NCERT Class 11 Political Science Political Theory Chapter 4: Social Justice

Glide to success with Doorsteptutor material for UGC : Get detailed illustrated notes covering entire syllabus: point-by-point for high retention.

Political Theory: Social Justice | English | NCERT Class 11 Political Science Chapter 4
  • Way in which public life is ordered
  • Principles according to which social goods and social duties are distributed among different members of society
  • Love vs justice (no one hates either love or justice) – love with people you know well while justice with life in society
  • Distributive justice
  • John Rawls


  • Just society is that society in which ascending sense of reverence and descending sense of contempt is dissolved into the creation of a compassionate society – B. R. Ambedkar
  • Justice implies something which it is not only right to do and wrong not to do; but which some individual person can claim from us as his moral right – JS Mill
  • 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 say that to do injustice is, by nature, good; to suffer injustice, evil; but that the evil is greater than the good. – Glaucon to Socrates
  • Socrates - 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

What is Justice

  • Doing good to our friends
  • Harm to our enemies
  • Pursuing our own interests
  • Justice involves the well-being of all people.
  • Doctor – wellbeing of patient
  • Just ruler – wellbeing of people – giving each person his due
  • Immanuel Kant, human beings possess dignity. If all persons are granted dignity, then what is due to each of them is that they have 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

Principle of Treating Equals Equally

  • equal rights and equal treatment - civil rights such as the rights of life, liberty and property, political rights
  • people should not be discriminated against on grounds of class, caste, race or gender
  • should be judged on the basis of their work and actions
  • 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 male teacher in a school gets a higher salary than a female teacher, then this difference would also be unjustifiable and wrong

Proportionate Justice

  • we might feel that treating everybody equally would be unjust
  • All students who gave exam to get equal marks – is it just
  • more fair if students were awarded marks according to the quality of their answer
  • Reward people based on scale or quality of effort
  • Reward different works differently – teacher, lawyer, doctor and so on
  • For justice in society, the principle of equal treatment needs to be balanced with the principle of proportionality.

Recognition of Special Needs

  • special needs of people while distributing rewards or duties
  • 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
  • There is a proposal to reserve 33 per cent of the seats in the Parliament for women
  • A teacher gives grace marks to the weaker students in class, to boost their morale
  • 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
  • Reservation to SC/ST/minorities/women

Just Distribution

  • Emphasizing rewarding merit as the main principle of justice might mean that marginalised sections would be at a disadvantage in many areas because they have not had access to facilities such as good nourishment or education
  • Ensure law and policies treat all as equal
  • Just distribution of goods and services
  • Redistribute resources for level playing field
  • Constitution abolished the practice of untouchability to promote social equality
  • Land reforms – redistribution of land
  • Reserve seats in education and employment

John Rawls Theory of Justice

Fairness as a Result of Ration Action

Rawls has argued that there could indeed be a rational justification for acknowledging the need to provide help to the least privileged members of a society

If You Are to Choose Where to Live – a Privileged Society is Answer

we often expect parents to think of and support what is best for their children

Answer: only way we can arrive at a fair and just rule is if we imagine ourselves to be in a situation in which we have to make decisions about how society should be organized although we do not know which position, we would ourselves occupy in that society

We don՚t know whether we are privileged or poor family, whether upper or lower caste

Then Only We Can Think of a Fair Society

  • Thinking under a ‘veil of ignorance’ - He expects that in such a situation of complete ignorance about our possible position and status in society, each person would decide in the way they generally do, that is, in terms of their own interests - each will envisage the future society from the point of view of the worst-off
  • Ensure reasonable opportunities to the weaker sections. The attempt will be to see that important resources, like education, health, shelter, etc. , are available to all persons, even if they are not part of the upper class
  • it՚s not easy to erase our identities & equally difficult to be self-sacrificing (hence self-sacrifice is caused heroism)
  • The merit of the ‘veil of ignorance’ position is that it expects people to just be their usual rational selves: they are expected to think for themselves and choose what they regard to be in their interest
  • Rational person – will see things from worst off perspective and ensure policies benefit the whole
  • Person does not know what he will be in future so will try to give best solution for worst off also
  • Such fairness would be the outcome of rational action, not benevolence or generosity
  • Rational thinking could lead us to be fair and judge impartially to how to distribute benefits and burdens of society
  • there are no goals or norms of morality that are given to us in advance and we remain free to determine what is best for ourselves

Pursuing Social Justice

  • Persistent difference between greater wealth and prosperity – then social justice lacks
  • Justice does not require absolute equality and sameness in the way in which people live. But a society would be considered unjust if differences between rich and poor are so great that they seem to be living in different worlds
  • Just society should provide people with the basic minimum conditions to enable them to live healthy and secure lives and develop their talents as well as equal opportunities
  • basic amount of nourishment needed to remain healthy, housing, supply of clean drinking water, education and a minimum wage
  • It is a burden on government especially where poor people are lot
  • Whether promoting open competition through free markets would be the best way of helping the disadvantaged without harming the better off members of a society, or whether the government should take on the responsibility of providing a basic minimum to the poor, if necessary, even though a redistribution of resources

Free Market vs. State Intervention

  • Supporters of free markets maintain that as far as possible, individuals should be free to own property and enter into contracts and agreements with others regarding prices and wages and profits. They should be free to compete with each other to gain the greatest amount of benefit.
  • Supporters - if markets are left free of state interference the sum of market transactions would ensure overall a just distribution of benefits and duties in society – those with merit will be rewarded
  • Private can give more choices but if not profitable will not enter and basic services not provided (if any will be substandard) – so no good private schools in remote rural areas – same goes for hospitals and housings
  • Provides better quality of service – work in interest of strong, wealthy and powerful
  • Deny extending opportunity to weak and disadvantaged
  • State intervention – basic minimum living standards so that people can complete but allow markets in health care, education, and such services, to develop. private agencies should be encouraged to provide such services while state policies should try to empower people to buy those services – state can help old and poor, maintain law and order and fair competition
  • The market, it is said, does not care about the caste or religion of the person, it does not see whether you are a man or a woman. It is neutral and concerned with the talents and skills that you have. If you have the merit, then nothing else matters.

Developed by: