Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 1187–1202 | Cite as

A Conceptual Structure of Justice - Providing a Tool to Analyse Conceptions of Justice

  • Klara Helene Stumpf
  • Christian U. Becker
  • Stefan Baumgärtner


Justice is a contested concept. There are many different and competing conceptions, i.e. interpretations of the concept. Different domains of justice deal with different fields of application of justice claims, such as structural justice, distributive justice, participatory justice or recognition. We present a formal conceptual structure of justice applicable to all these domains. We show that conceptions of justice can be described by specifying the following conceptual elements: the judicandum (that which is to be judged as just or unjust), the community of justice including claim holders and claim addressees, their claims (and obligations), the informational base for the assessment, the principles of justice, and on a more practical level, the instruments of justice. By specifying these conceptual elements of justice, it is possible to analyse and compare different conceptions of justice, to assess their internal consistency, to explore new definitions of justice in an analytical way, and to explicate an idea of justice in a manner that provides concrete links to the relevant context.


Conceptual structure of justice Meta-ethics Institutional implementation Ideal and non-ideal theory Empirical justice research Concept and conception 



We thank Marius Christen, Malte Faber, Ina Lehmann, Thomas Petersen, Stefanie Sievers-Glotzbach and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and discussion. Financial support from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under grant 01UN1011A is gratefully acknowledged. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Klara Helene Stumpf
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christian U. Becker
    • 3
  • Stefan Baumgärtner
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Sustainability Economics GroupLeuphana University of LüneburgLüneburgGermany
  2. 2.Norbert Elias Center for Transformation Design and ResearchEuropa-University FlensburgFlensburgGermany
  3. 3.College of BusinessColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  4. 4.Department of Environment and Natural ResourcesUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany

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