Theories of Social Justice Term Paper

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¶ … Justice in Social Work

SOCIAL WORK: THEORIES of SOCIAL JUSTICE

The objective of this work is to discuss Liberal Individualism, Market Individualism and the theory of Social Democracy and drawing from the Afrocentric paradigm, personal own experience, or other readings to discuss possible alternative views of justice not captured by the three theoretical frameworks of any of the aforementioned three theories of social justice.

According to Fazal Rizvi in the work entitled: "Some Thoughts on Contemporary Theories of Social Justice" there is not existent single and clear definition which can be applied to social justice however the reality of injustice is quite clear for those who have experientially lived with this injustice through oppression, homelessness and going hungry. Three main traditions of thinking exist regarding social justice which are those of: (1) Liberal individualism; (2) Market Individualism; and (3) Social Democratic.

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Market individualism holds that social justice is less focused on the distribution of justice and more focused on the process by which holdings are acquired. In this school of thought the state is involved only minimally while the market makes provision of social justice through employment, services and welfare thereby protecting the individual's freedom. There is no socially set goals for economic allocation in the theory of "market individualism." Market Individualism is a concept that was introduced in the work of Robert Nozick in his 1970 publication entitled: "Anarchy, State and Utopia" which expressed a belief that the market is the basic provider of social justice employment, services and welfare. (Sohng, 2004) According to Sohng (2004) "The market knows best "is the exercise of the self-interest of the individual leading to the "optimal collective social good." (p.2) the work of Isbister entitled: "Capitalism and Justice" states that justice in accordance to Western thought is the quality of getting what one deserves. Equality is basic to justice in this school of thought. Equality holds that if people are diverse then equality in one area may lead to inequality in another therefore leading the focus to equality of opportunity and equality in access to resources. The problem exists in the fact that while opportunities are equal then the capabilities of the individual will inevitably lead to different outcomes thereby it is understood that if equal results are expected then the provision of opportunities must be different. Furthermore, when there is no equal access to resources then there is not equality of opportunity. Isbister holds that the only realization of freedom is in the presence of equality and states that it must be there is a difference in 'freedom-to' and 'freedom-from'. The third aspect is the theory upheld by Isbister is that of 'efficiency' of drawing from the best available resources and yet, the problem existing is that the world's resources do not equal the demands of human demands. Isbister states that Pareto efficiency describes the situation where efficiency is one person receiving more while another receives less. Rawls holds that the 'Difference principle' is one in which a difference in the possession of goods can be justified if the amount available to the least-favorable individual is increased.

II. LIBERAL INDIVIDUALISM

Liberal Individualism defines social justice in terms of fairness. Rawls in his theory of individualism states as the basis for this theory (1) individual freedom; and (2) equal distribution of goods alongside responsibility of the state to favor those less fortunate or the 'least of these' through provisions of affirmative action, redistributive policies as well as other provisions of the state. According to the work of Rawls the principles of justice are contingent on: (1) greatest equal liberty of individuals... In order to have a just society, you must have equal and basic rights; (2) equality of fair opportunity... person's with similar abilities and skills are to have equal access to position; (3) difference principle - social and economic institutions are to be arranged to maximize benefits to the worst off. Furthermore it is necessary that these fall in this certain order to be valid justice. In a just society the citizens have the 'same basic rights' and the distribution of income is set to the advantage of everyone and no individual is allowed to suffer while another benefits from that suffering. Sohng holds that the difference principle allows for inequality to exist as long as the total system of institutions works in favor of that least fortunate (10) According to Rawls (196) "Humans are essentially equal of equal worth. Justice or injustice is a matter of how institutions deal with these differences."

III. SOCIAL DEMOCRAT

The third theory or that of the 'Social Democrat' bases social justice upon the idea of 'needs' and as held by Marx is a 'collectivist and cooperative image of society' in which the market must be controlled in order that social justice be promoted. The theory of the Social Democrat begins with the principle of John Rawls that "collective and cooperative image of society reward is not based on productivity but rather is based on needs and right. If a community is not cooperative then that community cannot be just. (Rizvi) in this paradigm the state is an interventionist which provides guaranteed entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare, public education and as well it is the role of the state to both regulate and control the market. (Rizvi) the Social Democrat system is redistributive rather than distributive because within this system individuals are taxed in order that other will benefit. It is a system of universal rights wherein every individual's basic needs should be unconditionally guaranteed and reality is focused toward conditional rights while redistribution is targeted toward those who are in the most need and is upon the basis of what is considered to be 'best practice'. The state achieves social justice through controlling the market by correcting excesses and through redistribution of capital instead of through the distributive approach. (Sohng p.5) Rizvi states that the spheres of justice describe that (1) the difference in power must be recognized; (2) the distribution of social goods are according to different criteria; and (3) systems generate general principles of social justice in a broad way.

IV.THE AFROCENTRIC PARADIGM

In the work entitled: "The Contour and Meaning of Afrocentric Social Work" the author Jerome H. Shiele expresses being disturbed as the realization of the theories of social work to which he was introduced were theories that were both written and developed by white individuals and at that mostly by white males. Shiele expressed feeling that the black race and specifically black colleges should be "at the vanguard of legitimizing and disseminating knowledge" from the oppression that blacks have experienced as typical theories of justice merely reaffirm the power of white individuals in society leaving social work without a knowledge base that accurately reflects the true client base in the United States. The problem is that the foundation of theories and paradigms in social work are based upon the Eurocentric worldview that "focus on the individual as isolated and autonomous' with 'material expressions of reality' that have been 'formed through the writings' of white 'intellectuals and practitioners'. The conservative views of African-American oppression are inclusive of the (1) market version; (2) sociobioligist version; and (3) the culturalist version while the Liberal view of African-American oppression highlights institutional barriers and presumes self-interest as a motivator while rejecting persuasion as a solution and attacks genetic inferiority claims as arbitrary and unwarranted. (Cornel, nd) the market liberals holds that alleviation of oppression is possible through state intervention in employment practices that are racist while the culturalist liberals believe government programs should prepare blacks for employment. (Cornel, nd) the left-liberal view of African-American oppression holds that African-Americans have a sense of history and place 'racist tastes' and 'institutional racism' as existing only in a historical context holding that the major index of oppression exists in the disparity of the income of black and white individuals. Finally there is the Marxist view of oppression of African-Americans which holds that the principle of materiality of structured sociological practices over time have structured and shaped laws and social interactions which are historically potent while rejecting racist institutional barriers and holds that racism predates capitalism. (Cornel, nd) This view is the 'class-nationalist' viewpoint adhered to by most black Marxists through a system of class exploitation and national domination.

Educational preparation for the social worker is stated by Shiele to contain "two fundamental problems" with those being:(1) the theories and paradigms under-girding social work practice models are based heavily on an Eurocentric worldview; and (2) the cultural values of people of color - specifically for this presentation, African-Americans - have not been used sufficiently as a theoretical base to develop new social work practice models. (Shiele, 2006) This Eurocentric practice-based models used to address minority issues have emphasis on (1) "how racial discrimination and minority status have blocked opportunities for people of color; (2) how the social work practitioner should be aware of the cultural values and nuances of a client of a… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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