The emergence of social justice in the West
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The notion of justice implies a particular mode of social relationships between people or groups of people who ‘matter’ to each other. Referring to criteria of justice means that values determine people’s belonging to a social entity and not their mere physiologically or habitually defined similarities (in the form of genetically or culturally defined criteria) and these values need to be treated as an important normative dimension of the sets of relationships that make up a social unit. This perspective gives questions of justice altogether an intrinsic social dimension, although of course the treatment of the issue of social justice needs to focus more specifically on the quality of life resulting from relationships oriented towards justice. However, this social dimension of the notion of justice can be expressed in two fundamentally different ways. One starts from a general structural clarification of the principles of justice as they affect all spheres of society to which the law and more generally attitudes and actions related to principles of justice apply, such as civil contracts, citizenship, politics and economics. It then moves on to consider particular sets of relationships outside or on the fringes of those spheres to which principles of justice have to be extended, such as children, people with disabilities or immigrants to determine how and to what extent their situation and their actions should be treated procedurally according to principles of justice and whether or how they should therefore ‘matter’ in relation to the social reference unit regardless of their individual characteristics. The principles that determine justice from this perspective are enshrined in institutions or rather in the hypothetical or transcendental notion of what constitutes a perfectly just society from the particular point of view. Sen (2009) calls this approach ‘transcendental institutionalism’. The other takes the reference to ‘the social’ as constitutive for actions which demonstrate, enact and promote principles of justice in full consideration of the particular differences that characterize individuals and groups and therefore distinguish them from one another. In the case of the discourse of recognition, this happens by precisely giving those differences equal recognition. Here it is important that people interact with each other in such a way that the ‘sense of justice’ enhances social integration according to particular normative criteria.