Reproductive Success and Distributive Justice

The notion of social construction helps to define and explain social relations, realities, and the importance of knowledge sharing. Following Beaumie Kim (2001): “Social constructivism emphasizes the importance of culture and context in understanding what occurs in society and constructing knowledge based on this understanding.” The four tenets of social constructivism are knowledge, reality, learning, and inter-subjectivity of social meanings. They describe the origin of social realities very simply as a process by which individuals who repeatedly confront a task or situation relevant to their lives develop habitual ways of dealing with it. People first recognize the recurrent nature of a situation; then, they develop roles or functions for cooperating individuals to perform in connection with the task involved. (Searle, 1997). Through socialization, social constructions are internalized, and as experience is filtered and understood through meaningful symbols, the essence of individual identity is formed. Identity is built upon the foundation of family identity. “Intersubjectivity is a shared understanding among individuals whose interaction is based on common interests and assumptions” (Kim 2001). The construction is the same as the construction of all identities, for instance, young children learn to use verbal labels for themselves and their behavior, as well as for others and their behavior. These labels then come to have the same meaning for the learners as they do for the “old hands.” Social constructions thus embodied in the language shared within a group come to be embedded in the foundation of individual identities by means of language. Individuals observe and judge their own behavior and the behavior of others. In making these judgments, they use ‘the scripts’ provided by society. The meanings of behaviors and the judgments that individuals attach to them are part of these scripts. Following Warmoth (2000): “knowledge is not what individuals believe, but rather what social groups, or knowledge communities, believe” (Kukla,  2001, p. 45). Reality means that a child is born into a social world that has the experienced characteristic of being the sole reality

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Distributive justice determines the process of resource allocation in society in accordance with the rules of justice and rights of individuals. “Distributive justice” in its modern sense calls on the state to guarantee that property is distributed throughout society so that everyone is supplied with a certain level of material means” (Fleischacker, 2004). The four features of distributive justice are strict egalitarianism, justice as a virtue, the difference principle, and equality of resources. Identifying the kinds of goods available for distribution and the criteria which are appropriate to each means interpreting the culture of particular society questions of justice always arise within a bounded political community. Each community creates its own social goods, their significance depends upon the way they are conceived by the members of that particular society. The roster of such goods will differ from place to place (Searle, 1997). But this suggests simply that there is a widely held distributive principle that holds that medicine ought to be allocated according to need. And although this principle may be suggested by the nature of medicine itself — the fact that medical need is a necessary condition for being able to benefit from this good — it is not entailed by it. “Distributive justice” in its modern sense, calls on the state to guarantee that property is distributed throughout society so that everyone is supplied with a certain level of material means” (Fleischacker, 2004, p. 7). Distributive justice arises within a bounded community in which each person enjoys equal political and civil rights.

Reproductive success can be explained as “a passing of genes to the next generation” (Kukla, 2000, p. 48). The four main features of the concept are selfishness, competition, behavioral differences, and evolution. The growth of reproductive technology is closely tied to a society’s central tenets. The United States can be characterized by its cultural diversity, but it can also be characterized by cultural ideologies originating from its early roots, “Selection increases the frequency of adaptive traits, traits that give their bearers an advantage in the competition for productive success relative to other individuals” (Sociobiology, 2005). In the selection process, competition means “performing the pertinent tasks better than one’s competitors (Sociobiology, 2005). Individuals in a single population can differ from each other from a variety of causes. Reproductive success produces a population of defectors because it favors the higher-scoring strategy in every contest. The reproductive success acting on variation in a character (parameter of a design or strategy) can often be expected to fix the mean value near the functional optimum and to minimize the variation about that mean. It is important to note that reproductive success “is related in most cultures to differential wealth, social status and power within that culture” (Sociobiology, 2005).

In reproductive success, reproductive health becomes a fairly well-accepted concept at government policymaking levels; thus, understanding of the concept is believed to be almost nonexistent at the field-worker and service-provider levels, where reproductive health is still equated with family planning. It is believed, however, that the lack of comprehension about reproductive health care would not hamper implementation of the government’s reproductive health agenda since the essential services package proposed under the Health and Population Sector Programme (HPSP) would be implemented in such a way that 40 percent of its components included reproductive health care elements (Kukla, 2000).

The relations between distributive justice and social construction can be explained by a close link between social reality and social justice. There is an obvious sense in which social reality is constructed by people: people make the social world through our conceptualizations and interactions, attitudes, and acceptances. Collective acceptance is the key to the construction (including equal and fair distribution of resources) of many social entities and properties. Social institutions and arrangements are constructed and maintained, but they also change, sometimes in a piecemeal fashion, sometimes abruptly. In this case, the role of distributive justice is to establish resource allocation (Searle, 1997). As the most important, ‘social justice takes place within a changing social structure, within the evolving institutions of economics. The models and rules of justice are shaped by the institutions of economics. They are so shaped regardless of whether and how well they represent economic reality. The concept of knowledge has to include that of truth in order for the difference to be visible. It is only with this traditional and richer notion of knowledge that we can entertain the idea that different constellations of belief-shaping social conditions and distributive justice have different likelihoods of generating true beliefs (Distributive Justice, 2007). This is a “realist version” of the idea that distributive justice is socially constructed. It suggests that the institutions of economics have to be so designed as to maximize the likelihood that the economic models published in journals and textbooks help us attain maximum relevance in our beliefs about the way the economy works.

The relations between reproductive success and social construction are based on the idea of social interactions and functions. The idea is that it is an important feature of social reality that people seek to make sense of their social lives: people give accounts of the reasons and worth of their social behavior. In this sense, reproductive success is pre-interpreted by social actors themselves (Searle, 1997). Reproductive success becomes a portion of reality as well as the truth about that reality. Rather, it is by way of such pursuits that social construction takes place, not only of knowledge but of reality as well. Realists may resist this reasoning by arguing that while knowledge claims are socially constructed, and it is an empirical question to determine the precise ways in which they are constructed, the truth of those claims and the reality that those claims about do not coincide (Searle, 199; Sociobiology, 2005).

The relationships between reproductive success and distributive justice are based on a right of a citizen to access resources and the competitive nature of reproduction. For instance, in reproductive rights, as in other aspects of social policy, feminists have been active participants in the policy processes. Following “duties of parents to children, of beneficiaries to benefactors, of friends and neighbors to one another, and of everyone to people “of merit.” (Fleischacker, 2004, p. 27). In addition to their social movement roles of outside interveners and trenchant public critics of the inquiry processes and recommendations, feminists have been insiders in non-government organizations with interests in procreation, members of government departments, elected officials, and members of committees of inquiry. In some cases, outside critics became members of inquiries, being formally required to see the issues from another perspective.

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  1. Searle, G. (1997). The Construction of Social Reality. Free Press.
  2. Fleischacker, S. (2004). A Short History of Distributive Justice. Web.
  3. Kim, B. (2001). Social Constructivism.
  4. Kukla, A. (2001). Social Constructivism and the Philosophy of Science. Routledge.
  5. Sociobiology. (2005). Web.
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