David Miller started out the article by mentioning how the good and the bad things in life need to be distributed among the members of a human society. He asks questions about what the goods and the bads, the advantages and disadvantages are, and what should this list include, and what should determine what is or isn’t on the list? If social justice involves distribution what does this mean? And what is meant by a human society?
He began by examining how the idea of social justice first entered our political vocabulary. The idea appeared in the economically developed liberal societies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Miller also asked whether changes that are taking place presently in societies where social justice has been pursued for most of the twentieth century means that the circumstances of social justice no longer attainable?
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Most of the contemporary political philosophers regarded social justice as an aspect of distributive justice, which is an idea involving the classic division of justice found in Aristotle’s writings This classic division meant that benefits were distributed fairly among the members of various associations, Aquinas referred to the distribution of honours and wealth within a political community. Early contributors to this concept of social justice were liberal social philosophers. The concept was introduced in various late nineteenth century treaties of political economy and social ethics, issues involving justification of different forms of private property or the merits of alternative forms of economic organization were being debated. The term “social justice” was embraced by liberals and progressives rather than by socialists. Miller assumed that social justice examines certain key questions: how should advantages and burdens be involved in the theory of social justice? What should be included in the institutional structure of the theory and how can individuals still act freely in pursuit of their own goals? Should the concept be narrow or should it expand beyond the distributive paradigm? Social justice has to do with the means of obtaining welfare. It often has to do with the relative value of the advantages received by different people. Miller felt that that for social justice to become a operative ideal that guides people’s behaviour, thoughs involved must be assured that the restraint they show in following fair principles and procedures will be also followed by others. We must continue to think of social justice as applying in national political communities.
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