Warm, fuzzy words and phrases have an enormous advantage in politics. None has had such a long run of political success as "social justice."
The idea cannot be refuted because it has no specific meaning. Fighting it would be like trying to punch the fog. No wonder "social justice" has been such a political success for more than a century — and counting.
While the term has no defined meaning, it has emotionally powerful connotations. There is a strong sense that it is simply not right — that it is unjust — that some people are so much better off than others.
For a phrase so warm,fuzzy and vague, "social justice" has become a critical lynchpin in the economic and social policies put forth by the left.
As it happens, Sowell has written extensively on "The Search for Cosmic Justice". (also in book form) Let me quote a bit from the essay he has written summarizing the book:
...[T]he vast ranges of undeserved inequalities found everywhere are the fault of "society" and so the redressing of those inequalities is called social justice, going beyond the traditional justice of presenting each individual with the same rules and standards. However, even those who argue this way often recognize that some undeserved inequalities may arise from cultural differences, family genes, or from historical confluences of events not controlled by anybody or by any given society at any given time. For example, there was no way that Pee Wee Reese was going to hit as many home runs as Mark McGwire, or Shirley Temple run as fast as Jesse Owens. There was no way that Scandinavians or Polynesians were going to know as much about camels as the Bedouins of the Sahara-- and no way that these Bedouins were going to know as much about fishing as the Scandinavians or Polynesians.
In a sense, proponents of "social justice" are unduly modest. What they are seeking to correct are not merely the deficiencies of society, but of the cosmos. What they call social justice encompasses far more than any given society is causally responsible for. Crusaders for social justice seek to correct not merely the sins of man but the oversights of God or the accidents of history. What they are really seeking is a universe tailor-made to their vision of equality. They are seeking cosmic justice....
Socially counterproductive policies are just one of the many costs of the quest for cosmic justice. The rule of law, on which a free society depends, is inherently incompatible with cosmic justice. Laws exist in all kinds of societies, from the freest to the most totalitarian. But the rule of law-- a government of laws and not of men, as it used to be called-- is rare and vulnerable. You cannot redress the myriad inequalities which pervade human life by applying the same rules to all or by applying any rules other than the arbitrary dispensations of those in power. The final chapter of The Quest for Cosmic Justice is titled "The Quiet Repeal of the American Revolution"-- because that is what is happening piecemeal by zealots devoted to their own particular applications of cosmic justice.
They are not trying to destroy the rule of law. They are not trying to undermine the American republic. They are simply trying to produce "gender equity," institutions that "look like America" or a thousand other goals that are incompatible with the rule of law, but corollaries of cosmic justice.
Because ordinary Americans have not yet abandoned traditional justice, those who seek cosmic justice must try to justify it politically as meeting traditional concepts of justice. A failure to achieve the new vision of justice must be represented to the public and to the courts as "discrimination." Tests that register the results of innumerable inequalities must be represented as being the cause of those inequalities or as deliberate efforts to perpetuate those inequalities by erecting arbitrary barriers to the advancement of the less fortunate.
In short, to promote cosmic justice, they must misrepresent what is happening as violations of traditional justice-- as understood by others who do not share their vision. Nor do those who make such claims necessarily believe them themselves. As Joseph Schumpeter once said: "The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie."
The next thing the idealist will do is character assassination. All those who disagree with the great vision must be shown to have malign intentions, if not deep-seated character flaws....
Ironically, the quest for greater economic and social equality is promoted through a far greater inequality of political power. If rules cannot produce cosmic justice, only raw power is left as the way to produce the kinds of results being sought.[emphasis mine]
And, of course, since they cannot ever truly achieve their social justice in the real world, what is left to them is the exercise of "raw power" in a vain and ongoing narcissistic attempt to achieve the results they want.
Let us now turn to what that exercise of raw power--that is, the implementation of "social justice"--has led to in the real world.
Here is one example :
Mao Zedong, founder of the People's Republic of China, qualifies as the greatest mass murderer in world history, an expert who had unprecedented access to official Communist Party archives said yesterday.
Speaking at The Independent Woodstock Literary Festival, Frank Dikötter, a Hong Kong-based historian, said he found that during the time that Mao was enforcing the Great Leap Forward in 1958, in an effort to catch up with the economy of the Western world, he was responsible for overseeing "one of the worst catastrophes the world has ever known".
Mr Dikötter, who has been studying Chinese rural history from 1958 to 1962, when the nation was facing a famine, compared the systematic torture, brutality, starvation and killing of Chinese peasants to the Second World War in its magnitude. At least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death in China over these four years; the worldwide death toll of the Second World War was 55 million.
And how about the paradise created by Kim Jung Il for North Korea?
Nor, should we forget Lenin's "great leap forward" in the USSR. In fact, here's a body count of the "socially just" communist/socialist regimes of the 20th century. All of them ostensibly on the quest for cosmic justice, making those "great leaps forward" to advance humanity...even as they wiped out large number of us mere mortals. Some humans stood directly in the way of their goals; most were just the collateral damage that was willingly paid to sustain the overweaning narcissism that drives the purveyors of social justice. As I have stated in an earlier essay on social justice and malignant narcissism (paraphrasing):
The [malignant narcissist] does not see other people as distinct individuals with needs and desires of their own, but only as fodder for the expression of an IDEAL; or as pawns for the wishes of a deified [grandiosity]. People with this narcissistic defect completely reject the needs of the individual and enslave him or her to the service of their IDEAL. Eventually, the enslavement--whether religious or secular--snuffs out human ambition, confidence, energy, self-esteem, and life.
Sowell, as usual, is spot on in his analysis. If we look at the actual, real world results of all the "social justice" crap that the left has been pushing for a hundred years,it seems only socially just to define it as: malignant social policies, which originate from the narcissistic core of the postmodern political left; in which humans are forced into a Procrustean bed of 'equality' using ruthless or arbitrary means.
And, please note that the totalitarian and authoritarian regimes which have most touted their "social justice" are the regimes most beloved by leftist intellectuals; and all their evil is rationalized by them. In fact, these intellectuals actually consider all the murderous regimes and the thugs who lead them as superior to the evil capitalist system of the U.S! It has always boggled my mind to see this in practice. When I was in college I knew people who positively revered Mao and even had posters of him in their rooms. And not just Mao. Che Guevara and Fidel Castro enjoyed the same slobbering worship; and it is exactly the way the left today slobbers all over itself in their enthusiasm for the likes of Hugo Chavez.
In fact, our social-justice-seeking progressive left has an almost unbroken string of supporting the most vile, anti-human regimes of modern times. It is the one consistent thread that runs through their irrational ideology.
Victor Davis Hanson notes:
Survey the world’s statist systems of every stripe, from soft to hard. One sees either failure and misery or stasis and lethargy. At the most extreme, a North Korea is turning into a Neanderthal society where subjects eat grass. Castro’s Cuba is imploding, and the Great Leader in his dotage is now renouncing his communist catastrophe. Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela proves that an even an oil-rich exporter can destroy itself with self-imposed socialism.
Read it all. All these societies and their "great leaps" have "progressed" backwards toward what used to be the norm in medieval times: death, poverty and misery.
Hanson notes that in general, these so-called "progressive" societies are now stampeding back toward the free market and more individual freedom--except, of course, in the U.S., where Obamanomics and Obamacare have thrust us forcefully into the standard failure mode of the political left.
Much to the puzzlement and rage of leftist intellectuals, in those places in the world where socialist and communist theory have triumphed, wealth is disappearing; initiative is in decline; and the human misery index is steadily climbing. This is the legacy of Marx's "social justice".
Instead of creating a 'utopia for the proletariat', Marx and his theories only generated the necessary conditions for societal suicide and/or societal homicide.
This is why any any advertised "great leap forward" by the progressive, postmodern political left is really a leap backwards into the primitive and uncivilized past of humanity, where human life is cheap and the State is dear.
Malignant Narcissism + Nihilism + Postmodern Politics = The Quest for Social Justice
UPDATE: For further evidence of the above equation, check this out:
Prof. Fred Gottheil told Front Page Magazine that he compiled a list of 675 email addresses from 900 signatures on a 2009 petition authored by Dr. David Lloyd, professor of English at the University of Southern California, urging the U.S. to abandon its ally, Israel. Prof. Gottheil discovered that six of the signers, who hailed from more than 150 college campuses, were members of his own faculty.
“Would these same 900 sign onto a statement expressing concern about human rights violations in the Muslim Middle East, such as honor killing, wife beating, female genital mutilation, and violence against gays and lesbians?” he wondered. “I felt it was worth a try.”
The results? “Almost non existent,” he told Front Page editor Jamie Glazov. Only 27 of the 675 “self-described social-justice seeking academics” agreed to sign Gottheil’s Statement of Concern – less than 5 percent of the total who had publicly called for the censure of Israel for human rights violations.
The refusal of women’s studies professors to publicly condemn honor killings, or academic advocates of gay rights to speak out against the treatment of homosexuals in Muslim countries, is just about as hypocritical as it gets. Their loathing (dare we call it hate?) of the UN-created Jewish state is so deep that it “trump[s] their professional interests,” leading them into a “ideologically discriminatory trap of their own making,” Prof. Gottheil added.
“The academic Left may be just a little more sophisticated [than the non-academic Left] in their loathing of Israel, but scratch the surface and it’s all the same…It turns out that with all their professing of principle, they are sanctimonious bigots at heart.”