From Ignatian Wiki
Social justice refers to the concept of a society in which justice is achieved in every aspect of society, rather than merely the administration of law. The term can be amorphous and refer to sometimes self-contradictory values of justice. It is generally thought of as a world which affords individuals and groups fair treatment and an impartial share of the benefits of society. (Different proponents of social justice have developed different interpretations of what constitutes fair treatment and a impartial share.) It can also refer to the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within a society.
Social justice is both a philosophical problem and an important issue in politics, religion and civil society. Most individuals wish to live in a just society, but different political ideologies have different conceptions of what a 'just society' actually is. The term "social justice" is often employed by the political left to describe a society with a greater degree of economic egalitarianism, which may be achieved through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or property redistribution. Right-wing politics also uses the term social justice, but generally believes that a just society is best achieved through the operation of a free market, which they believe provides equality of opportunity and promotes philanthropy and tcharity. Both right and left tend to agree on the importance of rule of law, human rights, and some form of a welfare safety net (though the left supports this latter element to a greater extent than the right).
Social Justice features as an apolitical philosophical concept (insofar as any philosophical analysis of politics can be free from bias) in much of John Rawls' writing. It is fundamental to Catholic social teaching, and is one of the Four Pillars of the Green Party upheld by the worldwide green parties. Some of the tenets of social justice, sometimes renamed civil justice, have been adopted by those who lie on the left or center-left of the political spectrum (e.g. Socialists, Social Democrats etc). Social justice is also a concept that some use to describe the movement towards a socially just world. In this context, social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and social equality.
Catholic social teaching
Catholic social teaching comprises those aspects of Catholic doctrine which relate to matters dealing with the collective aspect of humanity. A distinctive feature of Catholic social teaching is its concern for the poorest members of society. Two of the seven key areas of Catholic social teaching are pertinent to social justice:
- Life and dignity of the human person: The foundational principle of all Catholic Social Teaching is the sanctity of all human life and the inherent dignity of every human person. Human life must be valued infinitely above material possessions.
- Preferential option for the poor and vulnerable: Jesus taught that on the Day of Judgement God will ask what each person did to help the poor and needy: "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."<."The Catholic church teaches that through words, prayers and deeds one must show solidarity with, and compassion for, the poor. When instituting public policy the "preferential option for the poor" should always be kept at the forefront. The moral test of any society is "how it treats its most vulnerable members. The poor have the most urgent moral claim on the conscience of the nation. People are called to look at public policy decisions in terms of how they affect the poor."
Even before it was propounded in the Catholic social teachings, Social Justice appeared regularly in the history of the Catholic church:
- The term "social justice" was coined by the Jesuit Luigi Taparelli in the 1840s, based on the teachings of Thomas Aquinas. He wrote extensively in his journal Civiltà Cattolica, engaging both capitalist and socialisttheories from a natural lawviewpoint. His basic premise was that the rival economic theories, based on subjective Cartesianthinking, undermined the unity of society present in Thomistic metaphysics neither the liberal capitalists nor the communists concerned themselves with public moral philosophy.
Pope Leo XIII, who studied under Taparelli, published in 1891 the encyclical Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of the Working Classes), rejecting both socialism and capitalism, while defending labor unions and private property. He stated that society should be based on cooperation and not class conflict and competition. In this document, Leo set out the Catholic Church's response to the social instability and labor conflict that had arisen in the wake of industrialization and had led to the rise of socialism. The Pope taught that the role of the State is to promote social justice through the protection of rights, while the Church must speak out on social issues in order to teach correct social principles and ensure class harmony.
- The encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (On Reconstruction of the Social Order, literally "in the fortieth year") of 1931 by Pope Pius XI, encourages a living wage, subsidiarity, and teaches that social justice is a personal virtue as well as an attribute of the social order: society can be just only if individuals and institutions are just.
- Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Deus Caritas Est ("God is Love") of 2006teaches that justice is the defining concern of the state and the central concern of politics, and not of the church, which has charity as its central social concern. The laity has the specific responsibility of pursuing social justice in civil society. The church's active role in social justice should be to inform the debate, using reason and natural law, and also by providing moral and spiritual formation for those involved in politics.
- The official Catholic doctrine on social justice can be found in the book Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, published in 2004 and updated in 2006, by the Pontifical Council Iustitia et Pax.
Social Justice Movements
Social justice is also a concept that is used to describe the movement towards a socially just world. In this context, social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality, and can be defined as "the way in which human rights are manifested in the everyday lives of people at every level of society" .
There are a number of movements that are working to achieve social justice in society.  These movements are working towards the realization of a world where all members of a society, regardless of background, have basic human rights and an equal opportunity to access the benefits of their society.
- Access to Catholic Social Justice Teachings
- Anti-Capitalism and the Terrain of Social Justice by Sam Gindin
- American Social Justice Party (new U.S. political movement)
- Defining Social Justice by Michael Novak
- Centre for Social Justice (UK)
- Global Justice Movement net
- The Global Green Charter
- Facing History and Ourselves- Social Justice Organization
- Human Nature: Justice versus Power Noam Chomsky debates with Michel Foucault
- Social Justice in Context (pdf)
- Social Justice Wiki
- Social Justice Review
- Social Justice: Voices from the South
- Social Justice' Isn't Any Kind of Justice', Professor Antony Flew, London, Libertarian Alliance, 1993. A brief critique of the concept from a libertarian/free-market perspective
- A Dangerous Obsession by Thomas Sowell
- Institute for public policy research - Commission on Social Justice
- The Struggle to Subdue Luck, by Anthony de Jasay, Foundation for Economic Freedom, Jan. 8th, 2007
- The Foundation for Law, Justice and Society
- Green Change features news, art and culture for people who believe in social justice, grassroots democracy, non-violence and sustainability.
- Atkinson, A.B. (1982). Social Justice and Public Policy. Contents & chapter previews.
- Quigley, Carroll. (1961). The Evolution Of Civilizations: An Introduction to Historical Analysis. Second edition 1979. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund. ISBN 0-913966-56-8
- Rawls, John. (1971). A Theory of Justice, Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-88010-2
- Rawls, John. (1993). Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press (The John Dewey Essays in Philosophy, 4). ISBN 0-231-05248-0
- For an analysis of justice for non-ruling communities, see: Gad Barzilai, Communities and Law: Politics and Cultures of Legal Identities. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
- For perspectives from Christian-informed contexts, see Philomena Cullen, Bernard Hoose & Gerard Mannion (eds.), Catholic Social Justice: Theological and Practical Explorations, (T. &. T Clark/Continuum,2007)