, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 329-354

Social justice and legal justice

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Abstract

The main aim of this paper is to challenge the validity of the distinction between legal justice and social justice. It is argued that what we usually call “legal justice” is either an application of the more fundamental notion of “social justice” to legal rules and decisions or is not a matter of justice at all. In other words, the only correct uses of the notion of legal justice are derivative from the notion of social justice and, hence, the alleged conflicts between criteria of social and legal justice result from the confusion about the proper relationship between these two concepts. Two views about the “social justice/legal justice” dichotomy are of particular importance and will provide the focus for the argument: this dichotomy is sometimes identified with a classical distinction between “distributive” and “commutative” justice and sometimes with the distinction between “substantive” and “procedural” justice.