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On ‘social justice’

I must introduce a parenthetical protest against the abuse of the current term ‘social justice.’ From meaning ‘justice in relations between groups or classes’ it may slip into meaning a particular assumption as to what these relations should be; and a course of action might be supported because it represented the aim of ‘social justice,’ which from the point of view of ‘justice’ was not just. The term ‘social justice’ is in danger of losing its rational content — which would be replaced by a powerful emotional charge. I believe that I have used the term myself: it should never be employed unless the user is prepared to define clearly what social justice means to him, and why he thinks it just. — from Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948)



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