The Criticism of Social Contract Theories

Ward Churchill’s criticism of social contract theory clearly applies to classic social contract theories that we discussed. However, Rawls adds the veil of ignorance concept to his more modern social contract theory. A) Explain the basics of Rawls and Churchill’s arguments and how they each criticize classic social contract theories. B) Discuss whether or not Churchill’s argument applies to Rawls’ modification and explain how and why it does and/or does not apply to Rawls’ theory. C) What remedies might you deduce from Rawls’ theory that would address the injustices toward American Indians?

John Rawls, of the most important political philosopher, is primarily known for his theory of justice as fairness. This theory was established in order to build and maintain govern a modern social order. Rawls’ theory is the building blocks of a society where the people have equal opportunities for personal or political aspirations. His theory also would help the less advantaged people benefit more. The theory of Justice is considered to be a fair system of cooperation over time, from one generation to the next.

In addition to social contract theory, Rawls presents the idea of the original position, “the veil of ignorance” to the social contract theory. He believes that, “the reason why the original position must abstract from and not be affected by the contingencies of the social world is that the conditions for a fair agreement on the principles of political justice between fee and equal persons must eliminate the bargaining advantages which inevitably arise within background institutions of any society as the result of cumulative social, historical, and natural tendencies” (p.57).

Under social contract theory, in order to receive property and peace, you had to give up a portion of your liberties (Hobbes, 2014). What social contract theory lacks is that people don’t have control over where they are born or what type of family they are born into. This is where the “veil of ignorance” comes into play. He believes that if the veil was used things would be fairer. No one knows how much of their liberty they are giving up in comparison to what other people are giving up in a different area.

Rawls says to “select the organizing principles of society as if they did not know what position they would be in within that society” in terms of “class position, generation, goals, life plan” (Jurik 2014). Rawl’s theory of a just society is made up of two principles: equal liberty and the difference principle. Equal liberty is where every person has an equal right to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic rights and liberties” (Rawls, 1993, pp. 51).

The difference principle is where any inequalities of economic or social nature must be related to positions that are equally available to all, and any inequalities must benefit the least advantaged person (Jurik, 2014). When it comes to criticizing classic social contract theories, Rawl criticizes Bentham’s theory of utilitarianism. It argues for the greatest good for the greatest number of people supposedly but Rawls felt differently. He believed that utilitarianism didn’t account for the differences in people. Rawls countered by proposing liberalism as a political doctrine.

It would “assume that it is a characteristic feature of a free democratic culture that a plurality of conflicting and incommensurable conceptions of the good are affirmed by its citizens” (Rawls, 1999, pg. 65). Winston Churchill was known for his criticisms that were centered on the idea that collectivist trends were destroying the peoples’ personal freedom. He believed that individuals’ freedoms must remain supreme over the state’s needs. Churchill wanted to honor the promises of the U. S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence in times of tranquility and crisis despite everything.

“It was Churchill’s great desire as a statesman to make his country worthy of the tasks set before it, to enable it to overcome the perils it faced within as well as without; but he also wanted to ensure that other nations would not surrender the blessings of liberty. In Churchill’s, “Perversion of Justice”, he seeks justice for the descendants of the first people to inhabit North America. Something called the “Doctrine of Discovery” enabled European states to make formal treaties with native nations. Once they did this, they could take property from these natives.

The “Norman Yoke” proposed that land rights were given to the one that would develop the land. The “Marshall Doctrine” was used to illegitimately justified U. S. pursuit of territory acquisition from the Native Americans. Despite the doctrine, Churchill believed that the U. S. didn’t have any real, legitimate any rights to half of the land. That land in his beliefs was unjustly taken from the natives. “ In order to make things right we should reverse the Marshal Doctrine and dismantle the structure it fostered” (Churchill, 1998). The Marshal doctrine manipulated the conception of warfare.

Since the United States was allowed to change the meaning of “just” and “unjust” in order to wage war on the Native Americans, the natives could not fight back. If the natives fought back then, “in this sense the United States could declare itself to be waging a ‘just’—and therefore lawful—war against native people on virtually any occasion when force of arms was required to realize its territorial ambitions” (p. 24). Churchill believed that the United States used this type of manipulation multiple times in order to gain territory.

In my opinion, Churchill and Rawls theories complimented each other. They both argued for the same thing: keeping alive peoples differences and personal freedoms. Rawls overall was the base, everyone deserved equal opportunities and rights as everyone else. Churchill was deeply offended when the Native Americans were not receiving the same rights and opportunities for their land as the United States. The main remedy I came up with regarding the injustices done on the Native Americans in retrospect to Rawls is his idea of the difference principle.

The difference principle is where any inequalities of economic or social nature must be related to positions that are equally available to all, and any inequalities must benefit the least advantaged person (Jurik, 2014). The Native Americans have economic and social inequalities to Americans. They were forced into something where they did not know how much of their liberties they were giving up. They were taken advantage of because they did not know what the land was for them compared to what the land was for the United States.

Plus, the difference principle is supposed to benefit the least advantaged person. These Native Americas were definitely the least advantaged because we were the ones coming in and over taking their way of life. They were being thrown into a completely different way of life than they were used to. References Churchill, W. (1998). Perversions of justice: A Native-American examination of the doctrine of U. S. rights to occupancy in North America. In J. P. Sterba (Ed. ), Social and political philosophy: Classical Western texts in feminist and multicultural perspectives (2nd ed.) (pp. 259-275).

Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company. Hobbes, T. (1972). The Case against anarchy. In J. Rachels & F. Tillman (Eds. ) Philosophical Issues (pp. 154-162). New York: Harper & Row, 1972. Jurik, N. (2014). Mordern Social Contract Theory Unit 2- Power Point #4 [Slides] Rawls, J. (2014). Justice as fairness. Political not metaphysical. In N. Jurik (Ed. ) Alternative Reading For JUS 303 Vol 2. Tempe: The Alternative Copy Shop. [Jurik Bk 2]. Sandels, M. (2009). Justice: What’s the right thing to do. Harvard University. Retrieved from YouTube.