Justice, Rights, Unity:
Foundations of a Prosperous Civilization

By Farhad Sabetan

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #116
Bosch Bahá'í School: Santa Cruz, California, USA
May 30 – June 2, 2013
(see list of papers from #116)

    This presentation examines the relationships between Unity, Justice, and Rights from a Bahá'í perspective compared to the way these themes are conceptualized today. Through an exploratory approach, various assumptions about social formation are reviewed and critiqued. The predominantly accepted conception of society as either a mere sum total of individuals or as social division of labor based on tasks and functions are compared with viewing society as an organic system. The implication of each approach is examined on the modes of relationships formed among individuals forming the society. It is maintained that these underlying assumptions frame various notions of rights, democracy and justice (or lack thereof), which leads to expected and often undesirable and at times disastrous outcomes. The approach primarily relies on current findings in economic philosophy. In particular, theories promoted by Rawls, Sen, and Arrow are examined in contrast with a Bahá'í view on social justice. While these thinkers have made significant contributions to clarifying abstract notions such as justice and have provided operational instruments to define and articulate them, fundamental work remains on relaxing their assumptions on human nature and individualism, and the implications these assumptions have on the impossibility of aggregating individual preferences to reach an overarching social welfare rule. This presentation draws significant inspiration from the statement issued by the Bahá'í World Centre titled "Prosperity of Humankind" whose rich content requires deep examination of pivotal concept forming existing social realities.

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