An Associational Model of Society Implicit to John Rawls's Theory of Justice
Ostner, Tara Colleen
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This paper will examine John Rawls’s views regarding the make up of society and, in particular, it will investigate the question of whether or not Rawls’s theory of justice is dependent upon accepting and endorsing the view that society is, or, at least, resembles an association. The aim of the paper will be to defend the position that Rawls’s theory of justice is in fact dependent upon an associational conception of society, and that it, therefore, relies upon the idea that the individuals in a society share a common interest or purpose. Thus, far from providing a liberal conception of society, this paper will attempt to illustrate that Rawls actually presents a more communitarian outlook of society than many might expect from a purportedly liberal thinker. In order to best prove the essential link to an associational conception of society, I discuss three principles that provided Rawls with reasons for preferring the difference principle to other modes of justice, and suggest that these founding principles provide sufficient evidence for connecting Rawls’s theory of justice to an associational conception of society. By advocating such a vision of society, Rawls betrays a fundamental premise of his own political liberalism, namely, the idea that individuals do not necessarily share a common interest or purpose with one another.