Definition of the Concept:
The concept of justice is as old as the political science or political theory is and at the same time it is a vexed and controversial topic of political science. The political philosophers beginning from Plato (427 BC-347 BC) right up to the twenty-first century, the theory has been defined in various ways.
The dictionary meanings or definitions are the following: Justice means just behaviour or treatment or the administration of law or authority in maintaining this. But this laconic definition fails to clarify the exact idea it carries. Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics defines justice as the existence of a proper balance. Even this definition is still unsatisfactory. Proper balance between what elements or what sectors?
An acceptable definition we find in Norman Barry’s An Introduction to Modern Political Theory. Barry observes: In ordinary speech generally we talk of justice and injustice where the words do not refer to the desirability or otherwise of the state of affairs or particular income and wealth distributions but to the rules and procedures that characterise social practices and which are applied to the action of individuals who participate in those practices.
In this conception justice is normally seen to be a property of individuals. Barry’s definition, strictly speaking, is not a definition it is an explanation of the concept. He is of opinion that it is a property of the individuals. But we hold the view that it is not simply the property of individuals but also a property of state or society. It is because very often justice is regarded as the symbol of state and it is the primary responsibility of state to ensure justice. F
So in commonsense the term denotes appropriateness or fairness or proper balance. Opportunities and rewards or privileges will be distributed in such manner as will not give rise to any controversy or dissatisfaction. Everyone will accept the arrangement or rearrangement as just or proper or appropriate or fair. We here use a cluster of words simply to signify that the concept is variously used.
In another definition we find the following:
“Justice is the morally justifiable apportionment of rewards or punishments, each person being given what he or she is due.” Here the concept has been used in moral sense. That is justice is a moral idea or concept.
It is also associated with another meaning. Justice means to pay a man his due share. Though the word due is quite significant, it is full of ambiguities. What is due for one, the same may not be so to other. He may think that it is less than due and in this way the word due is bound to create controversy.
Justice implies, not to deprive an individual of his legitimate share of anything which may be wealth income privileges, opportunities etc. When deprivation occurs he may object and say that injustice has been meted out to him. The Greek philosopher Plato meant the term in this sense. He believed that in his ideal state none will feel any sort of deprivation everyone will be paid his due share.
If any type of deprivation happens to occur the state cannot be ideal. Hence we can say that according to Plato one of the important elements of ideal state is justice and the philosopher king must strive to realise justice.
Problems of Justice:
The concept of justice is not only controversial but also number of problems is associated with it. It may justifiably be observed that justice is to some extent the will-o-the wisp. It is something which cannot be achieved very comfortably but at the same time the attempts to achieve it cannot be abandoned.
1. Some people argue that redistribution of income and wealth is a grand way to achieve justice. But what are the criteria which will decide the redistribution of income and wealth? There are many problems which have intrigued this issue.
2. Again the very concept of justice is highly problematic because it is individualistic in nature. What a man calls just another man may call the something unjust and both may have arguments with certain amount of validity.
3. In recent year’s large number of people are obsessed with the concept of social justice Particularly after the Second World War people are thinking seriously about the attainment of social justice because it is the only way of ensuring justice in all the spheres of society. Problem is how it is to be realised? Some people think that the redistribution of income and wealth is the best way to achieve social justice. But we have already noted that this redistribution is not an easy task.
4. A good number of academics have argued that while considering or planning the redistribution of income or wealth, desert, merit and need are to be selected as criteria. But analyses of these criteria are again not above criticism. An evaluation about all these criteria varies from person to person and it is very difficult to arrive at a conclusion.
5. To remove injustice through the redistribution of income and wealth it is necessary that the state should play a dominating as well as positive role. But the interference of state in the arena of attainment of social justice inflames heated controversy. Particularly the protagonists of liberalism are not prepared to give their approval in favour of state interference. They argue that it will definitely encroach upon the freedom of individuals.
6. Some people are habituated to think of justice and equality within the same bracket. In other words, they feel that without equality there cannot exist justice. But the idea of equality is again a complex notion and .its association with justice has complicated both the concepts.
7. It has been asserted by many that through the implementation of a policy to punish the vice and reward the virtue a just society can be established. Here again the problem is who will determine what is vice and what is virtue? There are no universal criteria to determine vice and virtue.
It has been apprehended that tor the realisation of this it is essential that the state should convert itself into a police state. This is not appreciated by many. So what remains is that though justice is a highly desirable concept, it is still the will-o-the wisp.
Finally, we hold the view that not-with standing the fact that justice is a highly appreciated and covetable concept, and attempts are constantly being made to achieve justice, no society whatever may its stage of civilisation and development be, can claim that it has succeeded in establishing justice.
Nature of Justice:
1. It is not an easy task to present a brief exposition of the features of justice and in spite of this problem; we make an humble attempt to point out nature of justice. Since the days of Aristotle it has been held that the most rudimentary feature of justice is equals will be treated equally and un-equals will be unequally treated. Between these two groups there shall exist proportion.
Equals and un-equals should be grouped separately. It has been asserted that the un-equals and equals should not be grouped in the same bracket. If we do so we shall do in justice to both equals and un-equals. Less qualified and less, eligible persons cannot claim same benefits with eligible and qualified persons. If this system prevails in any society justice can never be its feature.
2. Behind the announcement’ of the above principle there exits the idea of rationality. It is generally irrational to give due share to a person who is not eligible. The theory of rationality and theory of justice are closely linked with each other. In practice the rationality and justice cannot be exclusively differentiated.
Though justice, according to Ernest Barker, is a social reality, its link with political science and to some extent philosophy cannot be denied. Political scientists are however mainly concerned with justice because of the reason that realisation of justice is possible through the machinery of state and this happens to be of the subject of political scientists.
3. We have pointed out in this section that differences are to be considered duly and actively while persons are brought under consideration for awarding privileges and opportunities. But the problem is on what counts differences are to be considered? There are differences among men regarding race, sex, religion. But the differences on these counts are not to be thought and they are not relevant for granting civil and political rights.
4. Some theorists have attempted to find out the relation between justice and equality. It has been claimed that for the sake of justice authority must make serious efforts to establish equality and when it will be possible justice comes to be a reality. But Norman Barry argues that the relationship between justice and equality is a hotly disputed matter.
The relationship between justices has been elaborately analysed by many and among them the prominent figure is Rawls. His main thesis of justice is primarily concerned with how equality and inequality can be elements of justice.
5. Though there is a controversy between justice and equality it is undeniable that the relationship exists. Equality and preferential treatment are not consistent. That is if some persons receive better treatment because of superiority in wealth and income or any other ground that violates the basic norm of equality. However, it is also against the basic norm of justice.
6. So far as the distribution of opportunities and at the same time attainment of justice are concerned two criteria desert and need appear. Norman Barry defines desert in this way. “The concept of desert refers to those properties of a man’s actions that are worthy of special treatment”. The actions of a man are not only different from the action of other men they require special treatment. That is actions are to be rewarded. If this is not done injustice will be done to the persons concerned.
Thus desert will be a criterion of special treatment but this cannot violate the principle of equality. We can easily find out a relationship between justice and desert and recognition of desert. Along with desert there is a criterion which is known as need. One can easily distinguish between desert and need.
One is to be awarded for special activities or contributions. In absence of this there arises no question of awarding anybody. On the other hand, need-based governmental actions have no connection with actions. The government adopts the policy of providing old age benefits or giving monetary help to weaker sections of the body politic or any other scheme. All these may be termed as welfare schemes.
7. While the authority is going to award a person for his special activities, it must also be considered that the actions must make some positive contribution to the progress of the society. More actions (whatever may the nature of actions be) do not call for reward or special treatment.
8. Both desert and need as criteria of governmental action must be kept outside the area of politics and emotion. Impartiality must play the dominant role. Otherwise both these criteria will lose their importance.