Sunday, April 29, 2007

Defining Social Justice

Far too often, social justice is referred to without definition. Without clarity, social justice is just a buzz word which can be attacked by the laissez faire right.

Popper defines criminal justice in The Open Society as “equality before the law”. That is, people are judged impartially, without privilege due to income or class status. Social justice, then, can be thought of as a counterpart to criminal justice concerning ones opportunity in life. In short, social justice is equality of opportunity.

Perfect equality of opportunity is far too often thought of as existing in the world’s laissez faire liberal democracies. This isn’t so.

Equality of opportunity, social justice, requires more than an absence of barriers based on ethnicity or gender in the workplace. It requires an equal start in life.

An equal start implies good education, healthcare, and motivation. It implies an equal shot at making it into university for both inheritors of wealth and the poor. Scholarships and government funds are a concrete proposal for achieving such equality of opportunity.

I don’t want anyone thinking I’m an absolutist on social justice. It does come in degrees, with a rigid caste-based aristocratic society being on one end (extreme socially injustice) and a society where everyone has an equal chance at another end (perfect social justice).

I don’t think its’ practicable to achieve perfect social justice. Nevertheless, I think social justice is something we should strive for, with piecemeal and cumulative efforts or reforms.

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