The System of Principles of Social Justice in the Contemporary Legal Tradition of the West

Jolanta Bieliauskaitė


The article analyzes the concept of principles of social justice and their significance to the contemporary lawmaking. The analysis is based on the main ideas of the western legal traditions – liberalism and communitarianism. Firstly, the argumentation of denial of significance of social justice to the social being and the proposals of alternative theories of “radical” liberalists (libertarians) (R. Nozick and F. A. Hayek) are analyzed. Secondly, the concept of social justice in the theories of “restrained” liberal theories (J. Rawls and R. Dworkin) is analysed, the communitarian concept (of M. Walzer and A. MacIntyre) of social justice is researched, and its relation to the liberal tradition is determined. The main criteria of fair distribution, which are acceptable to both traditions, are emphasized.
The system of main principles of social justice formulated lexicographically on the grounds of the analysed theories:
1. Each person should be entitled to equal scheme of underlying rights and liberties, which would match the rights and liberties of other individuals and in which equal value would be manifested through equal political freedoms.
2. Social and economic inequality must meet these conditions:
2.1. An individual has to be entitled to dispose of his legitimately acquired wealth.
2.2. Offices and positions have to be open to every individual under conditions of fair equality.
2.2.1. Each individual of the society has to be provided with the part of resources received by cooperation that corresponds to his share and institutional merits.
2.3. Social and economic inequality has to be beneficial for the least advantaged members of the society.
2.3.1. In the situation of the initial equality (when the society distributes common resources, i.e. creates and implements various programmes of social support and care) an individual must be entitled to have that part of resources, which corresponds to his motivated choice of the way of life.
2.3.2. In trying to improve the situation of the least advantaged individuals, attempts must be made to meet their basic needs, considering the objective reasons of that situation.


legal philopsophy; social justice; liberalism; communitarianism; fair distribution; legitimate expectations; share; desert; need

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"Societal studies" ISSN online 2029-2244 / ISSN print 2029-2236