THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Social Justice, III: The Laws of Social Justice

Last week we posted some comments from a correspondent regarding the effectiveness of the Just Third Way movement in getting things in place and changing the system. We pointed out what we thought was the wrong way to go about these things, so this week we'd like to lay out the right way to bring about revolutionary social change.

Given the adherence of CESJ to the principles of both economic and social justice, our tactical and strategic initiatives must not only be directed to the end of establishing and maintaining an economically just society, but be in conformity with what Father Ferree called the "laws and characteristics of social justice." Absent that, we are no better than anyone else who yields to the temptation to declare that (for us at least, because our goals are right, just, etc.) the end justifies the means.

CESJ cannot, therefore, abandon any of its principles, either of economic or social justice, without, like the hero in a Greek tragedy or today's global economy, bringing about its own destruction by the means chosen to preserve it.

Ideally, every member of CESJ should have read and internalized not only
The Capitalist Manifesto and The New Capitalists, but Father Ferree's Introduction to Social Justice. We have summarized the basic principles here — but this is not a substitute for reading Father Ferree's pamphlet:


Like any other human activity, social justice must operate within certain parameters, or it ceases to be social justice. It may be something very good, or it may even be something bad, but if it does not adhere to the "laws" of social justice or conform to its characteristics, it is not social justice.

I. That the Common Good Be Kept Inviolate

In all private dealings, in all exercise of individual justice, the common good must be a primary object of solicitude. To attack or to endanger the common good in order to attain some private end, no matter how good or how necessary this latter may be in its own order, is social injustice and is wrong.

II. Cooperation, Not Conflict

Given the uniqueness of each human person, the particular good of each individual is different. Any particular good that is falsely made into an ultimate principle must necessarily be in conflict with every other particular good. Only cooperation, organization for the common good, can make a real society. This does not mean overriding or ignoring individual goods, but integrating them into the whole effort.

III. One's First Particular Good is One's Own Place in the Common Good

The first particular good of every individual or group is that that individual or group find its proper place in the common good. As Father Ferree put it, "It must be admitted that this is not the way most of us think at the present time, but that is because we have been badly educated. It must be admitted also that to carry out such a principle in practice looks like too big a job for human nature as we know it; but that is because we are individualists and have missed the point. Of course it is too big a job if each one of us and each of our groups is individually and separately responsible for the welfare of the human race as a whole. But the point is that the human race as a whole is social." (We think "political" in the Aristotelian sense is a better word here, but let's not quibble.)

IV. Each Directly Responsible

Every individual, regardless of his age or occupation or state of life, is directly responsible for the common good, because the common good is built up in a hierarchical order. That is, every great human institution consists of subordinate institutions, which themselves consist of subordinate institutions, on down to the individuals who compose the lowest and most fleeting of human institutions.

Since every one of these institutions is directly responsible for the general welfare of the one above it, it follows that every individual is directly responsible for the lower institutions which immediately surround his life, and indirectly responsible for the general welfare of his whole country and the whole world. This is the principle of subsidiarity.

V. Higher Institutions Must Never Displace Lower Ones

No institution in the vast hierarchy that we have seen can take over the particular actions of an institution or person below it. This, too, comes under the principle of subsidiarity, although this is the aspect most often ignored.

VI. Freedom of Association/Contract (Liberty)

If every natural group of individuals has a right to its own common good and a duty towards the next highest common good, it is evident that such a group has the right to organize itself formally in view of the common good. This is yet another aspect of the principle of subsidiarity . . . but this should be obvious by this time.

VII. All Vital Interests Should be Organized

All real and vital interests of life should be deliberately made to conform to the requirements of the common good.

But wait! There's more! Tomorrow we will look at the characteristics of social justice, that is, move from the form to the substance. In other words, in social justice, we must not only look good, we must actually do good.