Handbook on Global Social Justice
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Handbook on Global Social Justice

Edited by Gary Craig

In the fifty years since Rawls seminal work A Theory of Justice, the concept has been debated with those on the political right and left advocating very different understandings. This unique global collection, written by a group of international experts, offers wide-ranging analyses of the meaning of social justice that challenge the ability of the market to provide social justice for all. The Handbook also looks at how the theory of social justice informs practice within a range of occupations or welfare divisions.
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Chapter 21: Law and social justice

Hilary Sommerlad


The derivation of the word justice from the Latin jus meaning right or law reveals the antiquity and intimacy of the connection between justice and law. However, both concepts are highly contingent, shaped not only by their historical context but also the key forces in constituting that context. Thus, unlike pre-modern law, modern law is a system of positive rules, its legitimacy grounded both in its source in sovereign authority and formal detachment from politics. This detachment is held to generate impartial and hence rational adjudication, based on the principle of equality before the law, which, in turn, provides the substantive decisions reached by policy-makers with normative legitimation. Social justice is thus the province of politics, and the function of law, through the impartial application of a neutral system of rules and procedures, is to ensure that the state is ‘just’ by controlling the exercise of power and directing it ‘towards the pursuit of the good’.

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