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Chapter 4: Social Justice
All cultures and traditions have grappled with questions of justice although they may have interpreted the concept in different ways.
For instance, in ancient Indian society, justice was associated with dharma and maintaining dharma or a just social order, was considered to be a primary duty of kings.
In China, Confucius, the famous philosopher argued that kings should maintain justice by
punishing wrongdoers and rewarding the virtuous.
In fourth century B.C. Athens (Greece), Plato discussed issues of justice in his book The Republic.
Through a long dialogue between Socrates and his young friends, Glaucon and Adeimantus, Plato examined why we should be concerned about justice.
The young people ask Socrates why we should be just.
They observe that people who were unjust seemed to be much better off than those who were just.
Those who twisted rules to serve their interests, avoided paying taxes and were willing to lie and be deceitful, were often more successful than those who were truthful and just.
If one were smart enough to avoid being caught then it would seem that being unjust is better than being just.
You may have heard people expressing similar sentiments even today. Socrates reminds these young people that if everyone were to be unjust, if everyone manipulated rules to suit their own interests, no one could be sure of benefiting from injustice.
Nobody would be secure and this was likely to harm all of them. Hence, it is in our own longterm interest to obey the laws and be just.
Socrates clarified that we need to understand clearly what justice means in order to figure out why it is important to be just.
He explained that justice does not only mean doing good to our friends and harm to our enemies, or pursuing our own interests.
Justice involves the well-being of all people. Just as a doctor is concerned with the well-being of his/her patients, similarly the just ruler or the just government must be concerned with the well-being of the people.
Ensuring the well-being of the people includes giving each person his due. The idea that justice involves giving each person his due continues to be an important part of our present day understanding of justice.
However, our understanding of what is due to a person has changed from the time of Plato.
Today, our understanding of what is just is closely linked to our understanding of what is due to each person as a human being. According to the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, human beings possess dignity.
If all persons are granted dignity then what is due to each of them is that they have the opportunity to develop their talents and pursue their chosen goals. Justice requires
that we give due and equal consideration to all individuals.
Although there might be broad agreement in modern society about the equal importance of all people, it is not a simple matter to decide how to give each person his/her due.
A number of different principles have been put forward in this regard. One of the principles is the
principle of treating equals equally.
It is considered that all individuals share certain characteristics as human beings. Therefore they deserve equal rights and equal treatment.
Some of the important rights which are granted in most liberal democracies today include civil rights such as the rights of life, liberty, and property, political rights like the right to vote, which enable people to participate in political processes, and certain social rights which would include the right to enjoy equal opportunities with other members of the society.
Apart from equal rights, the principle of treating equals equally would require that people should not be discriminated against on grounds of class, caste, race or gender.
They should be judged on the basis of their work and actions and not on the basis of the group to which they belong.
Therefore, if two persons from different castes perform the same kind of work, whether it be breaking stones or delivering Pizzas, they should receive the same kind of reward.
If a person gets one hundred rupees for some work and another receives only seventy five rupees for the same work because they belong to different castes, then it would be unfair or unjust.
Similarly, if a male teacher in a school gets a higher salary than a female teacher, then this difference would also be unjustifiable and wrong.
However, equal treatment is not the only principle of justice. There could be circumstances in which we might feel that treating everybody equally would be unjust.
How, for instance, would you react if it was decided in your school that all those who did an exam should get equal marks because they are all students of the same school and did the same exam?
Here you might think it would be more fair if students were awarded marks according to the quality of their answer papers and also, possibly, the degree of effort they had put in.
In other words, provided everybody starts from the same baseline of equal rights, justice in such cases would mean rewarding people in proportion to the scale and quality of their effort.
Most people would agree that although people should get the same reward for the same work, it would be fair and just to reward different kinds of work differently if we take into account factors such as the effort required, the skills required, the possible dangers involved in that work, and so on.
If we use these criteria we may find that certain kinds of workers in our society are not paid a wage which takes such factors sufficiently into account.
For instance, miners, skilled craftsmen, or people in sometimes dangerous but socially useful professions like policemen, may not always get a reward which is just if we compare it to what some others in society may be earning.
For justice in society, the principle of equal treatment needs to be balanced with the principle of proportionality.
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NCERT Solutions Class 11 Political Science Chapter 4 Social Justice
What does it mean to give each person his/her due? How has the meaning of “giving each his due” changed over time?
To give each person his/her due ensures the well-being of the people or equal importance should be given to all people, i.e. a doctor is concerned with the well being of his patients as well as the rules of government ensures the well being of citizens also. All these dues have been changed over times:
- The ideas of justice has been continued to be an integral part of the present day understanding and has changed from the time of Pluto.
- Today, the debates have also been taken place of what is due to each person as a human being.
- Human beings get the opportunities to develop one’s own potential as well as to pursue their chosen goals.
- Justice requires to give due and equal considerations to all individuals.
Briefly discuss the three principles of justice outlined in the chapter. Explain each with examples.
- Principle of treating equals equally refers to equal rights and equal treatment to individual who share certain characteristics as a human being, i.e. civil rights including right to life, liberty and property and political rights including right to vote, to enable rights to individuals to participate in political processes, etc.
- Principle not to treat any individual on the basis of discrimination on the grounds of caste, race, religion, colour, language, etc. the individuals should be judged on the basis of their capabilities they perform, i.e. made teachers get higher salary than female teachers, the persons performing the same tasks but getting different amount due to case is unjust.
- Equal treatment is not the only principle of justice because some circumstances may be appeared to be unjust if equal treatment is given, i.e. some marks to be awarded to all the students of a class if they have appeared in an examination in a uniform manner in place to award the marks on the basis of performance. This principle measuring people in proportion to the scale of equality of their efforts.
Does the principle of considering the special needs of people conflict with the principle of equal treatment for all?
- To promote social justice, principle of special needs of people are recognised. And peoples are required to be treated equally without any discrimination to reward proportionality.
- The principle of taking account of special needs of people does not contradict with the principle of equal treatment because the people who are not equal in certain important respect, may be treated differently to promote justice.
- People with special needs may deserve special assistance and particular respect but it is difficult to recognise the people who require special assistance.
- Some physical disabilities, age, lack of good education or health care facilities are considered of special treatment.
- In India, lack of good education, healthcare, amenities, etc. are generally combined with social discrimination on the basis of caste.
- Constitution of India, made the provisions for reservation in government jobs and quotas in educational institutions for the people who are deprived in the society.Hence, it can be concluded that it is necessary to recognize the people who need the special considerations and if it is mandate for justice, it cannot contradict with the principle of equal treatment for all.
NCERT Class 11 Political Science Textbook Chapter 4 Social Justice With Answer PDF Free Download