I’ve proposed to make a critic of John Rawls’ difference principle from the perspective of its application implications.
„Social and economic inequalities must fulfill 2 conditions” one of these two being the difference principle, which stated that social and economic inequalities must lead to the most expected benefit of the most disavantaged individual from society” (A Theory of Justice, JOHN RAWLS). According to this principle a situation is equitable when it allows an improvement of the most disadvantaged individuals while there is an improvement, or stagnation at least, in the situation of the much better situated individuals within a society. Having as base income distribution, well being or authority positions, it must determine the results for every individual’s advantage if the equalization of all individuals situation can not be made.
Within a framework where the purpose of theory of justice (materialized through Rawl’s principle of difference) has as objects non-favorable individuals, the states of inequality are accepted as legitimed while conditioned by the creation and maintainance of advantages for all. Exponentially is the exemple which presents the solution given by the principle of difference for the contextual situation where we have an inequality between the non-specilized workers and the awners of a factory. This type of inequality is „justified, according to the principle of difference, only if the expected difference is in advantage of the most disadvantaged individuals, in this case the non-specialized worker”(A Theory of Justice, JOHN RAWLS). In order to realized the objectives of this principle, Rawls sustains the existence of an institutionalized framework where each has equal chances while presenting the conditions according to which the distribution of goods and serveces must occur; so, the expectations of the most higher situated individuals are just only if their actions lead to the improvement of those less advantaged within a society.
This principle is translated through the creation of Pareto-optime conditions within which the distribution of goods, services or chance equality are assured so that there would be an echilibrum in that society, while accentuated the creation of a certain type of society where its base is justice as impartiality and less on personal interests; a society in which, in the most worse scenario, nobody loses. But this principle does not imply a maintainance of a balanced egalitarian situation, in the sense that if the situation of those disadvantaged persons ia slighthly improving within a given context, it is considered a just situation even if the existent differences between individuals are still maintained while being just reduced from their initial level; in this way through its very nature it has a relative character, in the sense that while wishing the imporvement of a certain social category there is the posibility that those who have a good social position can be forced to renounce at a small part of their goods in order to contribute to the reductioning of the existent inequalities. More than this, even if Rawls sustains that this principle is accepted by individuals because of their empathic capacity behind a veil of ignorance, in practice it can not be demonstrated that well being individuals can not negativly react against this principle as a consequence of a rational, egoist behavior.
Criticize 1. The situation of the disadvantaged ones is improved through cooperation of the advantaged individuals within a society, even if it is done indirectly through the increasing of their expectations. This cooperation is having place in order to maintain a society which base is represented by the existence of some fundamental institutional structures regulated by the theory of justice as impartiality, theory which implies a smaller focusing process over personal interests of society’s members. In the end, the same principle of difference which has as purpose the maximizing of disadvantaged individuals’ benefits can have different results regarding the cases it’s applied in, in the sense that the desired maxim level can not be fulfilled even if a positive changing of those non-advantaged is remarked.
Within the process of identification of the level till individuals benefit from advantages while maintaining a non-egalitarian situation, the principle of difference is characterized by an asymmetric state. This asymmetry is determined by the individual’s obligatorily action of involving in the process of volunteer social cooperation, which implies a constraining over them while its finality is defined through an important increasing of advantages for the most advantaged persons in a society. While the expectations of those non-advantaged depend of those advantaged, a massive growth of the latter is not just because other principles of justice can be broken, such as the opportunities equality; therefore, if principle of difference (interpreted through the light of efficiency principle) “is fulfilled, it’s impossible to advantage a person without discriminating against those disadvantaged” (Rawls, John, A Theory of Justice, Ch.I); so it will end up in the exactly situation, the initial one, which is desired to be solved.
Criticize 2. The form in which this principle was formulated accords a character of generality to the reason which stays at the bottom of this kind of distribution of advantages within the society that is in favor of those disadvantaged, available at any society. The creation of this equality state within a certain sphere is realized with the “condition” of creating of another inequality in other sphere of activity. Under these circumstances, even if an individual should have the same area of liberty as the others, he can not just avoid the situation he is activating in, even if, in order to can have advantages in one sphere he is disadvantaged in another one. The author omits the fact that each society has certain particular characteristics, therefore the concept of justice should be formulated according to the context it is applied in, having in this way different criterions and principles (context that represent a certain sphere of distribution of goods). So, “when the meanings are different, the distributions should be autonomous. Each social good or each set of goods form a sphere of distribution within which there are certain criterions and arguments that are valid…there is not just a single standard, but more standards for each social good and a distributive sphere for each society”(Walzer, Michael, Spheres of Justice, Basic Books, 1983, cap. 1 “Complex Equality”, p. 10). Because the very social good is a cultural and historical product, having different values according to the base its accorded to individuals, this can represent a tool through which a benefit is obtained in a distributive sphere, but it can not have the same function in other distributive sphere. Being given these conditions, the goods can be granted based either on merit or the need manifested by individuals, but it does not always fold on the strategy of helping those disavantaged.
Criticize 3. The principle of difference provides the existence of the social and economic inequalities, conditioned by the creation and maintenance and probably the extension of the benefits of those most disadvantaged. The formulation of this principle, defined in an organic framework, has as purpose its application at the fundamental microstructure level of society, so that no counter-argument applied to microstructure which is the individual or a certain given context, is accepted. This process of granting goods, services is exercised within a framework with characteristics specific to the final state, because it has as premise the following idea: the individuals can not rationally pretend (much) more than a certain level, previously respecting the criterions already implemented. Therefore, the choosing of the principle of difference is done accordingly with the principle of final state, which has as subjects the groups form the society ( those advantaged and those who find themselves on a less better position) situation in which no one can create advantages which serve his/her own interest. While individuals’ participation at those two groups is different than “why shouldn’t this different contribution which is revealed not leading to a different judgment concerning the justice?” (Nozick Robert Anarchie, State and Utopia, 1997,pp.249). Being given this perspective, this principle should focus on the micro-structural dimension too, so that the accent should fall over each capacity and each merit to be a beneficiary of certain goods while its distribution not make preponderant to their status. Even if the primary goal of this principal is to reduce the degree of inequalities existent in a society, through its application leads to a perpetuation of the initial situation, because it creates “two conflicts of interests between those on the bottom and those on the top; between those on the middle and those on the bottom” (Nozick Robert Anarchie, State and Utopia, 1997, pp. 261), as the result of the fact that this principle would be applied, in the context of the disparition of those on the bottom, to the individuals who were on the middle position, these transforming into the newly category of individuals less advantaged.
As a conclusion this principle has no egalitarian character in the thick meaning of the word, because it may end up growing the benefits of those already advantaged.