Children : rights and childhood by David Archard

By David Archard

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Second, and more importantly, the view that there is a simple and obvious problem of child labour is a distortion of the truth. It is being increasingly recognised that there are a large variety of contexts in which children work, and these can have a different significance and set of consequences for the child. Crucially, children themselves can, and frequently do, view their work as valuable – by, for example, giving them self-respect or allowing them to make a meaningful contribution to their families’ resources.

Rawls’s intention was to defend a particular conception of justice as the correct one. A correct conception of justice is a morally defensible view of what justice requires. Moreover, for Rawls a conception of justice is a matter of political choice. Those principles – famously in his case the two principles of justice as fairness – which give expression to the correct conception of justice can and should be adopted as regulatory of the major institutions of our society. In the case of childhood, it may make sense to speak of one conception as the morally defensible view of what childhood is.

5 Taken literally the bold assertion is false. All societies – save the last – have children. Every society does not have to understand what it is to be a child in the same way as the others. Some, though likely very few if any, may lack any concept of children as a distinct subset of their members. But the absence of the concept does not mean the literal or physical nonexistence of those the concept picks out. Social constructionism in respect of childhood is thus in danger of overstating an important but essentially simple point, namely that we can and do understand childhood in different ways.

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