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Social Justice

NASW Code of Ethics

 

Core value

 

social justice involves a call to

"challenge social injustice."

 

Injustice can include "issues of poverty, unemployment, and discrimination"

 

Challenging injustice =

attempt to improve access to resources and opportunities as well as voice in

decision-making

raise awareness of and sensitivity to oppressed and cultural minority populations.

 

Social Justice

nature and role in the profession

 

Van Soest (1994)

three social justice perspectives:

libertarian, utilitarian, and egalitarian

 

The libertarian perspective emphasizes human rights, which includes the rights to liberty (freedom to live as they chose but fitting and in harmony with others’ rights to live as they chose), life, and property. Government should be limited to protection of these rights. Laws that require people to help others are opposed.

 

Social Justice

Van Soest (1994)

 

The utilitarian perspective emphasizes utility, which revolves around the idea of the "greatest good for the greatest number."

Achieve the greatest net balance of satisfaction summed over all the individuals belonging to it. Allows some individual’s freedoms/opportunities to be sacrificed for the sake of others.

 

The egalitarian perspective emphasizes human needs and asserts that the needs of the "worst-off’ members of society should be placed above other better-off members. Everyone must have an equal opportunity to the bases of income, wealth, etc. The unmet needs of the least well-off people should receive priority and everyone should be entitled to a fair minimum level of those basic social goods to which one is entitled.

 

Social Justice

Van Soest (1994)

 

Van Soest favors the egalitarian view as the most appropriate form of social justice for the social work profession and extends this view in contending that human beings "deserve the basics (needs) because of their

 

inherent worth and dignity"

 

Libertarian perspective

"blaming the victim"

 

 

Utilitarian perspective

"common good" (??) as opposed to what individuals "deserve"

 

Social Justice

nature and role in the profession

 

Wakefield (1988)

Organizing value of professions

"a particular, valued goal of great importance to people’s well-being"

Profession= organizing value + special skills

 

social work profession is based upon the organizing value of "distributive justice."

economic equality + + + + + +

+ +"minimal distributive justice"

 

Social Justice

Wakefield (1988)

Wakefield (with a little help from Rawls)….

rejection of the utilitarian approach of facilitating the "greatest good for the greatest number."

Wakefield (with a little help from Rawls and Kant)….

respect for individuals and avoidance of inflicting harm to some individuals in effort to ensure the happiness and well-being of the masses

This involves oppressing minority groups to the benefit of the majority groups.

 

Social Justice

Wakefield (1988)

Distributive justice:

fair distribution of economic resources and services

+ + + +

non-economically-related benefits, including "opportunity, power, and the social bases of self-respect"

Widens the playing field…..

A profession "engaged in alleviating deprivation in all its varieties, from economic to the psychological"

 

Social Justice

Wakefield (1988)

Minimal distributive justice:

social work does not take on all injustices but can tackle injustices which involve deprivation in which some "good", whether it be economic goods or simple human respect, "falls below the minimal level consistent with justice"

minimal level= "social minimum", which is the level in which an individual’s pursuit of a happy life is impaired.

Social workers’s job is to identify and help raise up those who fall below this minimum

 

Social Justice

More on Rawls (1971)

Social contract of cooperation--Members of society should equally share in its benefits and burdens.

"Veil of Ignorance" and a just state

......Imagining ourselves as a creator of a just state of affairs, without knowledge of our racial, economic, or social position in that society

 

 

 

Social Justice

More on Rawls (1971)

"Veil of Ignorance"

*response of a rational person would be

to ensure 2 principles of justice:

 

1. basic rights (including right to vote, freedom of movement, freedom of thought, etc.)

2. greatest benefit of the least advantaged and equality of opportunity

 

we would pursue a low-risk strategy and agree to principles which are basically egalitarian--principles which guarantee the highest possible minimum levels of freedom, wealth and opportunity, even at the cost of lowering average levels

 

Social Justice

More on Rawls (1971)

"Veil of Ignorance" and a just state

 

The veil of ignorance is meant to ensure that our views on justice are not distorted by our own interests. "If a man knew that he was wealthy, he might find it rational to advance the principle that various taxes for welfare measures be counted unjust; if he knew that he was poor, he would most likely propose the contrary principle..."

 

Social Justice

A few definitions

 

Rawls (1971) "Social justice is the moral basis of a democratic society and thus is the first and most important virtue of social institutions. Social justice is equality" (p. 21).

Barker (1991) "An ideal condition in which all members of a society have the same basic rights, protection, opportunities, obligations, and social benefits" (p. 219).

Beverly and McSweeney (1987)

"Fairness in the relationships between people as these relate to the possession and/or acquisition of resources based on some kind of valid claim to a share of those resources" (p. 37).

 

Social Justice

A few definitions

 

Davis (undated)

"Social justice is a basic value and desired goal in democratic societies and includes equitable and fair access to societal institutions, laws, resources, opportunities, rights, goods, services for all groups and individuals without arbitrary limitations or barriers based on observed or interpretations of the value of differences in age, color, culture, physical or mental disability, education, gender, income, language, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation"  (p. 13).

 

Social Justice

nature and role in the profession

 

Swenson (1998)

"Deprivations" ---political, social, psychological, and spiritual

Social workers who are working with clients experiencing these deprivations are doing social justice work.

Offers practice theories/interventions that may be most congruent with a social justice perspective

Offers suggestions for clinical social justice practice

 

References

 

Barker, R.L. (1991). The social work dictionary (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: NASW Press.

Beverly, D.P., & McSweeney, E.A. (1987). Social welfare and social justice. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Davis, K., Cox, L., & Adler, M. (undated). Defining social justice in social work education. Unpublished manuscript, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.

Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of justice. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

Webster’s New World Dictionary (1995). New York: Pocket Books.