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John Rawls was a political philosopher of America in the liberal tradition. His premise of justice as fairness envisions a society where citizens are free of holding equal basic rights cooperated within an egalitarian economic system. His conception of political liberalism addresses the rightful use of political power in a democracy. This aims to show that it is possible to achieve enduring unity regardless of the variety of world opinions that institutions offer. His theories suggest that it is possible to achieve a tolerant and peaceful international order.
After the publication of A theory of Justice, John Rawls embarked on modifying his conception of justice as fairness. He realized that to have a political conception there has to be conditions of a comprehensive moral theory. He further explains that for moral theory to be comprehensive, it has to fulfill the following conditions: first it must include a wide range of subjects to make it general. It should include conceptions of the values of human life, and ideals of personal character and virtues that inform most of people’s nonpolitical conduct.
Rawls (233) holds that, in a free and democratic society, people will have disparate worldviews in that they will have faith in different religions, differ in conceptions of what is right or wrong, and value different pursuits and types of interpersonal relations. Free citizens will have different commitments, but any democratic country will only have one governing law. The law will establish a national church, legalize abortion and marriages or fail to legalize and set up the economy in one way or another. He holds that the necessity to enforce a unified law on a diverse society raises two elementary issues. The first issue is legitimacy or the legitimate use of forceful political power. He explains that, in democratic regimes, political power belongs to the citizens as a collective body. The second issue is stability, which views political power from the receiving end. On this issue, he wonders why citizens would willingly agree to obey rules imposed by people with different views and opinions, and equal, and that there should be a fair system of corporation. All liberal political notions will, therefore, depend on these notions, but then agrees that if such people did not agree to obey the rules, then social order can never be stable. Rawls addresses these two issues within the theory of political liberalism.
Under the liberal principle of legitimacy, he tests the acceptable use of political power in a free or democratic society. The exercise of political power is only right when exercised in agreement with the laws or the constitution, which the citizens have the freedom and equality to reasonably endorse in the light of ideals and principles acceptable to their common reason. Accordingly, political power is only applicable in when citizens can endorse it. The application of political power needs to meet the criterion of reciprocity. In light of this, citizens must believe that all citizens can admit and use the laws reasonably without being manipulated, dominated and being uninformed. The problem of legitimacy starts arising from the hope that the majority of the citizenry will be reasonable.
Reasonable citizens wish to be in a society that cooperate others on conditions and terms that are acceptable to them all. Most of them are willing to abide by the laws given the assurance that others will also abide by them, and in such cases they will obey the rules even in situations when they have to sacrifice their own interests. Reasonable citizens, therefore, want to be part of a society where political power is applied legitimately. Rawls reckons that individuals are not entirely dogmatic and self-centered; individuals are capable of mutual respect and genuine toleration. This capacity gives assurance that diversity of opinions in a democratic society also represents reasonable pluralism. He thus hopes that moral, philosophical, and religious doctrines that individuals accept within themselves will endorse toleration and acknowledge the essentials of a democratic system.
The solution to the issue of legitimacy in a democratic society is for political power to be used in agreement with the political consequence of justice, which is a moral notion generated from the basic ideas implicit in that society’s public, political system(Rawls 230). The three basic ideas of a free society are that citizens are free and equal and that a fair system of the corporation is paramount. All liberal political notions will, therefore, depend on these notions.
Rawls hopes for a stable, liberal society lies on an overlapping consensus where individuals support the fundamental laws for different reasons. In this situation, citizens support a political notion of justice for reasons interior to her own complete doctrine. A political conception is freestanding that it is a module capable of fitting into several worldviews, which the citizens might be holding. In an overlapping consensus, individual citizens accept the common module based on their perceptive.
Communitarians have been the chief critiques of the political liberalism by disputing Rawls’ notion that the principle roles of governments. This roles include securing and distributing liberties and economic resources fairly and that individuals need to live a free life that they choose. Rawls also holds that the principles of justice can be universal if all the individuals’ accent to them, however, Communitarians argue that justice can never be universal since societies change from one society to another. They argue that standards of justice occur in different life and standards of specific societies and this they vary from context to context. The interpretations of justice will, therefore, depend on the languages, habits and traditions of specific places and specific people.
John Rawls political liberalism is applicable in today’s contemporary society, where all citizens are fighting for their rights and freedom, and when need for democracy cannot be overlooked. Every society is fighting against communism and dictatorship and advocating for free and democratic nations. This is because, many nations around the world agree that time has come when citizens have the right to rule through appointing and electing political leaders who will take care of their interests. However, these leaders should not confuse the fact that they are the owners of the political powers, instead; they should understand that political power belong to the citizens, and their roles are to do what the citizens expects of them (Rawls 223).
In addition, this political liberalism indicates that every society needs a set of rules governing all the members of that society. It is true that any country in the world without rules is full of violence and chaos, a clear example being Somalia. Every society, therefore, needs a constitution that stipulates the basic rules of a country. However, these rules must be acceptable to the citizens of that society as they should reflect their beliefs and traditions (Wolfe 210). In the event that such rules do not reflect their traditions and rules, then the citizenry is highly likely to resist and cause chaos as they reject the set rules. It is crucial; therefore, the ruling governments need to consult its citizenry before making any rules to avoid risks of rejection.
Rawls notion that international peace and harmony can be achieved is particularly crucial in the contemporary societies since, there is the need for peaceful coexistence among different nations. He says that common understanding of the laws can lead to tolerant and peaceful international order since people will follow the rules if the rules are not partisan or discriminatory, regardless of their diverse views and ideologies.