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The term “social justice” has garnered a large amount of controversy in recent years. Many iterations and competing visions of what a world with social justice might look like. Supporters of social justice are likely to expand on the existing tenants of social justice to be more inclusive of all groups in the struggle for equality and fairness. Likewise, opponents of social justice, mostly from the right, seek to carve out their own definitions of the term, often conflating ideologies or offering naked mistruths.

In actuality, the basic ideology of social justice is grounded in a set of foundational pillars that guide the broader movement and inform the strategy that we should use to advance human fellowship.

Equality

The notion of equality for all is the best-understood and arguably the most central tenant of social justice. The essence of equality as an achievable standard includes equal treatment under the law, equitable distribution of resources, democratic decision-making, and cooperation.

Equality seeks to rebalance the “private” vs. “public” interest debate, emphasizing policy that seeks to redress the massive tilt in favor of private financial and social interests that come at a cost to everyone else.

Equity

If the pandemic of 2020 has taught a single lesson, it may be just how unbalanced the system is and the extent to which it benefits a tiny minority of the population.

The wealthiest billionaires in the US have seen their collective wealth skyrocket by hundreds of billions while average workers struggle to afford basic necessities such as food or shelter.

Social justice informs us that the distribution of resources on a basis defined by fairness and equity is the only way to resolve the deep-seated class issues that have plagued the United States since its inception.

Reciprocity

The concept of reciprocity, succinctly defined by “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” is a necessary element of any socialist theory that involves the collective work of community members for everyone’s individual benefit. The individual must be both a contributor and a receiver of the benefits of labor for a system to function.

Although this is a brief overview of the pillars of social justice, this represents the core of the ideology from which everything “social justice” originates.