Social justice is one of the social phenomena accompanying humanity throughout its history. Even ancient people faced the problem of finding a compromise between individual and collective interests, developing the most acceptable forms of behavior through moral prohibitions and prescriptions. All spheres of people’s joint life activity – economic, political, legal, social, and cultural – have their logic of development; nevertheless, they are united by a common central idea – social justice.
The teachings of Marx (1818-1883) and Engels (1820-1895) occupy a special place in the history of sociology. It is based on a dialectical-materialistic understanding of the historical process (Austin, 2014). In general, it is possible to say that the development of general theoretical sociology prevails in Marxism. Although the Marxist theory of society adheres to a philosophical and ideological orientation, it must be recognized that it contained many important ideas that somehow enriched the social thought of the XIX century.
The most important provisions of the sociological theory of Marxism include the following:
- Social history is interpreted as a natural-historical process based on a consistent, regular, and progressive change of socio-economic formations.
- Social conflict is the source of the social process and the progressive development of society.
- Personality in the theory of Marxism is the carrier of social relations (Austin, 2014).
The theory of Marxism has had a strong influence on issues of social justice. Marxism formed the concept of class struggle as the main driving force of the development of human history, as a phenomenon behind any social changes. In addition, Marxist ideology criticized the policy of capitalism, contained guidelines on the struggle for the overthrow of the capitalist system, the conquest of power by the proletariat and its allies, and the construction of a new society. The value of the ideology of Marxism about social justice lies in the views of its founder on freedom, social science, alienated labor, and alienated politics.
Postcolonial theory is an influential interdisciplinary field of world humanitarian and social science from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, mainly related to understanding the imperial-colonial component of modernity. Strictly speaking, postcolonial discourse concerns the cultural products of the Anglophone and partly Francophone world associated with the former British and French colonies. Nevertheless, it often transfers this purely local experience to the whole world, looking for specific universal categories shared by all human communities that have survived the colonial-imperial complex of relationships. For postcolonial theory, it is essential to focus on the complex interaction of culture – the colonizer and the colonized, which can take on various forms – from assimilation to transculturation.
The beginning of the development of postcolonial theory is usually dated to the publication of Edward Said’s book Orientalism (1976). In the book, the author presents the Middle East as one of the fantastic discursive constructs created by the West (Jazeel, 2019). Another important concept for postcolonial theory developed by Said is cultural imperialism. In this multilateral suppression, the dominant culture displaces and subordinates all manifestations of the subordinate culture, reducing them to imitation.
Postcolonialism is important for social justice issues, as it explores the denial of the existence of a common yardstick for different cultures and eras. The essence of postcolonial studies lies in the absence of a straightforward unified program for representatives of other peoples and cultures (Jazeel, 2019). One of the critical concepts for postcolonial theory is the concept of race. From this point of view, race is not a biological concept but a social one. The ideology of postcolonialism made it possible to get rid of the obsession of science with the lives of white people and the history of Europe and expand the horizons of knowledge. Now it is used in history and literature and law, sociology, medicine, and other fields of expertise.
Queer theory is an ideological framework that defends sexual orientation and sexual and gender identity as a social construct. Thus, there are no roles defined by human nature, but there are different ways of living socially constructed sexuality (Heaney, 2017). This theory arose to understand and protect the rights of all those people who deviated from the identity and behavior considered the norm. Although this theory can be applied to other social and political aspects, she is widely known for her research in sexuality and identity. Queer theory was born out of studies of women, feminist theories, and studies of homosexuality (Heaney, 2017). It also develops from postmodern and poststructuralist sociological theories.
Simultaneously with all the theoretical and academic reflections, there was a strong movement for the recognition of other gender identities and sexual orientations and their rights. Queer theory has played a role in social justice issues, as it considers all people regardless of their social class, gender, ethnicity, or any other classification (Heaney, 2017). In this sense, it moves away from any structure associated with hierarchies or discriminatory elements.
Summing up, it is possible to state that justice, the desire to establish and maintain it as due, is one of humanity’s eternal ideas and desires. It is a category of public consciousness and universal value, closely related to the understanding of the law. Justice is recognized as an integral part of moral and legal culture, a condition for the ordinary and peaceful existence of the human community. The idea and requirements of social justice, their consistent implementations play a vital role in the qualitative transformation of human society. Marxism, postcolonialism, and queer theory have played an essential role in addressing social justice issues, as they have provided a new perspective on old problems.
Austin, M. J. (2014). Social justice and social work: Rediscovering a core value of the profession. SAGE.
Heaney, E. (2017). The new woman: Literary modernism, queer theory, and the trans feminine allegory. Northwestern University Press.
Jazeel, T. (2019). Postcolonialism. Routledge.