Individuality and Community Ethics How Self Is Essay

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Individuality and Community


How Self is Integrated into the Global Whole as an Ethical Entity

The ethics of social justice is wrapped in the ideas of how individuals within a society are trained as ethical beings, and how they regard other outside of their immediate society (Jackson, 2005). Appiah uses the final two chapters of his book The Ethics of Identity to discuss how individuals are given an ethical soul and also how people are members of something larger than either their nations or themselves. This paper is designed to give the reader an understanding of one person's understanding of the four concepts of social justice, soul making and rooted cosmopolitanism, and how all of those concepts tie into one another.

Four Conceptions of Social Justice

Like most other concepts, social justice is not the purview of a single theoretician or set of ideas. Many people, beginning in ancient writings such as the Bible, have discussed how social justice should be administered in a society. These writings have been condensed into four basic conceptions of the way people view social justice: "liberal distribution, critical distribution, liberal recognition, and critical recognition" (Rottmann, 2008). These four ideas have been proposed by different theorists who saw society from entirely different angles. These are discussed individually in the following sections.

Liberal Distribution

The idea of liberal distribution was developed by John Rawls, and was outlined in his book A Theory of Justice (1971). The idea is that in a liberal society people will want to distribute material goods equally. Rottmann (2008) says that "…liberal distribution, which focuses on the allocation or reallocation of material resources, relies on a consensus approach to the problem of inequality." What he means by this is that people will rise to the occasion, and equitably redistribute the material resources that the society possesses. He also believes that people will do this as a society because they want to live in equality. Rawls also agrees that this is a perfect society. "The distributive paradigm defines social justice as the morally proper distribution of social benefits and burdens among societies members" (Young & Allen, 2011, 55). So the caveat to this argument has to be that it is seen as a morally proper distribution of the resources of the society. Of course the phrase, morally proper, can be defined differently by different societies and even individuals within the society. Also, the above statement talks about both the "social benefits and burdens" being shared commodities. In this perfect society, when someone has a grievance, the entire society will act to make restitution if it is needed. The idea seems to mesh well with Plato's idea of a perfect society working together in mutual understanding of what their place is and accord with that place.

An important concept within this definition is that of material goods. Young and Allen (20ll, 55) say that "Paramount among these are wealth, income and other material resources. The distributive definition of justice often includes, however, nonmaterial social goods such as rights, opportunity, power, and self-respect" (Young & Allen, 2011, 55). Thus, material resource does not necessarily imply some type of tangible asset that the society possesses. Every person within this society has the same " rights, opportunity, power, and self-respect" as everyone else. Everyone has the same ability to fulfill their potential because everyone else wants to maintain their rights as well.

Rawls' idea also borrows from the works of Plato in that he talks about how rational individuals will act. He says that;

"a group of rational individuals, unaware of their social position would ultimately generate two rules in support of a just and fair society: First, each person is to have equal right to the most extensive scheme of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for others. Second, social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both a) reasonably expected to be of everyone's advantage, and b) attached to the positions and offices open to all" (Rottmann, 2008).

He expects that rationality also means justice. Because people will want others to be aware of and regard the rights of others, he thinks that a rational person, in a rational society will also regard their rights a sacred. In this society, people are not governed by emotion or any of the petty jealousies that people would normally have because everyone is equal. Another function of this belief is that people will act in this manner because the same advancement and power is equal with all.

Many problems arise from this society if it is logically examined because people are not naturally disposed to honor others. According to Hobbes humans can only show self-interest because people still retain the base nature of animals (Clark, 1995). Because of this nature, liberal distribution becomes impossible. But even if human nature is more forgiving and compassionate, it is difficult to imagine a society that could purely exhibit these perfect qualities of distribution. In many cases throughout history, it has been shown that if people are allowed to reap benefits without equal work, many will. However, in some small instances this theory of social justice does work. Within a classroom, or at a small company, or even in a very small society, it is possible that this idea of equal justice could work. But for a large, very diverse society, this would be very difficult to attain.

Critical Distribution

In a society, there are times when injustice is so egregious that people will rise up against that injustice and fight it. Karl Marx had the idea that capitalism was a bad idea because the owners of businesses will always, by definition, exploit the people who work for them (Kelso, 1957). Since the owners of the business have the all of the power, they will use that to get the most production out of the people who work for them through whatever nefarious means they can imagine. For example, Upton Sinclair wrote, in The Jungle, about an immigrant family who worked at various industries in the Chicago area, but most famously the meat-packing industry. Sinclair was able to describe the conditions which the employees were forced to work under while the owners of the plants did not even monitor the plants. The managers were harsh and the work was extreme. After people read this account, there was a general outcry across the nation for an examination of the conditions in these different plants. This, and many similar incidents, caused the rise of unions in the United States. Either the people who were being exploited, or social activists lobbied for better conditions, and most often they got them.

Critical distribution is best explained through the definition of the word critical. The word, in one sense, means that an especially important juncture has occurred. When people completely lose the rights and power that they naturally feel entitled to, they will, at some point, rebel. It is during and after this rebellion that equality is attained and the people are able to acquire social justice. The distribution of material goods can be realized as a result of this process also.

Liberal Recognition

This idea is much the same as liberal distribution in that a group of people reach a consensus that something must be done to equally distribute a set of goods. However, whereas liberal distribution normally has to do with material goods such as some form of wealth, liberal recognition has to do with "identity and status" (Rottmann, 2008). Some people in the society have achieved a higher place than others through some means. In general, there are people within this society who have had their rights diminished because of who they are. Rottmann (2008) states "groups who advocate for human rights for all without regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, class, disability, geography, language or other dimensions of privilege believe activists can work together toward social justice by recognizing and celebrating diversity." This is not the same as a critical recognition because it is a consensus among the people rather than one group feeling oppressed and demanding their rights from another.

Many examples of this type of redistribution exist. Women were not allowed to have positions of leadership in many different occupations. Because of this injustice, people organized to extend the same rights that men had to positions of authority that men had always enjoyed. Groups that have been formed due to this type of social justice include multiculturalist education, radical feminism and education regarding basic human rights (Pinkard, 2007). However, there are some issues that people have with this concept.

The problem that some have with this view is that it is not ethical because it does not take into account individuality. "Communitarian writers argue that social identity is deeply important to individual autonomy and thus liberal societies have an obligation to recognize identity. Any liberal view that attempts to account for this charge must specify a procedure to recognize identity that also…[continue]

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