In John Rawls’s political philosophy, “social primary goods” are resources that he believes should be distributed equally among members of society. Rawls argues that certain goods, such as income, wealth, and education, are necessary for individuals to pursue their own goals and lead fulfilling lives. By ensuring that everyone has access to these resources, Rawls believes that society can achieve greater equality and justice.

The Role of Social Primary Goods in Rawls’s Theory

Rawls’s theory of justice is based on the idea of the “original position,” a hypothetical scenario in which individuals must decide on a set of principles to govern society without knowing their own social status or personal preferences. In this scenario, Rawls argues that individuals would choose two principles: the first principle guarantees equal basic liberties for all members of society, while the second principle requires social and economic inequalities to be arranged so that they benefit the least advantaged.

To ensure that the second principle is met, Rawls argues that society must distribute social primary goods equally among its members. This includes not only material resources like income and wealth but also opportunities for education and training.

Examples of Social Primary Goods

Some examples of social primary goods include:

The Importance of Social Primary Goods

Rawls argues that social primary goods are important because they allow individuals to pursue their own goals and lead fulfilling lives. Without access to these resources, individuals may be unable to contribute fully to society or achieve their full potential.

Moreover, Rawls believes that distributing social primary goods equally helps to reduce inequality and promote greater social justice. By ensuring that everyone has access to these resources, society can work towards greater equality of opportunity and a more just distribution of wealth and resources.

Critiques of Rawls’s Theory

While Rawls’s theory has been influential in political philosophy, it has also faced criticism from some scholars. Some argue that his focus on social primary goods is too narrow and fails to account for other important aspects of social justice, such as cultural recognition and identity-based oppression.

Others criticize Rawls’s theory for being too abstract and disconnected from real-world politics. Critics argue that his emphasis on hypothetical scenarios like the “original position” fails to account for the messy realities of social conflict and power dynamics.


Despite these critiques, Rawls’s theory remains an important contribution to the field of political philosophy. By emphasizing the importance of social primary goods and advocating for greater equality of opportunity, he offers a compelling vision for how society can work towards greater justice and equality.