What is inequality is a question which has always been decided by the society. A lion sleeps for 18 hours and is termed the king of the jungle, whereas a donkey works for 20 hours and we all know what donkey is synonymous to. So, this group called society plays a very important role. This is one thing which has completely remained unchanged since ancient times. Plato, first person to officially begin talking about the significance of justice has built a very interesting theory around the concept. He did a simple three-fold division of society on the basis of three characteristics: appetite, courage and wisdom. He then assigned people to these three different categories. So, the person high on appetite became the producing class who was to produce for the state. The one high on courage became the warrior class who was to look after security of the state and lastly the one high on wisdom became the philosopher king who was to rule over the state. Breaking down of this order, Plato believed would lead to injustice. Basically what he meant was that if every person carries out their assigned duty, which is according to her/his capabilities, then justice will be maintained in the society. It is not as easy as it sounds. Now there is one of the tenets of modern theory of justice, which is called the procedural theory. In simple terms, it does not distinguish between production and distribution. One of the proponents of this theory is Robert Nozick. He believes that state should be a minimal one and all the emphasis should be put on the individual unlike Plato. In his book, anarchy state and utopia he argues that individual property holdings are just if they are a consequence of fair acquisition or even transfer. There is no specific category for Nozick’s individual.
But Plato definitely has a category for this individual. This category is the producing class who has the right to keep property. However, Plato does not allow the warrior class and philosopher king to keep the property. Promoting the capitalist ideology further, Nozick says that procedural theory is based on a close association with the market economy. Any attempt to tamper with the market, would be detrimental. Plato replaced the market in above statement with the state. With changing times Plato’s state has become the market. John Rawls in ‘a theory of justice’ tries to lessen the difference between the modern concepts of procedural and distributive theories of justice. While the former propagated strongly by Nozick, Hayek and Friedman believes that it is necessary to determine a just procedure for allocation of social advantages, the latter believes that the distribution of social advantages in itself should be just. The proponents of latter are Amartya Sen, Martha Nobaussaum and others. Rawls believes that justice should definitely be a benefit to the least advantaged section of society. Plato does not believe so. He definitely allows the third class of society to keep property and family. But it is questionable whether this is an advantage.
Plato’s whole sense of justice is based on two ideas: an ideal education system and communism of property and family. His education system is basically to identify philosopher king. It is completely regulated by the state. For him, education is important for realization of justice. It is also a process to assign individuals to their respective classes. Education to modern theorists is not indispensable in their respective theories. Probably because with so much advancement and progress, they consider it for given that education is necessary. Plato gives the concept of communism of property and family. He says that these two institutions give rise to various desires in a person. He identifies desire as the root cause of the larger evil. It leads to corruption and ignorance of state which Plato completely despises. Nozick however justifies owning of property with his excessive focus on individualism. Rawls comes to his rescue and gives a combination of both procedural and distributive theories stating that least advantaged should always be taken care of. In fact desire is at the very root of modern theory. All the modern thinkers on justice want to find out how property which is a narrow term for resources should be judiciously distributed. Plato sound too ideal in his concept. Somewhere, he ignores the basic human nature.
After a comparative study on the afore-mentioned facts, it is clear that the concept of justice is an area of extensive discussion and controversy. Sometimes humans have changed it and sometimes state has manipulated according to its convenience. Plato’s focus on education sounds very relevant in the contemporary world. But his concept is applicable only on the philosopher king who is endowed with all the rights. Modern day’s government has changed from monarchy to democracy where usually there is separation of power between executive, legislature and judiciary. Plato does not speak much on punishment. The modern theory which has restorative and retributive concepts on justice provides extensive details of how a person who commits crime is to be punished. Punishment is obligatory to the concept. Justice provides a base on which other concepts like liberty, equality and others nurture. It is a dynamic, heterogeneous and multi-dimensional concept. The system of justice should be constantly analyzed and interpreted to maintain its significance and authenticity. With changing times, the concept has evolved, expanded and enriched itself. And in its ever-changing form, lies its beauty.