(Sample Material) UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit "Socio Political Philosophy (Procedural and Substantive Justice)"

Sample Material of UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit

Topic: Socio Political Philosophy (Procedural and Substantive Justice)

Race Analogy


i) Emphasizes on procedures and Rules (outcome is fair)
ii) Equality of opportunity.
iii) Merit
iv) This theory is supported by liberals.
v) Market society is the practical implication


i) Outcome are more emphasized.
ii) Equality of outcome.
iii) Need instead of merit
iv) Supported by socialists.
v) State controlled economy

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Race Analogy

Relationship between Market and Justice.

i) Liberal view — Emphasis on fairness moral of Impersonal self —Liberty, efficiency of distribution and production.

Relationship between market and Justice is very complex. Liberals believe that Justice can be Secured through market but within liberalism, there is lack of unanimity some liberals particularly libertarians believe that market is the only way to secure Justice, they give many arguements to support their view, for them fairness is essential for justice which is only possible in market society because market society is self regulated and impersonal for them liberty forms the core of the idea of Justice. Market system is most suited. For liberty. For them Justice means treatment according to merit, which is possible in the market system only. Market is the most efficient system lending to winder prosperity in the society from which ultimately all the people benefit.

But there are some other liberals, particularly the egalitarian liberal John Rawls who believes that market secures Justice but market is not the only way to secure Justice, Some measure of welfarism is also needed.
Socialist views-No market fairness of market is a wrong assumption, based for rich class.

Bargaining power for labour is reduced merit is a social constrict, profit instead of need is the giving force for market.

Opposed to the liberal view, Socialist view believes that Justice cannot be secured through market what we call fairness in the market system is only a myth. Market is class baised. They also believe that to talk about liberty in a market society is ridiculous the liberty in market system is basically the liberty of a particular class which owners the means of production socialists give more importance to equality than liberty and equality cannot be brought through market. At the best, market can issue legal equality (equality before law) but not socioeconomic equality which is more important socialists also believe that merit is a social construct, secondly there is no objective. Criteria to determine merit. Therefore instead of merit, need should be the criteria for Justice.

Ideal theory of Justice

Most of the theories either emphasize on merit or need. But both merit and need have their own problems. If merit is made the criteria then logically certain individuals will be forced to lead a subhuman life. Secondly, what is merit? It is a disputed issue and it is a subjective question to decide merit. Need has its own problems. In every society, resources are limited, therefore practically it is not possible to fulfill the needs of every individual. Secondly if need principle is accepted then state will decide the needs which may increase the powers of the state therefore as a middle path both the principles may be combined. The basic needs of every individual irrespective of his contribution to the society should be fulfilled, after this resources should be distributed on the basis of merit.

Relationship between liberty Equality and Justice

Liberty and justice—not disputed (complementary)

Liberlism — Liberty —Justice

Socialists —liberty — Justice

Dispute over the question of liberty and equality attain justice.

Equality and Justice —Disputed

Socialists believe it is complimentary. Supported to good extent by egalitarians

Libertarians believe equality and Justice are contradictory. Hayak, Nozick they believe in legal equality only too much state action to attain socio-political Justice may disrupt individuals liberty.

The relationship between liberty equality and Justice is very complex, Regarding the relationship between liberty and Justice there is less dispute and most of the philosophers agree that they are complimentary to each other liberty is a part of Justice but there are some, minor differences on the issue weather liberty is the primary aspect of Justice for equality liberals support liberty, where socialists support equality.

Regarding the relation between equality and Justice it is more disputed. There are two divergent view (i) they are contradictory to each other (ii) they are complementary to each other. The relationship between these ideals is not absolute but contextual for example, Before 1918 in Britain women did not had right to vote and it was considered Just but today is considered highly unjustice Equality and Justice (contradictory view) –A lent Greek Philosopher’s Plato and Aristotle supported this view. In his scheme of plato discuss about three classes the rulers, soldiers and producers for Plato, rulers are the individuals of Gold, soldiers are the individual of silver and producers a the individuals of iron. (ii) Aristotle in his scheme of distributive Justice talk of proportional equality which in practice becomes in equality. Negative liberals like Herbert Spencer also rejected equality as un just. Formulation a theory of “Social Darwanism”, Spencer maintains that like nature in society also there is struggle for existence and survival of the fittest therefore inequality is natural phenomena. All attempts to bring equality are unjust. (iii) Comtemporary libertarian philosophers also support this view. Philosophers like Hayak and Nozick believe in only one form of equality we legal equality. They oppose socio-economic equality because it curtails freedom and disturbs. He autonomous market society.

(Complimentary view)— Many socialists, equalitarian and positive liberals support this view but here also for socialists, equality is the prime aspect of Justice But for equalitarians and positive liberals, equality and Justice are complimentary and equality and Justice are complimentary and equality is secondary to liberty.

(i) The purpose of liberty equality and Justice is same i.e. to create better conditions of life for the individual and a better social order.
(ii) Justice is a synthetic idea which balances and resolves the claims of various other ideals like liberty and equality.
(iii) The purpose of Justice is to treat each individual as an end in itself. This is possible only in an atmosphere of equality because in the absence of equality certain privilages may exist which will make some individuals means to fulfill the end of some other individuals.
(iv) Justice means, to give each individual his night place and due in the society. Both liberty and equality are needed for this.
(v) All forms of Justice are based on equality for example legal justice or rule of law fair legal system, each individual has the access to judiciary etc. In the absence of legal equality, none of them is possible.

Political Justice means the political system of the state is fair enough so that it gives each individual some shore in the system. In the absence of political and economic equality it is meaning social Justice means treating each individual a respectable unit of the society and creation of a social environment where nobody becomes the means to fulfill some others ends. It is not possible in the absence of social equality.
Economic Justice means that the economic system works fairly in favour of all the class of the society, basic needs of all the individuals are fulfilled and each individual has the fair opportunity to develop to the highest extent. These things are not possible if vast socio-economic disparities exist.


Legal —Hobbes, bodin, Austin
Political —Laski
Popular —Roussear
Views of Bodin Austin , Laski, Kautilya, contemporary relevance.

What is sovereignty?

Sovereignty means supreme authority. This world has been derived from how latin words ‘super’ and citrus’. Super means supreme and—anus means authority. There fore sovereignty is defined a supreme authority. Sovereignty is exclusively the feature of the state. It has aspects, internally it means that the state has the right to govern its citizens in its own way there fore the state can make, amend and repeal any law regarding its citizens externality sovereignty means state has the right to take independent decisions in external affairs for example-state may sign or reject to sign any international treat or state may declare was or peace at its own will. In philosophy also the idea of supreme authority can be seen for example in “advait Vedanta” ‘Brahman” is the Supreme and absolute authority, Similarly in western philosophy Spinoza’s nation of substance and Hegel’s notion of absolute idea reflects the concept of sovereign authority but in these philophics though the concept of sovereign power exists but it is not treated in terms of society and politics.

TYPOLOGY- Dejure and defacto Dejure sovereignty, means where sovereignty is vested legally in the body which exercises sovereignty Defacto sovereignty means where sovereignty power is vested in some other body but a different body actually exercises the power. In normal circumstances, the distinction between dejure and defacto sovereign is not seen but during some contingency like a military coup, this distinction is clearly visible.
Legal —According to legal sovereignty, sovereignty is vested in the law making body and those individuals who take part in this process.

According to political sovereignty, electorate are sovereign.

According to popular sovereignty, people as a whole are sovereign

Monistic and Pluralistic

According to monostic sovereignty, it is vested only in one body i.e. state. It is indivisible according to pluralistic sovereignty, it is vested into various organizations of the society including the state, therefore sovereignty is divisible.

Views of various thinkers on sovereignty.

Jean Bodin-(six essay concerning Republic 1576) He coined the term sovereign is first systematic theory of sovereignty. It is a legal and monistic theory of sovereign Bodin has defined sovereign as supreme power of state over citizens and subject unrestrained by law. From this definition certain feature of sovereignty can be seen (i) supreme power According to Bodin sovereign neither takes commands from his superior nor from his inferior nor from his equals.(ii) sovereignty is the permanent power, it is always wested in the sovereign and cannot be transferred to any other authority.

Sovereignty is unrestrained by law this means sovereign is above law and is not instructed by any law. He himself is the law marker. But for Bodin, law means municiple law or positive law. Positive laws and Devine law may regulate the sovereign.

After discussing the features of sovereignty, Bodin also points out certain limitations on sovereignty.

i) Divine law and natural law
ii) Legus Empiri-Legas Empiri means certain fundamental laws of the society. e.g. Salic law —Inheritance of property to sons only.
iii) Property— sovereign cannot take away the property of individuals arbitrarily. Its political implication was very important because it provided the base for the theory that people cannot be taxed without their consent.
iv) Family—According to Bodin, there are two spheres of authority. Imperium and Dominium. Imperium is the sphere of sovereign but Dominium (family) is the sphere of the authority of the head of the family.

Question asked on criticisms of Bodin’s theory.


(i) Bodin’s theory of sovereignty is logically inconsistent. On the one hand be declares that sovereignty is a supreme power but on the other hand he puts various limitations on the authority of the sovereign there are certain other contradictions also in Bodin’s theory.
(ii) He gives too much emphasis to nature law and divine law but does not define what is natural law and what is devine law.
(iii) According to Bodin, sovereign cannot violate natural or devine law. But who has the authority to decide if be has violated these laws.
(iv) If somehow it is decided that sovereign has violated natural law and divine law, then who will punish the sovereign therefore logically Bodan’s theory is not very sound the main reason behind this logical inconsistency lies in the dichotomy between Bodin’s time and his own Republican beliefs. In the 16th century Frances many separatist forces like Church like Feudalism were creating hurdles in the way of unification of France as a nation state to control these forces and develop France as a nation state, a supreme authority was needed and responding to demands of his time, Bodin formulated this theory. But in his personal belief Bodin was a great supporter of individual freedom. Therefore he puts many limitations on Sovereignty.


i) Bodin was the first philosopher to formulate a theory of sovereignty .
ii) Bodin’s theory of sovereignty was the first attempt in the direction of constructing a legal and monistic theory of sovereignty. Finally Austin formulated a logically consistent theory of monistic . Sovereignty, which is today the most important theory of sovereignty. But the foundation of this theory was provided by Bodin.
iii) Bodin made the nation of sovereignty, the central concept of political philosophy.


“Lectures on Jurisprudence” (1832)

Austin’s theory of sovereignty is a legal and monistic theory of sovereignty. Austin’s theory of sovereignty is an improvement on Bodin’s theory because Austin lifted all the limitations from sovereign which imposed by Bodin Therefore his theory is logically consistent. Austin defined sovereignty as “If a determinate human superior not in the habit of taking obedience from a like superior, receives habitual obedience from the bulk of a given society then, that determinate human superior is sovereign and the society including the sovereign is a society independent and political”

Determinate— has to be clearly located human authority.

Superior —It is absolute

Habitual obedience—obeyed by the bulk of society.

From this very definition Austin makes the following point.

i) Sovereignty is the essential feature of a political and independent society.
ii) Sovereignty is always vested in human authority.
iii) Sovereignty is determinate.
iv) Obedience to sovereign’s command is habitual
v) “Law is the command of sovereign or what sovereign permits be commands” According to Austin there are six feature of sovereignty.

1) Absoluteness—Limitless authority of the sovereign
2) Universality -All individuals and organizations within the territory of sovereign are governed.
3) Permanence—Sovereignty is permanently vested in the state though it is exercised by different people time to time.
4) Inalienability—Sovereignty cannot be seperated from the statc and transfer to someone else.
5) Indivisibility — Sovereignty cannot be divided. Divided sovereignty is a contradiction sovereignty means supreme authority and therefore if it is divided among many organization , then the whole nation of supremacy will dilute. In the words of callron, as we cannot think of a divided circle or divided square similarly we cannot think of a divided sovereignty.
6) Exclusiveness—This means sovereignty is possessed by only one organization i.e. the state.

Austin’s theory of Sovereignty is defined in terms of supreme and absolute power, thn it has to be divisible inalienable, exclusive, universal and permanent.


i) According to Henerymaine it is impossible to fight the absolute sovereign on any society.
ii) If sovereign is made free from all limitations then it may lead to the emergence of dictatorship.
iii) According to pluralist philosophers like laski, sovereignty is divisible
iv) In Austin’s theory of sovereignty there is overemphasis on power. All his efforts ultimately lead to the supreme and absolute power of sovereign. Sovereign is beyond all limitations. Law in the command of sovereign, which means that individuals have to obey sovereign.

But there are other philosopher’s like Laski and green who believe that power is not the basis of the state. In the words of Green “will, not force is the basis of state” According to Green, statc “binders the hindrances” Son the way to good life therefore we voluntarily obey the state laski also maintains that the basis of state rests in the “moral adequacy” we obey the state only when it works for our betterment.

v) In the era of globalisation, the whole notion of sovereignty is suffering form the crisis of irrelevance .


1) On logical grounds Austin’s theory is the most of consistent theory of sovereignty most of the criticisms off Austin’s theory are based on the practical exercise of sovereignty where we see certain limitations but from the pure logical point of view, there is not contradiction.
2) Monastic theory of sovereignty is today the most important theory of sovereignty and Austin is the most important philosopher of this theory.
3) In the absence of a supreme and absolute authority, there may be anarchy in society. If sovereignty is divided around many organizations and some dispute arises between them, who will adjudicate
4) From the philosophical point of view, dualism and pluralism are ultimately linked to monism. For example, in western philosophy, Descartes believes in dualism i.e. the existence of two independent entities mind and body, but ultimately to explain the relationship between mind and body he has to accept God and the absolute sub substance. Similarly in Indian Philosophy Sankhya believes in the existence of two independent realities “Pursa” and Prakriti but it is unable to explain the relationship between these two realities.

Similarly Leibniz believes in the existence of innumerable independent entities called monads and all are complete in themselves. But be also could not explain the relationship between these monads in a logical framework and so it takes the help of arbitrary principle of “pre-established harmony” Therefore Austin’s theory may have practical limitations but logically it is a very sound theory.

Pluralist Philosopher


Prof Harold Joseph Laski- (Positive Liberal)
1) “A Grammar of Politics”
2) Authority in modern state

Not Sovereignty

Laski’s theory is a refutation of sovereignty. Explain Laski’s theory of sovereignty is based on pluralism and it is called pluralist theory of sovereignty. Laski criticized the monistic theory of sovereignty and declared that sovereignty is not possessed by the state only but it is divided among the various organization of the society. These organizations have supreme authority in their respective spheres, therefore sovereignty is divisible Laski’s theory of sovereignty has two parts

i) Refutation of monistic theory of overeignty.
ii) Support for pluralist sovereignty. Laski rejects monistic theory of sovereignty on five grounds.

i) Historically the nation of sovereignty was the result of a particular historic context (16th to 19th century) when there was struggle between the political order (state) and religious order (church) for supremacy. Therefore, theory of sovereignty came into existence to support the supremacy of state. In 20th century this conflict did not exist and state became supreme therefore nation of sovereignty had become irrelevant.
ii) On legal ground law is not the command of sovereign (in contradiction to Austin) Law are the result of social customs, tradition public opinion etc.
iii) On political grounds, sovereignty of state is excercised by the government and there are many limitations on the government. Like public opinion.
iv) Internationally, the theory of monistic sovereignty leads to war and international conflict.
v) On moral ground, the notion of monistic sovereignty lead to the emergency of an autocratic regime which will not be suitable for the development of the personality of individual.
In the words of Laski, “It would be of lasting importance if the whole notion of sovereignty is surrendered” It is also said that laski has not formulated a theory of sovereignty but be has formulated a theory of refutation of sovereignty.

Support for Pluralist Sovereignty

i) According to Laski, the structure of society is federal. This means that society is not a homogeneous unit but it is a mixture of various interest. Therefore corresponding to these different interests there are many organisations also perform important functions for the individuals. They are as real for the individual as the state itself therefore the state cannot be the monopolizer of authority.
ii) According to Laski, Society is natural but the statc is artificial. Therefore society is more important than the state society is winder than the state. State is the political wing of the society, so sovereignty should e veste in the society.
iii) Laski maintains that authority should correspond to the functions performed by any organization. Since various organization perform various functions for the individual therefore they should also be given proportionate authority.
iv) Laski has also supported pluralistic sovereignty on the basis of decentralization of power Laski has given the idea of self government in industry which means workers should also be given participation in the process of decision making.
v) Laki also talks about moral adequacy of the state. Therefore unlike Austin, Laski believes that state will be obeyed only if it power its adequact moral justification.


1) Laski’s theory of sovereignty like Bodin’s theory is logically is divisible but if sovereignty means supreme power, there can be only one sovereign in the society. Therefore sovereignty logically has to be indivisible.
2) In the absence of a supreme authority, these may be anarchy in the society if various organization are made supreme in their respective spheres, then dispute may arise among these organizations and in the absence of one supreme authority who will adjudicate.
3) The main attempt of Lask’s theory was to protect the liberty of individual from a strong state but according to critics Laski’s. Theory—Protects the individual from the grip of state but leaves him at the mercy of the organization. In other words, state monster is replaced by group monster.
4) According to Marxists sovereignty is always a class power. Therefore whether it is monistic of pluralistic is insignificant.


i) Laski has successfully highlighted the dangers of monistic sovereignty.
ii) Through logically Laski’s view are insufficient or fallacious but on practical grounds his views are more convincing than the view of Austin.
iii) Laski’s theory is important from the point of view of world peace.
It is a good theory from the point of view of reaction to previous theories rather than the construction of theory in itself therefore as a reaction Laski’s theory is very significant but as a constructive theory it has logical fallacies.

Both Laski and Austin represent two important viewpoints on sovereignty. Austin is very sound as far as logical theory of sovereignty is concerned but in contemporary world history theory has less practical significance Laski’s theory is logical not very sound but in practical sense today it is more relevant than Austin’s theory.

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