Social Justice and Its War on Violence
“Social Justice” is often considered a vague or indefinite term which lends itself to be interpreted many ways. Philosophers and theologians, both past and present, have given their interpretations of what social justice means and though they may argue over the “true” meaning of social justice, there is always the undertone of a certain fairness across humanity with regard to human rights. The arguments over what is fair and who determines fairness is often the dividing line amongst intellectuals attempting to define social justice. In the end, all interpretations agree that social injustice is often more likely than social justice and ...view middle of the document...
” This particular definition looks at three distinct aspects of social justice, distributive, procedural, and interactional justice (4). These aspects sometimes work in conjunction with one another or can stand alone, in the opinion of some writers.
The earliest philosophers, such as Aristotle and Socrates, spoke at length of justice and how governments and individuals were mutually responsible for maintaining standards, but the first known usage of “social justice” comes from Italy and a Catholic priest in the 1800’s (5). It was around this time that opinions of the poor and destitute shifted considerably. Many intellectuals of the day considered that maybe no one “deserved” to be poor, and that given the right opportunities could also achieve a standard of living that was more than their original lot in life. It must be mentioned that the original meaning of social justice is quite different from the contemporary understanding and political undertones it now has. The historical usage didn’t involve equitable redistribution of resources or the government at all. In fact, Pope Leo XIII supported this priest’s writings with his own testament that the new world order required a new justice for the people, but that equity was not the manner in achieving it. He, more or less, condemned the idea that equality was an ideal for society. His argument being that all men are created equal in the sight of God, but are gifted different talents and due to that are not equal socially. If all persons were completely equal, than society would not function. The Pope also sent a threat that socialism would be the end to civil society. Rather than a government institution enforcing justice, the Pope suggested the people must be responsible for themselves, their neighbors, and the children raised between them to act justly (5). This concept revolved more around the virtues necessary to be a just individual and society. These virtues, like compassion, integrity, responsibility, and selflessness, were combined to describe social justice as its own virtue. Compare this concept of social justice to that of contemporary philosopher John Rawls’ or theorist David Miller’s thoughts on justice and the differences will be stark.
John Rawls, considered by many to be one of the most important political philosophers of the twentieth century, is most known for his theory of “justice as fairness.” Under this concept Rawls purports two principles of justice; the “Equal Liberty principle” and the “Difference Principle”. The Equal Liberty Principle affirms that each person has an equal set of liberties that are the same as those liberties given to everyone. Rawls provides a list of what he considers are basic liberties which include the freedom of thought, political liberties, rights covered by law, and freedom of association.
The Difference Principle states that social and economic inequalities do exist but that they should be organized so that the greatest...