Social Justice Western Perspectives Term Paper

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Social Justice: Western Perspectives

Recent developments in international relations have determined a new dimension of the definition of Social Justice. Nowadays there is a tendency to consider social justice from a universal point-of-view but taking into account the western perceptions on justice and the society. This is largely due to the fact that the West appears to have the full control of the international arena and at the same time to be able to export the norms and values which are determinant for their own societies. Even so, the cultural specificities cannot always be ignored and in many cases this can lead up to cultural clashes.

Samuel Huntington pointed out in one of his most famous theories the danger of a clash of civilizations (1996). This would result from the different perceptions peoples around the world would have on the values that govern their societies. More precisely, Huntington underlines the fact that in the globalised world there are different understandings of notions such as freedom, justice, religion, rule of law, tolerance (Huntington, 1996). At the same time, given the fact that the West still continues to maintain the power in global affairs, it also tries to impose, at the international level, its own concepts on the issue of social justice.

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The differences in the notion of social justice at the international level are determined by several factors. On the one hand, there is the theoretical idea that democracy and the liberal beliefs of fair government are enshrined in the Western side which won the Cold War. Francis Fukuyama presented this line of thought in his "The end of history?" However, his theory would later on be challenged by the fact that in the end, liberal democracies are not the only state entities to survive the Cold War. Regimes such as the one from North Korea and Iran exist successfully to this day. This is largely due to the fact that social justice as understood by Fukuyama can be denied by such states without the fear of them succumbing.

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At the same time, there are those who consider that social justice at the international level depends on geographical premises. In this sense, equality, social justice, and even the rule of law, all premises of the western type of governance are dependent on the way in which the distribution of power but most importantly of the resources available is made (Hay, 1995). However, this theoretical perspective is not without flaws. Indeed, resources can influence the way in which a state considers itself to hold the norms of social justice. At the same time though, the globalised world allows states to help each other in such a manner as to ensure an equal balance in terms of development and evolution, conditions which are essential for social justice.

However, taking into account the fact that there are more and more opinions viewing the issue of social justice a matter of interpretation (Nye, 2005) it is important to consider the actual elements of the traditional meaning of social justice and how they are found in today's perceptions. In this sense, the notion of social justice as it is seen today can be related to the traditional perception of the term. Thus, "the postulate of social justice is that society is responsible for the undeserved suffering of its members. From this one may draw the conclusion that society as a whole should repair the deprivation and should construct social means to ensure that such harm is avoided" (Irani and Morris, 1995, 4). Thus, there is the general idea which was promoted both by Marx who argued for equality inside the society at the national level, as well as Kant's belief in the eternal peace which can be achieved through a sense of equality in terms of proper definitions of terms such as prosperity or human dignity (Berstein and Milza, 1994; Braunstein and Pepin, 1998) Still, these represent the traditional ways of viewing social justice.

In the modern consideration of the term, an important aspect is the way in which international relations changed over time and in particular in the last decade. Thus, "the war on terror echoes throughout the land and defines the discourse on social justice. Since 9/11 the nation's conscious has been directed to discourses of homeland security, defense of the borders, and preparations for the war on terror" (O'Donnell et al., 2004). Although such discourses affect the United States in particular, they also affect the way in which the western perspective changed in respect to what Huntington called the other civilizations. Since the beginning of time, the perspective on the world had Europe in its center (Wight, 1997) and compared the rest of the world with European standards. At the moment however, these standards did not change necessarily, but shifted in context. Thus, most of world politics is done according to the American point-of-view which in most occasions can be identified with that of the Europeans'. Thus, the present national divide can be adapted to the global divide. In this sense, "much as President Bush divided the world into us vs. them, his rhetoric and policies have also divided the country. Either you are with the war and therefore support the troops, or you are not" (O'Donnell et al., 2004).

This war is in the end waged against different conceptions represented by terrorists and by individuals who share the views of extremism. In the end, it is a matter of having different views on issues such as diversity, ethnicity, and human rights. In this sense, the Muslim world is considered to be one of the starchiest opponents of Western percepts. More precisely, for the Western world, ethnicity is a crucial component for the well-being of the social process. In particular, the U.S. strives to create an ethnically diverse environment precisely because its principles rely on the liberal ideas of human rights and equality (Dunleavy and O'Leary, 1987). At the same time however, the Muslim world tends to reject the basics of liberalism.

The reasons for this rejection are the result of a religion-based society. The Koran represents the rule of law in Muslim countries. This brings along abuses of human rights and most importantly backwardness for the Muslim society. More precisely "In such a multi-layered and multi-cultural ambiance with traditional social hierarchies, what is necessary is to minimize, if not eliminate, economic and educational disparities through urgent state intervention and to provide, through effective equality of opportunity, due representation in the organs of power, the legislature, the judiciary, the government, the administration, the armed forces and the political parties. Not only the Muslims (...) need effective measures of positive affirmation which would make an impact within a reasonably short-term and not simply envision an utopia in the distant future, at the end of the rainbow or in the long run, when, as it is said, we are all dead" (Shahabuddin, 2007). Therefore, the different views on the society also create disparities and the impossibility of managing social justice as understood in the western concepts.

By comparison to the Muslim world, pluralism in the sense of political participation and the freedom of expression are crucial for the way in which a society can ensure social justice for its people. This notion is entrenched in the traditional beliefs of the political power of the people. More precisely, the U.S., as the most important factor of the western block, considered the right of people to vote since the early days of the Constitution. Even more, the preamble of the Declaration of Independence points out that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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