Cultural Justice

Tyleisha, Haruna, and Killaq made this. As Andrew says, it is “soooo cool”


John Rawls


John Rawls is a contemporary, American Philosopher born in 1921 and died in 2002.


John Rawls was a leading figure in political philosophy therefore I don’t suggest talking about Justice without mentioning Rawls’ theories.


Central to Rawls’ theory of justice are the concepts of fairness and equality from behind what he calls the “original position”.


Rawls believed that the social contract must be drawn up from an original position in which everyone decides on the rules for society from behind a veil of ignorance.


The “Veil of ignorance” is an element of the way people can establish society. Essentially, it means that if an individual had no idea as to where they would fit in a social or political order, they would make decisions with the least benefitted individuals in mind. In other words, everyone would be blind of their social status.


From this original position, Rawls believes that two principles of justice arise. The first is the liberty principle, the idea that all people should have access to their basic liberties — freedom of speech, political freedoms, personal property and freedom from arbitrary arrest.

The second principle, the difference principle, states that inequalities in social and economic distribution must be arranged so that they provide the greatest benefit to those with the least advantage. That is, if goods are being distributed in a society, those who need them most should be given priority to receive them.

Rawls claims that we must arrive at this conclusion from the original position because we do not want factors beyond our control to dictate the opportunities we have in life. If we are born at a disadvantage, into a poor family, for example, we must be given the opportunity to overcome it in a way that puts us on equal ground with those who did not have to overcome the same obstacles.


Restorative Justice

Versions of restorative justice have existed to some degree as far back as 2000bce. While these forms of justice mainly consisted of paying tribute to the victim in terms of monetary (or proprietary) value. For instance, the Romans, rather than jailing thieves, required them to pay back double the value of any stolen goods, to the victim. Such laws have existed in many societies from the Sumerians, to the Babylonians, to the Irish in the times of the Brehon Laws. These societies all saw the sense in making restitution and compensation the “penalty” for crimes, rather than direct punishment of the offender. By making the victim the focus of justice, rather than the criminal, the harm done by these crimes can often be dealt with positively.
Restorative justice as I will be discussing within the video mainly stems from the justice systems of the indigenous peoples of North America, and New Zealand. The Maori justice system, “Utu”, is one of the founding systems of thought of Restorative Justice, as it did not simply focus on laws, and legal relationships, but strove to fix tribal conflicts. By bringing together victim and offender and having them discuss their points of views, the system strove to solve the underlying issues behind the crime, and not simply punish according to strict legal codes.


Restorative Justice Diagram

Howard Zehr – American Criminologist (1944)


• While the more prolific ideas of retributive justice focus on what laws have been broken, and what debt to society that creates, restorative justice focuses on who has been hurt, what they need, and how the criminal can help make amends.

• As Zehr puts it, “Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offence and to collectively identify and address harms, needs and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible”

• Within restorative justice systems, criminals are expected to compensate the victim to whatever degree is possible, whether that be monetarily, or through direct service or community service. A small scale example of restorative justice would be in the case of a crime such as vandalism. If a young member of a community were to seriously vandalize another’s property, rather than levying a fine against them, or putting them into some sort of Juvenile Delinquents facility, the youth and the victim would be brought together to discuss why the crime occurred, why the victim was targeted, and what can be done to make amends. This would likely include working to physically fix the damage, whether that meant installing a window or repainting over graffiti.

• An example at a much larger scale is the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission where rather than punishing the leaders of the old Apartheid system, the ANC took the approach of collaboration, and discussion to find the root causes of the problems, and attempted to work through them towards a more positive future.



This system of justice can basically be boiled down to the very simple philosophy of “Who has been hurt, and what are their needs? What are the obligations of the offender, and how can we come to a solution that brings a legitimate resolution to those involved?” This comes from the idea that when you punish the offender without considering the victim, you have done nothing to actually help the victim.