David Thompson
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June 01, 2017

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David

It’s guilt by association, and a perversion of true justice.

As noted here a while ago, despite the term “social justice” being used often and ostentatiously, clear definitions are rarely volunteered. As you say, what it seems to entail is treating people not as individuals but as categories - based on which Designated Victim Group they supposedly belong to and assigning various exemptions and indulgences depending on that notional group identity and whatever presumptuous baggage can be attached to it. And conversely, assigning imaginary sins and “privilege” to someone else based on whatever Designated Oppressor Group they can be said to belong to, regardless of the particulars of the actual person. Which is to say, “social justice” is rooted in judging people tribally, cartoonishly, and by different and contradictory standards.

In much the same way that “equity,” another word favoured by campus activists, is usually defined only in the woolliest and most evasive of terms, and which sounds unobjectionable, given the connotations of fairness. But which, when used by activists, seems to mean something like “equality of outcome regardless of inputs.” And on reflection, that isn’t fair at all.

R. Sherman

It is part and parcel of the twisting of language and words to signify the exact opposite of their ordinary meanings. Jeff Goldstein was an early prophet in the wilderness on this and I wish his former blog was accessible to reread his thoughts and insight.

 Donaudampfschiff

By not contesting the premise of group guilt, it concedes far too much.

Granted, we white men are the worst people ever, but I don't personally own slaves. Granted, any solidarity I feel with my countrymen is based on our complicity in crimes against humanity. Granted, people who look like me pass on a legacy of shame to our children. But judge me as an individual, as an atom.

The social justice racket isn't about projecting guilt onto an individual (that's just a fun Alinskian perk), it's to make a target group a t o m i z e itself and renounce its own legitimacy. An atomized target group, being no group at all, is easy to manipulate and vulnerable to takeover by groups that have a more healthy sense of solidarity and collective interests.

Atempdog

I've said it b4 & I'll say it again: Social Justice is to Justice as a People's Republic is to an actual Republic,

David

When I hear the term “social justice,” it usually suggests that the speaker hasn’t paid much attention to the basics of moral thinking, things like reciprocity, and instead has jumped to the bit where you get to act superior and scold people. Which, based on my experience, is the bit they seem to like.

Hopp Singg

I think at this point the concept has been reduced, like over-boiled vinegar, to "We'll scream insults in your face till you grovel!" The medium is the message.

PiperPaul

The medium is the message and the process is the punishment?

Patrick Brown

"Social justice" is a meaningless phrase made up of positive-sounding words that you can be emotionally blackmailed over - how can you oppose social justice? - but can be used to stand for all kinds of things.

For example, there was a newspaper in America in the 1930s called Social Justice that published the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and articles based on speeches by Goebbels.

Patrick Brown

Oh. I see that was mentioned in the very comment that inspired this post.

Alice

Which is to say, “social justice” is rooted in judging people tribally, cartoonishly, and by different and contradictory standards.

Exhibit A.

https://twitter.com/TheSafestSpace/status/870369384992309249

David

Exhibit A.

Yes, that. As you can see, it’s stupefying stuff.

Lancastrian Oik

Rawls taken down in 43 words.

David

Exhibit A.

Related.

Microbillionaire
Rawls taken down in 43 words.

Mmm. I sympathize, but OTOH, it's not undoing the damage Rawls did to the word "justice".

Justice used to mean something like the accurate and reliable execution of the law, upholding the virtues of predictability and plannability.

Rawls perverted this horribly with "justice as fairness", but Sam Duncan isn't helping by bundling extraneous articles into "justice" that rightly belong under "morality" such as consent and individual responsibility.

Microbillionaire

On a lighter note, I took the time to read Rawls in the original once, rather than finely polished summaries and extracts, and found that he's so nonsensical as to be practically self-rebutting.

The veil of ignorance and the original position, if phrased for popular consumption rather than Dryasdust, would go something like "Imagine that there were a parliament of selectively ignorant, risk-averse, amnesiac alien ghosts plotting mass incarnation--" for a page or two. Rawls extensively tweaks the alien ghost parliament hypothetical scenario to make it come out just the way he wants before concluding "And therefore, we should live the way the parliament of alien ghosts would redistribute goods among humans, because this parliament represents the highest principles of justice as I imagine them."

I view it as an embarassment to philosophy that he wasn't told to GTFO and go peddle his Galactic Senate to Hollywood or something.

Sam Duncan

The danger of it - and the reason, I think, so many conservatives and even libertarians, are fooled - is that vagueness some other commenters have mentioned. It sounds like it might be something to do with a just society, which few would argue against. We know the Left use it to push a dangerous agenda, but surely the concept itself is unobjectionable?

It wasn't until I saw it defined in these terms myself that I recognised its true, insidious, nature and understood precisely where the uneasiness I felt about it came from. That's why I say it bears repeating. When a politician claims to stand for “social justice”, people should know exactly what he's advocating. And, in my opinion, be just as repulsed as if he'd brought up any other kind of qualified “justice”.

Sam Duncan

Microbillionaire, I'm really not sure you're right about the concept of justice. It is about morality: that which is just. It is just to hold people responsible for what they do. It is not just to hold them responsible for what others have done that they were in no position to prevent, or even have knowledge of. This has been understood throughout human history.

To be fair, it's also just to execute the law reliably and consistently. There is greater justice in the consistent application of an unjust law - in that, as you say, it has the virtue of predictability - than the inconsistent application of a just one. But neither is particularly just, and it's important to note that the law itself can be unjust (as in, for example, National Socialist Germany).

The point is, it's not one or the other. It's a complex concept that, for most of us, we know when we see it. This is why the “social justice” merchants can get away with their sophistry. So, while it may not be a comprehesive defintion of justice itself, it's important to strip away the vagueness and nail down the precise point that they get wrong, even if that means perhaps oversimplifying in the process.

Microbillionaire
It is not just to hold them responsible for what others have done that they were in no position to prevent, or even have knowledge of. This has been understood throughout human history.
Sam, I would rather have liked to say it is not right to hold people responsible for what others, etc. I imagine we mostly agree on the moral aspects here, I'm just lamenting a change long past. Sic transit gloria mundi.

(Although I note that a thread of collective punishment also does run throughout human history, from the Old Testament to JCS 1067.)

I say that "justice" used to mean something else, and I recognize it doesn't any more. And I think that's something of a loss, because it deprives us of separate words for speaking precisely of separate virtues. What other term would you propose for that specific sub-aspect of morality that consists of giving to each man his due as was promised him, as contrasted with e.g. giving him that which it is charitable or otherwise good to give him, or the means by which we decide what to promise or give to a man?

Microbillionaire
I'm just lamenting a change long past.
Make that "a change in vocabulary long past". Argh, even with preview button I manage to drop a phrase.
Theophrastus

Aristotle pointed out over 2,500 years ago that justice was a relationship between individuals.

Pogonip

Everyday Feminism is still with us. And they posted an article on autism that actually made a little sense! What is this $hit?

By the way, I am unfortunately a lay expert on autism, as I have a close relative who's suffered from it for 36 years, so if anyone ever needs info feel free to ask. I may have an answer!

Chester Draws

It is not just to hold them responsible for what others have done that they were in no position to prevent, or even have knowledge of. This has been understood throughout human history.

Sorry, this just isn't true.

In times gone past it was quite normal to hold people responsible for other people. You paid weregeld if a member of your family committed a crime, for example. We no longer do that, but it is nonetheless quite common in societies around the world. People who were punished by slavery in the ancient world sometimes had free children, but as often as not the sins of the fathers were forced on the children, who were unfree because of what their ancestors had done.

Nowadays we are quite happy to punish nations collectively, so that individuals suffer for actions that others have taken. It's just how things have to be. I don't imagine most of the poor Argentinian soliders killed in the Falklands wanted to be there -- they were sent against their will and then the UK killed them for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It's not always legal either. Many Germans felt terribly guilty about the atrocities under Hitler and felt that they carried a collective guilt, even if they hadn't been alive at the time. I think, in many ways, they were the role-model that the SJWs used to push their current barrows about slavery, etc.

I'm all for the modern Western concepts of individual responsibility. But I can't pretend it is the only way to see the world.

Surreptitious Evil

I don't imagine most of the poor Argentinian soliders killed in the Falklands wanted to be there -- they were sent against their will and then the UK killed them for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But many of them believed (as a lot of the survivors still do) that the Falklands should be Argentinian and that force was an appropriate method of making that happen.

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