22 February 2013

Commutative and distributive justice

There is an ontological difference between commutative and distributive justice, i.e. between the fairness of social interplay and the allocation of the goods of living, whose root lies in the Aristotelean ontology of movement itself, which distinguishes between the du/namij (potential, power) as the starting-point (a)rxh/) of a movement and its e)ntele/xeia (actualitas, literally: 'having-in-the-end') as its realized outcome. This gap is mediated by e)ne/rgeia (literally: 'at-work-ness') or the movement generated by the power itself at work. Commutative justice concerns the potential of powers — in the first place, individual powers and abilities — in interplay with each other in the sociating interchanges of life, whereas distributive justice concerns what one has in hand securely in the end. The former is oriented toward freedom of social movement which, as potential, is risky and whose justness lies in fair play, whereas the latter is oriented toward having secure possession and fulfilled needs. Hence the conceptions of social justice are fundamentally and essentially already (socio-)ontologically at loggerheads. Social justice in the commutative sense means the fairness of interplay championed by the Anglo-Saxon liberal tradition, in which the fight for social justice amounts to a fight for civil rights in the sense of overcoming discrimination against certain groups in society (e.g. women, blacks, coloureds, gays & lesbians, foreigners, etc.). On the European Continent, however, and arising from the Social-Democratic tradition born of an historic compromise with Bismarck in the 1880s, social justice means 'naturally' the distributive justice of having one's living 'needs' securely fulfilled by the social welfare state. Any social arrangement smacking of risk and insecurity is therefore accordingly 'naturally' felt to be 'unjust', and this is the prime tenet of left-wing politics. Thus a simple socio-ontological difference underlies unbeknowns, and is the main motor of, the political struggles that are being fought out interminably in modern societies. The political players themselves are blind to this socio-ontological difference in which they are ensnared. 
Further reading. Potentiality and Actuality, Negative and positive freedomAnglophone Justice Theory, the Gainful Game and the Political Power Play,  Why social justice is a specious idea