№ 1, 2021
The revival of the academic interest in the problem of fair distribution of resources in the society, which is one of the key issues for the political thought today, is largely associated with the name of John Rawls and his Theory of Justice. The article is devoted to the analysis of Rawls’s arguments in support of the difference principle as one of the principles of social justice. According to Rawls (whose arguments later formed the foundation for a separate direction in the political-philosophical thought known as luck egalitarianism), due to the random nature of the original distribution of talents, inequality in human wellbeing cannot be justified by an appeal to a merit. However, because strict equality in distribution might reduce productivity of the owners of talent, achieving the best outcome for all requires such inequalities that incentivize the more talented to work as efficiently as possible for the benefit of the less talented. This compromise drew criticism from ardent egalitarians, among which Gerald Cohen articulated objections to the difference principle most clearly and compared the claims of the most talented for material rewards with extortion.
Having considered possible justifications for the need for incentives, based on Rawls’s argument in the Theory of Justice, the authors conclude that these justifications do not solve the problem that Cohen revealed. Appealing to human nature merely translates the dispute into the methodological realm: should the theory of justice proceed from reality, or should it be guided by the ideal? In turn, the inevitability of a conflict of private interests does not fit well with Rawls’s ideal of fraternity as an integral part of a just social order. According to their conclusion, in order to resolve the internal contradiction in Rawls’s theory, it is necessary to abandon either the postulates of luck egalitarianism or difference principle. However, both of these options directly contradict Rawls’s intellectual constructs and undermine the basic foundations of his concept.
Main Page ~ Authors ~ R. Yu.Belkovich