- "It is in justice that the ordering of society is centered." ~ Aristotle
I googled the term and found an interesting article that attempts to define it, although the author failed to establish, at least in my mind, a satisfactory definition.
Perhaps if I break it down to raw definitions we can better understand what social justice means.
First, the word "social" as defined by Webster's dictionary, offers twelve definitions of the word as an adjective, of which only the first nine have pertinent relevance to the topic of social justice:
1. pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations: a social club.
2. seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly; sociable; gregarious.
3. of, pertaining to, connected with, or suited to polite or fashionable society: a social event.
4. living or disposed to live in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation: People are social beings.
5. of or pertaining to human society, esp. as a body divided into classes according to status: social rank.
6. involved in many social activities: We're so busy working, we have to be a little less social now.
7. of or pertaining to the life, welfare, and relations of human beings in a community: social problems.
8 noting or pertaining to activities designed to remedy or alleviate certain unfavorable conditions of life in a community, esp. among the poor.
9. pertaining to or advocating socialism.
When placed in conjunction with the word, "justice" it would seem to me to apply only to numbers 4,5,7,8, and 9.
The dictionary has 12 definitions of the word "justice", but only the first 5 to 7 would seem to apply to the term "social justice". For purposes of brevity, I will focus on the first 5:
1. the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.So, to encapsulate the term, it would possibly be fair to say "Social Justice" is defined thus:
2. rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.
3. the moral principle determining just conduct.
4. conformity to this principle, as manifested in conduct; just conduct, dealing, or treatment.
5. the administering of deserved punishment or reward.
Fair and equitable treatment to all members of a society by all other members of that society, according to previously agreed upon moral principles, resulting in administered deserved punishment or reward.
Now that we've defined it, the problem is, how to achieve social justice in our country, assuming our country is the society of which we speak.
The way I see it, the only true equitable fair treatment for all depends on the acceptance of moral guidelines of personal responsibility.
For instance, should we grant fair and equitable treatment to those who would not treat others fairly and equitably?
Should the irresponsible be granted fair and equitable treatment by the responsible, and if so, just how much should he be given before he is deemed no longer deserving of the rewards?
How do we distribute equal treatment when members of society contribute on different societal levels?
And, who is qualified to decide what is fair and equitable to those members of society who return either too little or too much fair treatment to the society?
Is this treatment incumbent on the governing body or on society itself to administrate?
I think social justice can not be administered by legislation. If there can be any semblance of social justice at all, it must be left up to the individual members of society to decide how he should treat the other members of society, in accordance with his own sense of morality.
Naturally, and inevitably, since each person has different concepts of what is just and moral, this would result in conflict between members of the society.
And that leads us back to inequality.
No matter how we define and/or administer it, social justice can never be either social or just.
And, in my opinion, it should never be attempted to be administered by the government.
That way leads inevitably to totalitarianism.