“Equality of opportunity is the essence of social justice.” – Tony Honore
Distribution. Most people’s sense of social justice is generic, amounting to nothing more than what we find in the dictionary under “social justice”: “The distribution of advantages and disadvantages in society.” Now, notice that the dictionary definition introduces a new key term, “distribution.” Alas, the original notion of social justice had very little to do with distribution. Worse, this newly added term suggests that some extra-human force, “the visible hand,” does the distribution: that is, some very powerful human agency, usually the state.
Although it is difficult to agree on the precise meaning of “social justice” I take that to most of us it implies, among other things, equality of the burdens, the advantages, and the opportunities of citizenship. Indeed, I take that social justice is intimately related to the concept of equality, and that the violation of it is intimately related to the concept of inequality.
This definition expresses a whole ideology: that equality is good and ought to be enforced. And note what has happened to the word “equality.” In English, equality usually suggests fairness, equity, or the equitable; but what is equitable is often not to give people the same portions, but rather to give what is proportionate to the efforts of each.
As I see it, social justice requires resource equity, fairness, and respect for diversity, as well as the eradication of existing forms of social oppression. Social justice entails a “redistribution” of resources from those who have “unjustly” gained them to those who justly deserve them, and it also means creating and “ensuring” the processes of truly democratic participation in decision-making…. It seems clear that only a “decisive” redistribution of resources and decision-making power can “ensure” social justice and authentic democracy.
Social inequality refers to relational processes in society that have the effect of limiting or harming a group’s social status, social class, and social circle.
Areas of social inequality include access to voting rights, freedom of speech and assembly, the extent of property rights and access to education, health care, quality housing, traveling, transportation, vacationing and other social goods and services.
Apart from that it can also be seen in the quality of family and neighbourhood life, occupation, job satisfaction, and access to credit.
If these economic divisions harden, they can lead to social inequality. The reasons for social inequality can vary, but are often broad and far reaching.
Social inequality can emerge through a society’s understanding of appropriate gender roles, or through the prevalence of social stereotyping.
Social inequality can also be established through discriminatory legislation.
Social inequalities exist between ethnic or religious groups, classes and countries making the concept of social inequality a global phenomenon.
Social inequality is different from economic inequality, though the two are linked.
Social inequality refers to disparities in the distribution of economic assets and income as well as between the overall quality and luxury of each person’s existence within a society, while economic inequality is caused by the unequal accumulation of wealth; social inequality exists because the lack of wealth in certain areas prohibits these people from obtaining the same housing, health care, etc. as the wealthy, in societies where access to these social goods depends on wealth.
Social inequality is linked to racial inequality, gender inequality, and wealth inequality.
The way people behave socially, through racist or sexist practices and other forms of discrimination, tends to trickle down and affect the opportunities and wealth individuals can generate for themselves.
Shapiro presents a hypothetical example of this in his book, The Hidden Cost of Being African American, in which he tries to demonstrate the level of inequality on the “playing field for blacks and whites.”
One example he presents reports how a black family was denied a bank loan to use for housing, while a white family was approved.
As being a homeowner is an important method in acquiring wealth, this situation created fewer opportunities for the black family to acquire wealth, producing social inequality.