Social justice entails the capability of individuals to achieve their dreams and aspirations in society without hindrance from the government. Justice has been used traditionally to refer to the responsibility of individuals to fulfill their duties and roles, as well as receive protection of the state.
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When used in social terms, it means setting up institutions that would enable individuals to realize their potentials, meaning allowing each person an opportunity to contribute positively to the community. In other others, social justice means facilitating human development in the sense that the government moves in to establish educational institutions, healthcare systems, equality policies, social security, and labor rights.
Political philosophers, including John Rawls, noted that people possessed certain rights that could not be taken away from them, meaning the government should have never tried to oppress any part of society with claims of facilitating the public good or satisfying the greatest number, as suggested by Mill and Bentham.
The social justice proposition is consistent with the ideas of Kant on deontological ethics whereby society is viewed as a fair system of cooperation that enables each generation to realize its potential (Clayton 2004, p. 78).
In this regard, human societies have certain forms of basic structures, which are social, economic, and political in nature and can be either formal or informal. In this article, it is argued that the concept of social justice represents entanglements between policy arenas of social welfare and crime control.
Effectiveness of Social Justice Policy
Societies are always concerned with the issue of if the collective action is legitimate since any policy generated under the social justice policy has to be accepted by the majority, as well as serve the interests of entire members of society. In many cases, the policies generated to combat crime are repressive in the sense that they target a certain group leading to discrimination that is based on gender, race, and ethnicity.
It is usually a daunting task to ask each citizen to participate in the process of policy formulation, especially when coercive force is involved. In this regard, it is always assumed that members of society are reasonable to the extent of accepting the policy the way it is after the formulation process is through. Rawls established two stages that any citizen is expected to go through before allowing the policy to be implemented.
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First, individuals should agree to be represented by a few members of society in the policy formulation processes. Again, the representative should understand that he or she is a public trustee, meaning misuse of power is not allowed at all.
Second, the leader or the policymaker has to accept that enforcing the policy should be undertaken in a certain context to make it legitimate (Sanders 2009, p. 38). The represented should follow the law without questioning and aware that the public trustee is a competent individual with the capacity to formulate the law.
The idea of representation applies at all the levels meaning it could be employed at the communal level, as well as at the state echelon. The representatives should always understand they are public trustees who are charged with the role of formulating effective policies that accomplish the interests of the majority.
Whenever a social policy is drafted, the main aim is always to improve the welfare of the locals and control conditions that would interfere with goal achievement, such as crime. However, a debate is ongoing concerning the validity of the social justice policies since they are perceived to fulfill the wishes of the rich and the mighty in society instead of helping the poor realize their objectives.
In this regard, social justice is under tight scrutiny in society, especially if the government comes up with radical measures to control crime, claiming that it is advocating for social justice by apprehending criminals. A number of academicians disagree with the claim that an objective standard of social justice exists.
For moral relativists, social justice is non-existent because the poor are always in the receiving end, while the rich will definitely carry the day. Non-cognitive scholars and moral skeptics are also opposed to the idea of social justice mainly because of the standards used in measuring it (Clayton 2004, 90).
Cynics, including the greatest political philosopher, Machiavelli, are of the view that social justice is synonymous with status quo meaning it is one of the instruments used to extend oppression and domination in society.
Many proponents and opponents of social justice underscore the fact that social welfare should be the ultimate goal of any social policy since human beings have certain innate rights and freedoms that cannot be denied. However, differences emerge when it comes to the formulation and implementation of the social policies since they end up criminalizing the poor and idolizing the rich.
Each person in society deserves the respect of the others, as suggested by the social justice propositions. Unfortunately, this has never been the case because the underprivileged have usually been subjugated, and their culture has never been valued.
In developed societies, such as those in the US and Europe, the minorities, which are mainly comprised of Afro-Americans and Asians, are urged to join the mainstream culture and ensure that they adopt the modern ways of doing things even though it might be against their wish. For some analysts, the idea of social justice is meaningless, spiritual in nature, ideological, and paradoxical since it has never facilitated equality in society.
Instead, it grants the rich opportunities to grow richer while the poor would be growing poorer. In this case, achieving social justice is impracticable and might end up destroying the individual liberties. For instance, if equality is to be achieved, the rich should surrender part of their hard-earned wealth to the poor who have never been interested in working hard to achieve the desired objectives.
The Australian school of economics suggested that nothing socially unjust could be verified since there is no test to measure it meaning admitting that one has been engaged in injustice is rare in human societies. Additionally, the market does not provide the rules for individual conduct. The scholars from the college noted that social justice does not fit into the category of error as it falls under the class of gibberish just as the notion of “ethical stone”.
Scholars from the University of Wales engaged in another research to determine the validity of social justice in society. Their findings were consistent with those of the Australian school of economics since they concluded that the notion of rights is just a simple term of privilege, which implies a claim of a desirable good irrespective of whether it is trifling, conceptual, touchable, current, or antique (Alexander 2008, p. 114).
In other words, it represents a declaration of wish, as well as an affirmation of intention to utilize the language of rights to obtain the said wish. Many programs touching on social justice entail the provision of social services to the poor and the underprivileged in society, who are funded through the resources obtained from the hard-working individuals.
This would mean that social justice is a term used to justify the usage of force in acquiring desires. Individuals are expected to achieve their desired interests through rational thinking, engaging in desired actions, genuine production, and liberal exchange instead of forcing others to fund programs against their wish.
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If indeed, social justice means something different from justice, then it should be viewed as an injustice because it does not obey the rules of justice whereby each person is allowed to exercise his or her freedoms uninterrupted.
Taxpayer’s money is often on social welfare programs with the aim of giving minimal support to those who are unable to provide the basic needs for themselves, such as food and healthcare. In this case, each group has to be included in the program, which has never been the case even in developed countries.
The governmental organs are reluctant to approve programs that would support individuals or groups that do not belong to their races or ethnicities. Additionally, the government does not follow up to ensure that the budgetary allocations on social welfare are spent wisely. However, society is quick to support the social welfare policies that aim to deal with all criminal activities.
It surprises many when the parliament approves such policies because it affects the business interests of parliamentarians and their associates. It is observed that the government is made up of a committee of the ruling class, which has the main aim of ensuring that the poor are never empowered, afraid that they might gain consciousness, and this would be a threat to the interests of the rich.
It is common for the state to wrap up innocent individuals trying to make their ends meet with claims that they are criminals. In developed countries, the groups known to provide labor would be given sufficient healthcare to ensure they remain fit.
Additionally, the state would provide basic needs, such as food and clothing, but the main aim is not to provide equal opportunities instead to make them survive. If the government is keen on uplifting the standards of the poor and the less fortunate, the best way would be empowering them financially by issuing loans and training programs, as this would make them self-sufficient.
The idea of social justice is misplaced in the sense that it does not benefit the poor, but instead, it serves the interests of the rich. The owners of the means of production are always concerned with the status of the poor because any change may affect them economically.
The state often comes up with healthcare programs and other plans to ensure the population remains productive. This only helps the rich because they will be relying on a healthy population to manufacture quality products.
The poor cannot realize their objectives under such an arrangement, as any progress may be termed illegal, the culprits will be subjected to the law leading to incarceration. In other words, the social welfare programs tend to support the rich, while at the same time depriving the poor of an opportunity to ascend to the higher status.
List of References
Alexander, J M 2008, Capabilities and social justice: The political philosophy of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, Ashgate Publication, Aldershot.
Clayton, M 2004, Social justice, Blackwell, Malden.
Sanders, LB 2009, Social justice: How you can make a difference, Capstone Press, Mankato.