actually won the chance at life to begin with.

    50% abortion rate. Black genocide. Thank you Margaret. BUT IT'S THE MOTHER'S CHOICE TO FLIP THAT COIN! HAAA!

  34. So does Rawls just completely overlook personal agency? Yes the structure of society and its institutions can be a determining factor into how that society unfolds…but I think the personal decisions that people make holds plenty of weight. People aren't carbon copies of one another. They are going to differ in many respects. This will inevitably lead to some people being more 'successful' and some people being less 'successful'. A society that happens to have a segment of the population that is wealthier than the rest does not automatically mean that society is unjust.

  35. this 10 minute video helped me understand Rawls better than my hours of university lectures at school :') Thanks again School of Life <3

  36. You can also take his thought experiment from the other direction and imagine that the after life were 100% real (as in, there is no doubt that there is) and think about what would be fair given you already have lived a life as a human as you individuallly. Would you get the same results as when you imagined this before birth?

  37. Im pretty sure that single mother from detroit sounds pretty fair when you could be sold into slavery… Lol why not use a more extreme example like someone born into a terrorist regime or someone born into a very wealthy family like Bill Gates son?

  38. The country you would want randomly to be born into would have the highest percentage of white people. That it would very likely be socialist is mostly a symptom of "whiteness".

  39. accent of presenter is a clue to the presumptive bias here. He's specifically explaining this in a way that will appeal to the least educated or the least aware of the difference between functional and dysfunctional distortions or inequalities. Any sane person with an IQ over 90 would opt to select a country for birth that either a) was inherently wealthy or b) allowed a great deal of social mobility so skilled and intelligent people can become wealthy

  40. i honestly understood this session until i got to the comment section and someone else's thoughts completely destroyed EVERYTHING now i have to watch again smh

  41. It is, by all means, essential that things remain unjust: because those who do, and achieve cannot be trated like does who don't do anything and do not achieve. We can never start over society, unless you want someone like Hitler or Stalin. So, nice try, but your thought experiment does not work,.

  42. The problem with all of this as I see it is this presupposes that everyone will think the same way…in actually, greed is very normal…not being greedy is abnormal. We want more as a mechanism to make sure we have enough forever even though we know we won't live forever.

    Instead of trying to suppress our nature we should step out of the way and see what would actually happen in a truly free market.

  43. Very ingenious argument for a more equal society. Equality of opportunity is very important and America doesn't seem to have it

  44. When you are born in the USA you are pretty much given the same opportunities as everyone else; however, some are born less well off. This is a necessary evil for a just and free society. Their is no other way around it.

  45. Deriving principles of justice from abstract considerations. Looks good in theory. A disaster in practice.

  46. The "veil of ignorance" presupposes the success of liberalism. it is a "brilliant" theory only to those in the liberal West who can only project themselves.

  47. There is nothing in Nature called "Justice". It is a totally abstract and nebulous idea. Life is not fair, it never was, and it never will be. Crusaders for "fairness, and equality" are dangerous idiots, who do far more damage than they cure.

  48. Here's a good reason why societies are unfair and deliberately create injustices. It's called robbing hard working Peter to pay for Freeloading Paul. Here's the solution, reimburse Hard working Peter of ALL of the illegal Poll and Council Taxes he/she had to pay over the past 30 years to fund the great Collective Freeloaders Manage, which paid for all of the Freeloader welfare state benefits of those who chose not to work and have large families instead.

  49. So what kind of society would I want to be born into? Obviously, one where everyone has there own yacht, two Ferraris, a 20-room mansion, the best food, awesome video game system… But who cleans and maintains the yacht, Ferraris, and mansion? Who gets and prepares the food? Who does the work to produce the video game system and games? Does the person who cleans my mansion go home to their own mansion? Rawls' "veil of ignorance" is his own ignorance of basic economic principles. If we want to have prosperity, there can't be equality. If we have a society where everyone is equal, everyone will be equally poor (like every socialist society ever tried). The "fair" society is the lowest common denominator society.

  50. If I looked down on our planet, I would most like to be born in the UK. Why is it some places on Earth I would not want to be born today?

  51. I like Rawls and his concept of fairness, but he is culurally very American, very grounded in protestant work ethic and dismissive of the position of such as Herder who emphasise that individuals are the product or expression of culture, not the makers. He lacks the universality of the Stoics and the European traditions. Maybe that is a good thing…?

  52. There’s such a thing as cosmic justice. How does Rawls account for this? Sounds like do gooder troublemakers looking for excuses to fix the world. And fix it how? Who to say what the ideal society should be? After all society reflects the flawed character of its individual members…including social engineering elites who think they know what’s best for everyone else.

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