Justice is an important concept in politics, philosophy, law and ethics. Different philosophers have analysed the concept in different ways. The quest for justice began with the beginning of human thinking. Justice has been understood differently in different contexts. There were many wars, struggles, revolutions, and social movements which were changed with the change of time and circumstances. It is closely associated with religion, morality, equality, liberty, property, law, politics and economic system. The criterion for judging each social concept is justice. In different social systems, there are different conceptions of justice.
Meaning of justice: It is impossible to give a specific meaning of justice. Whenever an effort to define justice has been made, it has led to problems. The Greek philosopher Plato tried to define justice as a virtue in action.
The main difficulty in defining justice is that it is not an independent concept. Justice is closely associated with the system of values and the norms of social systems. Rawls writes “…. The nature and aims of a perfectly just society is a fundamental part of the theory of justice.”
Every system is governed by certain norms and values, in turn, determine justices. Thus, justice is not an absolute but a relative concept. Justice is related to values legitimacy and ideals.
Types of justice
- Distributive Justice: Distributive justice also known as economic justice is about fairness in what people receive, from goods to attention. Its roots are in the social order and it is at the roots of socialism, where equality is a fundamental principle. If the people do not think that they are getting their fair share of something, they will seek first to gain what they believe they deserve. They will also seek other forms of justice.
- Procedure Justice: The principle of fairness is also found in the idea of fair play (as opposed to the fair share of distributive justice). If people believed that a fair process was used in deciding what is to be distributed, then they may well accept an imbalance what they receive in comparison to others. If they see both procedural and distributive injustice, they will seek restorative and/or retributive justice.
- Restorative Justice: The first thing that the betrayed person may seek from the betrayer is some form of restitution putting things back as they should be. The simplest form of restitution is a straight forward apology. Restoration means putting things back as they were, so it may include some act of contribution to demonstrate one is truly sorry. This may include action and even extra payment to the offended party. Restorative justice is also known as corrective justice.
- Retributive Justice: Retributive justice works on the principle of punishment although what constitutes fair and proportional punishment is widely debated. While the intent may be to dissuade the perpetrator or others from future wrong-doing, the re-offending rate of many criminals indicates the limited success of this approach. Punishment in practices is more about the satisfaction of victims and those who care about them. In such a case, ‘justice’ is typically defined emotionally rather than with intent for fairness o prevention.