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Nozick: The Entitlement Theory of Justice

Nozick: The Entitlement Theory of Justice

  • Robert Nozick’s theory of justice is a good example of the procedural theory of justice.
    He makes a distinction between historical and end-state principles of justice.
  • He argues that the historical principle holds that an individual’s past actions determine the deserts and since actions are different so would be the deserts. The end-state principle suggests that there would be a set of goals to which the distribution pattern should conform.
  • Nozick argues that individual property holdings are just if they are a consequence of fair acquisition. Nozick’s theory of justice is ‘entitlement theory’ as against the distributive theory. According to him, justice is not a matter of attempting to organize or reorganize society and its institutions to achieve some distributive pattern.
  • His argument is that if the state does something against the individual for which one is entitled, it is a case of injustice. He is for a minimal state, which means minimum laws and conversely maximum liberties. By limiting the role of the state Nozick hopes to ensure individual autonomy.
  • Nozick’s theory of justice stands opposite to that of Rawls. Rawls favours distributive scheme, Nozick opposes it. Rawls’ argument begins with social obligation, Nozick with individual rights.
  • Rawls is a defender of liberal-democratic and a welfare state, Nozick, on the other, argues in favour of a libertarian minimal state. Nozick’s entitlement theory of justice is more a theory of rights, especially that of property, than a theory of justice.

Feminist Perspective on justice:

  • The feminist perspective on justice means: elimination of male domination, equality of rights, bridging the public and the private spheres and creation of society, culture and politics in non-patriarchal forms.
  • Susan Moller Okin, in Justice, Gender and the Family, states that women are systematically disadvantaged in all areas of life, but equality within the home would make gender equality possible in all other areas of life.
  • Some thinkers differentiate between women’s ethics of care and men’s ethics of justice, that is, women’s ethics is characterized by care, nurture, love, values and peace, whereas men’s ethics is impartial, objective and universal.
  • Nell Noddings demonstrate the difference between these two ethics by using the examples of Abraham and Ceres. Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son for the sake of principles, whereas Ceres was prepared to sacrifice any principles for the sake of her child.
  • Feminists have objected to such bifurcation. Catharine Mackinnon and Joan Tronto pointed out that such a dichotomy reaffirms the sexist stereotypes of women’s traditional roles. There is nothing inherent to women, which makes them incapable of rational, universal and objective sentiments.
  • Susan Moller Okin attempts to refashion the ethics of justice from a feminist standpoint. Most feminists suggest that an ethics of care could be made effective only if it is grounded in justice. They see care and justice as complimentary to each other.  Nozick: The Entitlement Theory of Justice



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