What are the Historical Origins of Social Justice?June 28, 2021
Although the concept of social justice emerged as the foundation of pluralistic democratic societies in the 20th century, we can trace its origins back to the French Revolution. Because Robespierre (1758-1794) was the first to mention the elements of social justice, social and economic rights, in 1793.
Maximilien de Robespierre was an Irish lawyer who defended the people of Paris against the wealthy bourgeoisie. He is also one of the leaders of the French Revolution.
The French Constitution, adopted in the same year, contains two important articles on these rights:
“Public aid is a sacred debt. (…) Society has to provide for the livelihood of the poor citizens.
– Education is everyone’s need. Society has to provide education opportunities to all citizens” (Article 22, cited by Gürkan 2001, p. 115).
These rights constituted the first steps towards the realization of social justice as a category of social and economic rights, separate from human rights where all people are equal. However, these rights were given more place in the constitution made after the 1848 revolutions and articles including free education, workers’ rights and social assistance were included.
The 1848 Revolutions were uprisings, revolutions and freedom movements that emerged in various countries of Europe at that time due to heavy working conditions, poverty and unemployment.
In the developing Marxism in this period, radical forms of social justice thought are encountered. The reason why this theory is called radical is that the state wants to completely abolish the market in order to achieve social justice by interfering with the market to provide social justice. According to Marx, there are two types of social justice parallel to the socialist and communist stages of society. The first is the type of social justice in which bourgeois property and exploitation, which was valid in the socialist society phase, disappeared, and everyone gets a share from social production in proportion to their labor force contribution. After this stage, there is progress in the society and economy, and the communist society stage begins. Here, the second type of social justice, which is taken from everyone according to his ability and given to everyone according to his needs, is passed, which is ideal in Marxist thought to reach this stage (Yayla 2000, p. 81). Here, the revolutionary workers who adhered to this Marxist doctrine and French socialism established the Paris commune in 1871 with the ideal of communist society and social justice.
The Paris Commune (La Commune de Paris) is the socialist government that was in power for a short time in Paris from March 18 to May 28, 1871.
However, as the intellectual, political, legal and economic structure of the 19th century brought individualism and personal freedom to the fore, these ideas could not be very effective, and the concept of social justice was sometimes the highest and sometimes the lowest in the debate between liberalism and socialism. However, when it came to 1918, the category of social and economic rights was added to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the 1789 constitution. However, this time, totalitarianism has risen and these rights have been deprived of legal guarantee. Thus, until the Second World War, unfortunately, social and economic rights could not be fully established and social justice could not be achieved. After the Second World War, the general opinion is that the new social orders to be established should not carry the mistakes of the past and should have a democratic, social and rule of law understanding. What is meant by “social state” is no longer statism. The state will be based on a pluralistic regime understanding based on a planned economy, which means the self-government of producers and consumers, and will only intervene in the economy to prevent monopolies and unfair competition. In social law, there should be a legal system that “will not be based only on social laws, but on interpersonal trust, mutual effort, mutual aid and solidarity” (Gurvitch, cited by Gürkan 2001, p. 120). The basic principle of this new social state and legal order is social justice in the sense of social equality -based on “equality as fairness” instead of “absolute equality” developed both politically and socioeconomically.