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Reflecting Upon Etic and Emic Perspectives on Distributive Justice

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Abstract

The study of distributive justice may be examined using two research perspectives. The first, etic perspective seeks to unveil the common characteristics that characterize the spectrum of distributive justice phenomena across different cultures and circumstances. This perspective focuses on the universal aspects of justice behavior, namely, general laws and causal explanations. The second, emic perspective focuses on the ways in which justice behavior is expressed in specific socio-cultural contexts. This paper proposes a three-part reflection on these two perspectives on distributive justice. First, we review the ways in which the emic, culturally specific perspective has hitherto been incorporated into research on distributive justice; second, we examine the ways which the etic and emic perspectives are employed in two empirical studies on justice perception in Israel; and, finally, we suggest possible ways in which an extended emic perspective can be further incorporated in the study of distributive justice.

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Acknowledgement

Clara Sabbagh and Deborah Golden are especially grateful to Guillermina Jasso and Riël Vermunt for their thorough review of the paper and to Ran Lahav for his insightful comments.

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Correspondence to Clara Sabbagh.

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An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Social Justice Conference, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany, March 2005.

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Sabbagh, C., Golden, D. Reflecting Upon Etic and Emic Perspectives on Distributive Justice. Soc Just Res 20, 372–387 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11211-007-0042-z

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