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Solution Paper #45b, Introduction to 8 Theories of Justice: where the "contestation" of ideas between historically specific conservatives (which covers both the far left and far right side of the political and religious ideological spectrums who, once they get their change, want to make their changes permanent and unchanging) and historically non-specific conservatives (who make haste slowly because they recognize the changes they seek will continue to change no matter how much they would like them to be changeless). May 24, 2011. Posted December 11, 2011.

This "Solution Paper" provides additional background information for Solution Paper #45, posted May 23, 2011, "Guidelines for Including Justice in Planning Meetings to Calculate a Better Future for Minneapolis in terms of education, jobs, housing and public safety."
Originally published in November 2002 in The Minneapolis Story, Through My Eyes, by Ron Edwards as told to Peter Jessen, pp. 297-299, 300, 315-317, 320-322.

Much as been made by the attempt of various groups regarding Planning for the community, with the elites of Blacks and Whites meeting to make decisions for the non-elite Whites and Blacks. This Solution Paper, along with #43, “Justice and Fairness:  The Question of Equal Access and Equal Opportunity,” serve as guidelines for any Planning meetings or process, for any and all discussing or developing public policy, especially in the areas of education, jobs, housing, the environment, and public safety, with the urging to use these solution papers as guidelines for developing the ethics for governing.

These are guidelines for what we call “tracking the gaps" in "The Big 7" of Minneapolis: (1) education, (2) jobs; (3) housing; (4) public safety (including tracking the war on young Black men);  (5) safe environment; (6) governing; and (7) moral/ethical stances.regarding access and opportunity, liberty and justice for all.  They relate to what we call the The Blocks to Construct a Minneapolis Table for All to Sit At Together.

Which led to our second book, A Seat for Everyone:  The Freedom Guide that Explores a Vision for America.  This also means tracking the status of the successes and failures of the post 60s Civil Rights Movement and the failures of Black organizations like the NAACP and the Urban League, organizations that have taken their eyes off the prize.  Hence our efforts to provide solutions, including our ten suggestions of 2007.

Key concepts are “historically specific conservatives” (those on the left and right who have a Goldern Age from the past they wish to resurrect or a putative future utopia they want to create, and then freeze it in place:  conserve it, vs. “historically non-specific conservatives” (those who recognize there will always be unintended consequences with planned change, and therefore urge “making haste slowly”.  Some say more harm has been done to people and to the environment by the policies of those who made haste creating change and not evaluating consequences as they went along (20th century ideologies and their wars, famines, environmental degradation, and accompanying impoverishment of 100s of millions who were denied the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, petition, religion, etc.). See also Solutions Paper #42: PLANNING For The Positive Future Possibilities Of Minnesota, for Minneapolis in General, and the African American Community in Particular.


“Theories of Justice,” from SOCIOLOGY AND THE JANUS MASK OF JUSTICE, a class reader , Peter J. Jessen, Bethel College, Class on Social Inequality, Social Stratification, Nov 1989


The video tapes

We reviewed a series of video tapes to help us with our understanding.  We ranked them vis a vis how well they did in meeting our five basic points of criteria:  freedom, justice, peace, effective, inclusive.  The following is based on the protagonists of the videos (the Indians in “The Mission,” the blacks in “The Prize,” Goldwater-ites and Reagan-ites in “The Conservatives,” the conservatives of the Southern Baptist Convention in "Battle of the Bible," the villagers in “Fiddler on the Roof,” the union men in the Minneapolis Truck Strike of the 1930's, the military in "War and Peace", the environmentalist in the environmental tape.  The chart looks like this:

                                Mission        Prize         Conservs          Bible                Fiddler            Labor              Environ          War         

Freedom                   for rulers     for all         for                  for                   for the             for the           for the             for the  
                                                                   correct            correct             faithful             working         environ            military
                                                                   believers         believers                                 person                                 to fight back

Justice                      yes              yes             yes                yes                  yes                  yes                yes                  yes

Peace                       yes              yes             yes                yes                   yes                 yes                 yes                 yes

Effective                    for              yes              for                for                     no                  yes                 no                   yes
                                selves                            conservs        new

Inclusive                 no                  yes             no                 no                     no                   no                  no                   no

They were all for justice and peace, and for freedom, but for themselves; only the blacks were for inclusiveness. [2011 note: as they were in South Africa transition]

Eight Theories of Justice and their Relevance

The nine theories all take place within a Judeo-Christian framework.  None are specifically secular or specifically religious, even when they speak that way.

Each has its own characteristics.  Lebacqz characterizes them all using the Marxist slogan:  "to each according to his need." She ranks them as follows: 

MILL:          to each according to those tendencies of actions that maximize overall utility
                       (t he need to recognize the greater good)

                       the requirements of justice are derived by looking for the common core in accepted
                       notions of what is just and unjust.

                       attention focussed on right action in general

                       Justice as dealing with conflicting claims regarding possessions in circumstances of scarcity

                       Unjust = depriving people of legal right, moral right, what they deserve, breaking faith,
                       partial (showing favors), and treating people unequally

RAWLS:        to each according to a basic structure that benefits the least advantaged (within limits
                       set by equal political rights,) equal opportunity, and just savings for future generations.
                       (the stress of the least advantaged )
                       the requirements of justice are derived by looking for the common core in accepted notions of
                       what is just and unjust.

                       attends to basic structure of society

NOZICK:       to each according to the choices that have given them entitlements
                           (respect for freedom of choice)

                           the requirements of justice are those minimal rights derived by deduction from the
                           Kantian maxim to treat each person as an end and not merely as a means

                           attention focussed on necessities and limits of the state

BISHOPS:   to each according to their dignity as creatures made in the image of God (with duties
                           and rights consonant with that image, and spelled out in a threefold notion of justice:  i.e.,
                           the priority of the poor)

                           the requirements of justice are derived by embodying a faith-based vision of justice in
                           traditional philosophical and theological principles of duties and rights

                           focussed on poverty in the U.S.

Niebuhr:    to each according to principles of freedom, and especially of equality, tempered by love
                   or equity (yet recognizes the imperfections of justice)

                  the requirements of justice are derived by the faith-based principle of love compromising
                            with the realities of sin

                                    attends to fundamental view of human nature:  sinful

miranda:   to each according to God's interventions in history to liberate the poor and oppressed
                                    (the epistemological privilege of the oppressed:  know through doing justice)

                                    the requirements of justice are derived by biblical confirmation of Marxist analysis of
                                    injustices experienced by the oppressed

                                    focussed on biblical ways of thinking

LEBACQZ:  to each according to injustices done rather than by what is due, for what is due
                                    not material but justice itself

                                    the requirements of justice are derived by biblical confirmation of dealing first with the
                                    poor and oppressed, and by naming and claiming the world's injustices and then acting
                                    upon them to establish bringing justice to these injustices


Key points of understanding about the theories

                                                      key                            starting                    end                                                               "our"
                                                      concept                  point                         point                         how                           Problem

1. John Stuart Mill:    Utility                                 ends;                       end;                          any                            counter-intui-
                                                                                          macro &                  happiness             means;                    tive;
                                                                                          micro                                                            calculated;            triage (some
                                                                                                                                                                  duty;                         sacrificed
                                                                                                                                                                  rights;                      for others;
                                                                                                                                                                  claims;                     results focus;
                                                                                                                                                                  common                 no redistribu-
                                                                                                                                                                  sense;                     tion
                                                                                                                                                                  sensitivity; rules

2. John Rawls:                      Social                       fairness;                 floor                          govt                          system
                                                      contract                  macro;                     below                       welfare;                   emphasis,
                                                      Principles;             strong                      which                       veil of                       not
                                                      equal                        state                         none                        ignorance;            outcome;
                                                      liberty;                                                         should                     predict;                   rational
                                                      yet                                                                 fall                              mutual                     choice
                                                      differences                                                                                   disinterest;           theory;
                                                      allowed                                                                                           fair equality           commonality;
                                                      ("maximin")                                                                                   of opportuni-       equal
                                                                                                                                                                  ty; rational              liberty;
                                                                                                                                                                  choice in a
                                                                                                                                                                  fair setting;
                                                                                                                                                                  govt welfare
                                                                                                                                                                  as a form of
                                                                                                                                                                  through the
                                                                                                                                                                  tax system

3. Robert Nozick:                Entitlement          private                     no                              no govt;                  emphasis on
                                                      Principle                 enterprise;            redistribution;     just                            property
                                                      of                                micro-                       no                              situation                 rights;
                                                      compensation;   minimal                    floor                          by just;                    Assumes
                                                      no harm;                 state;                                                            just steps               free
                                                      fair exchange      own                                                               is just;                      market;
                                                                                          property                                                     no taxes                 ignores
                                                                                                                                                                                                      no redistribute
                                                                                                                                                                                                      justice as the

4.  The National                    abundance           theology;               re-distribution     participation         Focus on U.S.;
       Conference of               of nature                macro/micro         option for               of people               nothing
       Catholic Bishops;         is for all;                   scripture;               the poor;                as a right;               regarding
                                                      dignity for              dignity of                minimal                    can own                  Lat America;
                                                      all;                              people;                   levels of                  property;                rejects

                                                      key                            starting                    end                                                              
                                                      concept                  point                         point                         how                           Problem

                                                      commutative        option for               care and                 must allow             unfettered
                                                      justice;                    poor                          respect                   use of                      market;
                                                      distributive                                                                                    property                 ignores
                                                      justice                                                                                                                                  production

                                                                                                                                                                                                      of goods;
                                                                                                                                                                                                      ignore sin;
                                                                                                                                                                                                      on type of

5. Reinhold                            Love/sin;               injustice as            brotherhood        justice;                    too optimistic
         Niebuhr:  a                     relative                    exploitation                                              community;          about human
                                                      justice has             of poor;                                                       equality;                 potential;
                                                      relative                    balance of                                                 challenge              lack of clear
                                                      injustice                  power;                                                         oppressors           definition;
                                                                                                                                                                                                      lack of rules;
                                                                                                                                                                                                      no criteria to
                                                                                                                                                                                                      judge if justice


6. Jose Miranda                   Liberation              the poor;                consciousness  utopian;
                  Porfirio:                   Theology               poverty;                  raising;                                                        not self-
                                                      theory of                oppression;         eliminate                                                    critical enough;
                                                      injustice                  capitalism as         injuries                                                        emphasis on
                                                                                          core of                     caused by                                                 structures as
                                                                                          injustice;                injustice                                                      sinful as
                                                                                          theory of                                                                                        opposed to
                                                                                          injustice                                                                                          sin;
                                                      biblical justice means justice for the poor                                                       Marxist
                                                      justice is what God does                                                                                           framework
                                                      poor as litmus test for justice
                                                      Marxist analytic methods and social goals
                                                      no separation of love and justice
                                                      no reconciliation without liberation
                                                      no loving harmony without justice
                                                      person emphasis, not systems
                                                      differentiation of justice and love one of biggest errors of Christianity

7. Karen Lebacqz:             Unjust world         injustice;                liberation                resistance             same as
                                                                                          option for                                                   by the                      Miranda;
                                                                                          the poor;                                                    oppressed
                                                                                          epistemological (rebel and              (not a full
                                                                                          privilege of the                                       subvert);                theory yet)
                                                                                          oppressed;                                              confession by

                                                      key                            starting                    end                                                              
                                                      concept                  point                         point                         how                           Problem

                                                                                          not look for                                               oppressor;
                                                                                          principles for                                            reparations;
                                                                                          justice is a                                                  respect rights
                                                                                          constant                                                     of oppressed;
                                                                                          struggle and                                            political
                                                                                          process.                                                     emancipation;


                  Lebacqz:  continued

                                    oppressed:  cry out, protest, resist; rage and anger; repudiate oppressor; refuse to
                                    accept facile reconciliation; demand a "room of one's own"; rebel and subvert the
                                    unjust system

                                    oppressors:  set the wrong right; make amends through reparations; respect rights and
                                    dignity of those degraded; recognize wrongdoing; repent;

                                    liberation through political emancipation and economic restructuring; breaking of cycles
                                    of poverty

                                    injustice is structured in institutions and in attitudes such as racism and sexism, and
                                    therefore are seen not as random but as patterned behavior.

                                    Justice is not "to each according to need" of Marxists, nor "benefit to the least
                                    advantaged" (Rawls), nor "greatest good for the greatest number (utilitarian).  Justice
                                    is a constant struggle and process that provides new beginnings not an ideal state of

                                    Biblical stories illustrate a theory of justice but do not provide that theory

                                    Theory components

                                             •       "right relationship" or righteousness
                                             •       responsibilities and duties, not just rights
                                             •       injustice as exploitation and violation of personhood of the oppressed and the
                                                      oppressor as well
                                             •       rescue/resistance
                                             •       rebuke/reparations
                                             •       understanding of the theory as always incomplete and partial and therefore
                                                      requiring self-analysis and self-correction
                                             •       liberation from oppression and "new beginnings" that undo oppressive

                           Her commonality with and opposition to the other theories

                           •       Mill and utilitarianism

                                    •       OK:  because it has a notion of claims, which can be overridden by the "greater
                                             good."  It acknowledges an arena larger than that of individual claims

                                    •       Not OK and therefore a "no" to it:  because it provides no special protections for the
                                             poor and oppressed; it does root root justice in corrections or in liberation

                           •       Rawls and and contract theory:

                                    •       OK:  share affinities:  because justice is done when the least advantaged are benefited

                                    •       Not OK and therefore a "no" to it:  leaves door open to making chains more
                                             comfortable if the poor or disadvantaged are better off than before; i.e., there is no
                                             motif of the liberation/rescue dynamic.  Rawls protects the least advantaged but does
                                             not appear to require new beginnings; Rawls assumes political and economic justice
                                             can be separated, which can't be, as political rights are not genuine without economic
                           •       Nozick

                                    •       OK:  it stresses freedom, honors human freedom and freedom of exchange

                                    •       Not OK and therefore a "no" to it:  because Nozick does not protect the least
                                             advantaged; all he protects is freedom of choice, doing so without a historical
                                             perspective that would show current distributions are unfair, and the oppressors
                                             have an unjust starting point; he also has no jubilee vision, no corrective principles,
                                             and because he sees the market system as not needed correction where Lebacqz
                                             sees "precisely the opposite, based on the concrete realities of injustice"; he has
                                             rights of individuals but no covenantal responsibilities of mutual responsibility

                           •       Bishops

                                    •       OK:  because have concern for human interconnectedness, for "biblical justice", for
                                             commutative justice, for distributive justice, for a "preferential option for the poor."
                                    •       Not OK and therefore a "no" to it:  because, despite the affinities, it stresses creation
                                             and covenant as biblical themes instead of covenant within the context of liberation,
                                             and thus lack a jubilee vision of new beginnings.

                           •       Niebuhr

                                    •       OK:  because of affinity with view of imperfect nature of all earthly justice; perfect
                                             justice as fulfillment of love similar to covenant view; recognizes realities of
                                             injustice and need for struggle and force to correct injustice, and because both
                                             equality and liberty loom large

                                    •       Not OK, and therefore a "no" to it:  because he turns to philosophy for his principles,
                                             and because liberation never became a part of his theme nor did he combine love
                                             and justice.


                           •       Miranda

                                    •       OK:  because he provides an important corrective in affirming a biblical view that
                                             unites love and justice; his mishpat study yields many affinities; stress on the fact
                                             that God is now "only in the doing of justice" which gives an "epistemological
                                             privilege' to the oppressed and to those engaged in concrete praxis of struggle
                                             for justice.

                                    •       Not OK, and therefore a "no" to it:  because he offers no words to the oppressor,
                                             does not incorporate a recognition of the limited nature of earthly achievement of
                                             justice which thus requires a necessity for constant "jubilee" occurrences to break the
                                             injustices brought about by previous jubilees, and because his study of mishpat
                                             uses a word study to approach a biblical perspective opposed to her narrative
                                             approach that draws on stories from Scripture rather than on words translated by
                                             an English term "justice".


                           •       Lebacqz view of her theory:

                                    •       OK:  because "I consider my own approach to be an instance of "liberation" theology
                                             and ethics; and because it combines the best of the others: 

                                    •       Lebacqz's agenda for a theory of justice

                                             •       the need to recognize the greater good (Mill)
                                             •       the stress o the least advantaged (Rawls)
                                             •       respect for freedom of choice (Nozick)
                                             •       the priority of the poor (Bishops)
                                             •       the imperfections of justice (Niebuhr)
                                             •       the epistemological privilege of the oppressed (Miranda)

                                    •       Not OK, and therefore a "no" to it:  she favors using hers to develop a theory,
                                             stating she hasn't one yet, but that these are its elements.

8.  Your's: 

ASSIGNMENT:  write yours; feel free to “borrow” from above.

To order The Minneapolis Story, through my eyes, and/or its follow-up, A Seat For Everyone, click here.

Ron Edwards hosts "Black Focus" on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!" Saturdays at 5 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at Hear his readings and read his columns, his solution papers and his "Tracking the Gaps" web log. Formerly head of key civil rights organizations, including the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and the Urban League, he continues his "watchdog" role for Minneapolis, and his work to contribute to the planning to help mold a consensus for the future of Black and White Americans together of Minneapolis.

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