Justice, both social and legal, is carried out by the state by enacting laws. This requires insights into the nature and function of law and legal institutions as essential components of the common good. The “institutional” virtues are fundamentally different from the individual virtues. Many people confuse Social Justice with individualistic or governmental actions and attack only the symptoms of social disorder and breakdown. They miss the structural root causes and institutional defects underlying homelessness, hunger, and mass unemployment and such social ills. Many even assume that only the state can remedy these symptoms but in effect this is not so and the people both individually and collectively have a role to play. An effective economic democracy based on widespread individual ownership of the means of production under a sound governmental regulatory mechanism would establish a sound basis for ensuring individual freedom and the protection of basic human rights and dignity. As William Cobbett, an early 19th century social commentator, noted: Freedom is not an empty sound; it is not an abstract idea; it is not a thing that nobody can feel. It means—and it means nothing else— the full and quiet enjoyment of your own liberty. The principles underlying participative justice require that everyone have the right to participate in the fullness of the common good, particularly in the institutions which determine access to ownership of advanced technology. True distributive justice follows participative justice. In today’s high technology environment and competitive global marketplace, economic participation in the common good should not—and cannot—be limited solely to a wage system job. Justice in distribution is based on each person’s contributions to production, not on the basis of his needs. To be socially just, the opportunity and social means to own a sufficient amount of, and derive a viable level of income from deductive assets cannot be denied to anyone. As George Mason stated in Section One of the Virginia Declaration of Rights of June 12, 1776: …all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety Social Justice requires that the institutions of society be examined and corrected as world civilization is altered by technological change, manifesting discoveries and inventions by many creative individuals over the centuries The most challenging problems facing society, however, are not in our physical sciences, technologies, and surroundings. Aside from violations of individual virtue, our most serious social problems can be traced to the growing gap between our technological environment and our institutional environment. The first environment we can see or feel; it changes with scientific inventions and developments. The second environment consists of “invisible structures” (i.e., laws, constitutions, tax and central banking systems, management systems, and other social institutions), things we cannot see or feel— things which, in Fuller’s words, must also be “adequately organized.”1 This invisible part of our cultural environment—our “social architecture”—improves with our understanding and application of core values and fundamental principles, especially universal principles of social and economic justice. The design quality (from both a justice and efficiency standpoint) of our laws and social institutions that determines the quality of how people “relate” to each other, to their physical environment, and to the process of technological change. It determines whether those relationships bring harmony or conflict, abundance or waste, human development or degradation, a culture of life or a culture of death. This unseen cultural environment reflects our ultimate spiritual and moral values and defines the quality of our daily lives, even more than the tools we use or the physical structures that surround us. Like human nature, ultimate values and inalienable human rights do not change as science and technology advance. The deterioration of our moral framework and the emergence of social barriers to individual fulfilment lead inevitably to what social scientists call “alienation.” These artificial barriers deprive people of equal opportunity and the means to control their own destinies, and thus reinforce injustices and divisions in society. The Indian Journal of Law and justice published by the Department of law concerns itself with these unusual issues of social milieu. Every issue of the journal, as far as practicable, deals with contemporary & burning social debates. The value and regard for this journal can be judged by the overwhelming demand for it and the encouragement of the legal fraternity in publishing it. Across India the legal academia enriches the journal with their thought provoking articles. It is a platform for debates, bouncing of ideas, developing doctrines and ushering in a social change. The errors, if any, is that of the editor, all credit belongs to the legal fraternity and responsibility of opinions rest with the authors. Any suggestions will only help us to improve further.
Prof. Gangotri Chakraborty