Social justice is the particular virtue whose object is the common good of all human society, rather than, as with individual justice, the individual good of any member or group. Social justice is one of the basic social virtues in the field of social morality.
Social justice guides humans as social beings in creating and perfecting organized human interactions, or institutions. Social justice is the principle for restoring moral balance and harmony in the social order.
Social justice imposes on each member of society a personal responsibility to work with others to design and continually perfect our institutions as tools for personal and social development. To the extent an institution violates the human dignity of any person or group, organized acts of social justice are required to correct the defects in that institution.
Social justice is the specific virtue ("habit of doing good") that relates to reforming our social structures ("institutions"). In other words, the act of social justice fixes what's wrong socially so that we can do good individually.
There are (so far as we know . . . ) seven "laws" and six characteristics of social justice.
Let's go over them one by one.
The first law is that the common good be kept inviolate. Care for the common good is our most important work. To endanger the common good for private gain is wrong. Safeguarding the common good is a top priority.
Two, cooperation, not conflict. The unity of human society cannot be founded on opposition. The common good is the object of social justice, not individual goods. Unbridled greed, competition and dictatorship are wrong.
Three, your first particular, individual good in your place in the common good. "Man is by nature a political (social) animal." (Aristotle) Individual rights are best protected in a social environment.
Four, each individual is directly responsible for the common good. Every individual is directly responsible for the "common good" — the social order. This is because the common good is built up in "hierarchical order." That is, the human person under a sovereign Creator is at the top of all institutions in the social order. Institutions — laws, customs, traditions, families, the State, organized religion — are "social props" created by humanity to assist in the perfection of each individual.
Five, higher institutions must never displace lower institutions. Not the highest level, not the lowest level, but the most appropriate level is "where the action is."
Six, freedom of association. Everyone and every group has the right and duty to organize. The solution to social problems must be social, that is, organized.
Seven, Specialization: All vital interests should be organized. Organizations should be deliberately designed to perfect the common good. This is a full-time job that never ends. Each person a specialist in his or her own life. The choice is between organization for or against the common good, not organization or no organization. Not a new way of life, but a new purpose in life.
The Six Characteristics of social justice:
The first characteristic of social justice is that social justice can only be carried out by members of groups. Individuals as individuals act . . . Individually! Individuals as members of groups act socially. To effect social change, individuals must act within their institutions as members of those institutions, not outsiders or mavericks. Finally, it takes time.
Two, tend to perfection, but do what is possible with others in an organized manner with what is available. Rather than not work at all for the common good or to work ineffectively, we must be willing to work with imperfect people and institutions.
Three, nothing is impossible. In social justice, there is no such thing as "helplessness." No problem is too big. No problem is too complex. By "nothing is impossible" we mean that anything designed by human beings — especially our institutions — can be redesigned by human beings, joined together in free association to effect changes in the common good. No field is too vast. Social justice gives us the tools to make any problem solvable.
Four, eternal vigilance. The work of social justice is never finished.
Institutions are always changing. When institutions stop filling our needs, or do so inadequately, we need to organize and correct those institutions — and this is happening all the time!
Five, effectiveness. The work of social justice is never finished. It must, therefore, be effective. We can't just have a vague "good intention" for the common good, and ignore the outcome. For something to be "socially just," we must ensure that we are making progress toward our goal of a good society. (And always remember that ends don't justify means!)
Six, you can't "take it or leave it alone." Social justice is a personal ("rigid") obligation on each individual. Everyone has the ability to work on the common good, therefore everyone has the obligation to work on the common good!
As Father Ferree reminds us,
". . . . The power that we have now to change any institution of life, the grip that we have on the social order as a whole, was always there but we did not know it and we did not know how to use it.
"Now we know.
"That is the difference."