Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
A just society is something that is very difficult to create. If it were easy, just societies would exist all around the world. The unfortunate reality is that very few just societies exist on earth, and even the most just societies still regularly produce unjust outcomes. Thus, one must wonder what inputs are required for a society to foster a sense of justice in its inner-workings. The following paragraphs will explore this topic, discussing a social/political society that encapsulates the values of a just society and comparing it with the societal justice currently in place in the United States.
I think a just society first and foremost supports equality, fairness, and happiness. Everyone should be given the same access to opportunity, something that must be facilitated by the government. The government should guarantee this access to opportunity by providing free healthcare, free education, and a standardized, rehabilitative criminal justice system. I think a just society would ensure that one’s income, gender, ethnicity, or race does not factor into their ability to get a quality education, receive medical care for their ailments, or be made whole again when they are wronged by another.
One of the most well-understood and entrusted social theories for promoting an ideal society is social contract theory. (Beteille, 2003) This is a theory which emphasizes the responsibilities of every member of society. It doesn’t place sole responsibility on a centralized government, or individual members of society, but recognizes that various groups in society each serve a certain role with certain responsibilities. (Beteille, 2003) To participate in social contract theory, everyone must fulfill their role, simultaneously giving up certain rights to one another for the greater good and sake of creating a protective, safe society. One theory furthering the aims of social contract theory is the veil of ignorance, which states that people should decide social constructions based on the fact that they don’t know which status position they will occupy. (Beteille, 2003) For instance, an individual should decide to create a society with 10% of the population enslaved based on the idea that there is a one in ten chance that the individual themselves will be a slave.
Social contract theory would promote a just society because it would emphasize the roles of everyone in creating such a society. People would be placed with individual responsibilities and hopefully be less inclined to take advantage of others and seek out purely personal gain. People would recognize the systemic aspects of creating a just society and be more likely to contribute for the purpose of creating a just society. Utilizing the ideology expressed in the veil of ignorance would help people make decision that reflected the wellbeing of all people, not just a select group.
Unfortunately the society I envision as being just is not the society that currently exists in the United States. The criminal justice system is shown to be discriminatory against minorities and lower income criminals, both in governing legislation and sentencing procedures. For instance, black defendants are more likely to receive the death penalty than their white counterparts, controlling for severity of crime and other factors. (Selwyn, 2014) Furthermore, those with higher incomes have much more access to educational and career opportunities. (Selwyn, 2014) Even the quality of one’s healthcare is dependent on their ability to afford it. The U.S., despite being a country that prides itself on democracy and equality, still has a long way to go before it is truly a just society.
Marxism holds that for there to be a struggle-free and just society, there must be no classes. Everyone should occupy the same status and through this structure, equality will be fostered. (Beteille, 2003) While this is logical and appeals to one’s inherent sense of equality and justice, in actual practice, Marxist societies are prone to have less productivity, more poverty, and greater overall suffering, than capitalist societies. (Beteille, 2003)
Given the fact that many sociopolitical theories which look good on paper are not good in practice, it is important to recognize the need for real world testing. While social contract theory in combination with the veil of ignorance seems like it could be instrumental in the creation of a just society, the only way to find out for sure is to actually implement such an ideology.