Social justice is most commonly referred to as the idea that everyone deserves equal rights and opportunities. There are several definitions of the term social justice, however this definition refers to the social, economic, and political rights that people who share this viewpoint of social justice believe everyone is entitled to. Opposing viewpoints when it comes to this term may firmly believe that social justice is nothing more than one group of people, usually the poor, putting all their own responsibility on another group of people, usually the rich.
This viewpoint contradicts the word equality or as previously stated the word equal. However, in order to have a just or fair society everyone would need to be treated the same, in other words equally. "At the heart of a just society lies equality, important for its role as a regulatory principle" (Social Justice, Education and Schooling p. 278). It is important to analyze the words in the definition of social justice in order to better understand what the term means exactly. The term "rights" seems to be a word used in every definition of social justice.
"Rights" according to some are thought to be synonymous with the term entitlement. However, Thomas Hobbes, a well-known English philosopher, uses the word "right" in two separate ways depending on what type of "right" he is referring to. When Hobbes refers to rights of the sovereign, he suggests that "rights" are "something to which one is morally entitled. " When Hobbes is referring to the rights of a subject or person, his definition is then changed to "freedom from obligation" (Hobbe's Theory of Rights p.79).
Furthermore, the term justice itself needs to be analyzed in order to better understand the meaning of social justice. "Justice is discussed as a philosophical, theological and subjective issue" (Social Justice in a Diverse Society, p. 221). This statement suggests that the definition of the term depends entirely on the context it is being used. Similar to when Hobbes different definitions of the word "rights" are to be used, the word justice too may have several circumstantial definitions.
Regardless of the circumstance, justice is thought to deal with at least some degree of satisfaction. According to an article written by D. R. Bhandari, Plato believed that justice is the quality of soul, in virtue of which men set aside the unreasonable desire to experience every pleasure and to get pleasure out of every object or situation and accommodate themselves. This idea suggests that again satisfaction of some sort is being sought or hoping to be achieved when the term justice is being used.
Finally, having analyzed the term "rights" and "justice" it would be accurate to believe that the term social justice means to some degree that some type of satisfaction or goal is trying to be reached whether it is socially, politically or economically. The word "social" in the term social justice may just refer to society in general. Keeping that in mind, the term might refer to justice in the society as a whole regarding every single situation.
The term is obviously circumstantial, as Hobbes pointed out, however it is fair to believe that when the term is being used something or someone is trying to achieve some degree of satisfaction, just as Plato suggests. The term "American Dream" comes to mind when thinking of social justice. Maybe this is because both terms deal with the belief that everyone should have the same opportunities or maybe because our country was founded on the word "freedom" and social justice is just another way of expressing exactly what our country stands for, freedom and equality.
Sources: Tom, Tyler R. "Social Justice in a Diverse Society. " Westview Press (1997): n. page. Web. 21:07 Clark, John. "Social Justice, Education and Schooling: Some Philosophical Issues. " British Journal of Educational Studies 54. 3 (2006): 278-80. Web. Curran, Eleanor. "Hobbe's Theory of Rights: A Modern Interest Theory. " The Journal of Ethics 6. 1 (2002): 63-86. Web.