Exploring Theories & Movements of Social Justice

Towards a Fairer Society: Exploring the Theories, Issues and Movements of Social Justice

Social justice is the concept of fairness and equity in the distribution of resources and opportunities in society. It seeks to address the unequal distribution of power, wealth, and resources that exists among different groups of people based on their race, gender, social class, religion, and other factors. The goal of social justice is to create a society that is just and equitable for all individuals.

Definition of social justice

Social justice can be defined as a set of principles aimed at promoting equality, fairness, and equity in the distribution of resources and opportunities in society. This includes access to education, healthcare, housing, employment opportunities, political representation, and other important aspects of life.

Social justice seeks to address inequalities that exist between different groups based on their race or ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation or preference for example.

Importance of social justice in society

Social justice is important because it ensures that every individual has access to equal opportunities and resources regardless of their background or circumstances. When social injustice exists in a society it results in marginalization which can lead to poverty and inequality among different groups.

Social justice also promotes diversity by recognizing each person’s unique perspectives thereby creating an inclusive community where everyone feels valued.

Historical background of social justice

The concept of social justice dates back centuries with many influential figures such as Aristotle writing about it around 350 BC. The idea really took off during the Enlightenment period where philosophers such as John Locke recognised the importance of human rights as well as individual freedoms.

Today there are multiple movements across various countries helping promote equality including Black Lives Matter (USA), Me Too (USA) along with pressure group Justice For Grenfell (UK).

Overall a fairer society can be achieved through implementing equal opportunity policies within government to reduce discrimination in the workforce and provide better care for those less able to access it. Social justice is an ever-changing concept that requires constant thought, review and analysis to ensure fairness for all people.

Theoretical Frameworks of Social Justice

Rawlsian Theory: Principles of Justice and the Original Position

One of the most influential theoretical frameworks for social justice is John Rawls’ theory of justice. The Rawlsian approach argues that social justice should focus on ensuring equal opportunities and benefits for all members of a society.

Rawls proposed two principles of justice: the first principle guarantees equal basic liberties, while the second principle concerns social and economic inequalities.

Rawls believes that these principles can be reached through a hypothetical agreement in the original position, where individuals come together to establish a just society without knowing their own personal characteristics.

The original position imagines individuals behind a veil of ignorance, meaning they do not know their race, gender, or any other characteristic that would give them an advantage or disadvantage in society.

From this position, individuals will make rational choices about what kind of social arrangements will best serve their interests without being biased by their own interests or identity. The goal is to establish a fair distribution of resources and opportunities such that everyone has an equal chance to achieve success.

Sen’s Capability Approach: Human Capabilities and Functionings

Another influential framework for social justice is Amartya Sen’s capability approach. This approach emphasizes human capabilities and functionings – the things people are able to do and achieve – as important factors in determining whether society is just or not. Sen argues that social justice should focus on creating conditions where individuals have the freedom to choose how they want to live their lives.

According to Sen, inequalities in capabilities may arise from differences in access to resources such as education or healthcare, as well as from discrimination based on factors like race or gender.

To promote social justice, institutions must work towards removing these barriers so that all individuals can have equal access to resources and opportunities.

The Role of Institutions in Promoting Social Justice

Both Rawls’ and Sen’s approaches emphasize the role of institutions in promoting social justice. Rawls argues that institutions should be designed to ensure that individuals have equal opportunities to succeed, while Sen emphasizes the need to remove institutional barriers that prevent individuals from achieving their full potential. Institutions play a crucial role in shaping the distribution of resources and opportunities within a society.

For example, government policies can promote or hinder economic growth, which affects everyone’s standard of living. Institutions also have the power to create and enforce laws that protect individuals from discrimination based on race, gender or other factors.

However, institutions are not always neutral and can uphold existing inequalities if they are designed to benefit certain groups at the expense of others. To promote social justice, institutions must be designed and operated in a way that ensures equal access to resources and opportunities for all members of society.

Social Justice Issues

Social justice is a complex concept that encompasses a wide range of issues affecting various aspects of society. Some of the most pressing social justice issues include economic inequality, racial injustice, and gender inequality.

These issues have long-lasting impacts on individuals, families, and communities as they limit opportunities for certain groups while privileging others.

Economic Inequality

Economic inequality remains one of the most significant social justice issues in modern society. Income and wealth distribution are unevenly distributed across population groups, with some individuals earning millions every year while others struggle to make ends meet.

This inequality extends to access to education and healthcare as those with less financial resources often have limited access to quality education or health care services. The impact of economic inequality can be seen in many ways.

For example, people living in poverty often lack access to basic necessities such as nutritious food or safe housing. They also face greater challenges in finding employment opportunities that match their skills or qualifications due to systemic discrimination based on socioeconomic status.

Racial Injustice

Racial injustice is another critical social justice issue that has plagued society for centuries. Systemic racism and discrimination continue to affect people of color in various ways, including police brutality and mass incarceration.

One example is the disproportionate number of Black Americans incarcerated compared to whites- despite similar crime rates between both races. The criminalization of Blackness creates a unique form of oppression that limits opportunities for members within this community through reduced voting rights restrictions post prison release leading to difficulties reintegrating into society upon sentence completion.

Gender Inequality

Gender inequality is yet another critical social justice issue affecting individuals globally. The wage gap between men and women remains prevalent in many industries- leading to women earning less than their male colleagues even when performing similar jobs or tasks. Sexual harassment at workplaces remains a widespread problem globally – one in five women experience sexual harassment at work.

This issue extends to the public sphere with women facing harassment while commuting, at social gatherings or in public spaces. Gender inequality also affects other areas of life, including healthcare access and political representation.

Women face greater challenges accessing quality healthcare and are underrepresented in positions of power across various sectors. Social justice issues are complex and multifaceted.

They require coordinated efforts from governments, organizations, and individuals working together to address them adequately. Understanding these issues is the first step towards creating a more just society for everyone.

Social Justice Movements

Civil Rights Movement

The civil rights movement was a historic social justice movement in the United States that aimed to end racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans. The movement was led by prominent figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X. They used various tactics, including peaceful protests, boycotts, and civil disobedience, to achieve their goals.

The leadership of the civil rights movement played a crucial role in its success. Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful speeches and nonviolent philosophy inspired millions of people around the world.

Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which lasted for over a year and ultimately led to the desegregation of public transportation in Alabama. The impact of the civil rights movement is still felt today.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 were both passed as a result of the movement’s activism. These Acts helped to end legal segregation and ensure equal voting rights for all citizens regardless of their race.

Black Lives Matter Movement

The Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM) is a modern social justice movement that aims to end police brutality against Black people and promote racial equality in America. It was founded in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 but gained national attention after the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

The BLM movement’s goals include ending police violence against Black people, defunding police departments across America, promoting community-based alternatives to policing, reparations for slavery and systemic racism throughout American history.

To achieve these goals BLM uses methods such as peaceful protests marches & rallies among other things. Their methods also include disrupting public events with chants & slogans; occupying public spaces; promoting educational workshops on systemic racism and police brutality.

The impact of the BLM movement has been significant in drawing attention to issues of systemic racism and inequality. It has led to increased awareness and action on these issues among individuals, organizations, and policymakers.

Feminist Movement

The feminist movement is a social justice movement that aims to promote gender equality between men and women. The movement has its roots in the late 19th century but gained significant momentum during the 1960s and 1970s. The feminist movement aims to challenge traditional gender roles, promote reproductive rights, demand equal pay for women, among other goals.

Leadership is an essential aspect of the feminist movement. Early pioneers such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton paved the way for later generations of feminists who built upon their work.

Modern-day feminist leaders include figures such as Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, bell hooks & many others who continue fighting for women’s rights around the world. The impact of feminism on society cannot be overstated.

Women today enjoy greater access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities than ever before due to this movement’s activism. While challenges persist regarding sexism within certain industries like politics or entertainment industry overall feminism has made significant progress towards gender equality.


Social justice movements have played a crucial role in shaping America’s history by promoting equality across various areas of human life: race relations; economic opportunities; political power; health care access; educational advancement etc.

These movements have used different strategies ranging from peaceful protests & rallies to lawsuits seeking legal remedies for structural discrimination against marginalized groups.

Despite some setbacks or opposition from those who resist change widespread support for social justice movements continues growing worldwide among people from all walks of life who stand together against any form of oppression & inequality wherever it presents itself today so we can make more strides towards creating a fairer society where everyone can live with dignity regardless of their background or identity.