The notable differences between classical and contemporary theories of social justice are the way the issue is explored. Differences also occur in the emphasis placed on different aspects of social justice and how to achieve it. The notable similarities seem to be that there is a need for social justice and that to achieve social justice many changes need to occur. Another similarity is the debate that social justice is not an easily achievable outcome.
In classical theories about social justice it is looked at from the view of the whole community. In the more contemporary theories social justice is explored from an individual perspective. The classical theories mostly take place during the time of the hierarchical societies. Where “men are arranged vertically in social strata, each stratum having a definite rank in the hierarchy” (Miller, 1976:254). They are based on the changes from Primitive societies to the hierarchical societies. They take into account mainly what is best for the whole community and do not explore social justice for each individual person. The contemporary theories have been developed during the current capitalist society and they focus mainly on individual justice and how it can be achieved for all. They do disagree on how this can be done and many would question if it is possible at all, as Isbister (2001:40) states, “Capitalism left to its own devices fails to produce social justice. It does not give us equality, freedom or efficiency”. These are seen as essential aspects of social justice in contemporary theories.
The classical theories do not explore the aspects of equality or freedom. They largely based their social justice theories on efficiency. Hierarchical societies were largely based on lord and serf or similar relationships. It was based on “a contract between superior and inferior, in which the inferior party offered to perform certain specified services for the other in return for protection and the opportunity to make...
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