Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Justice as a Basic Human Need

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Justice as a Basic Human Need

Article excerpt

Justice, whether civil, criminal, socio/cultural, or universal, is a basic human value to which psychologists intent on improving the lot of mankind are committed. The New Zealand Psychological Society underscores the commitment with a principle that explicitly highlights social justice and responsibility to society, and frequently it makes public statements on matters of significant social concern. Psychologists in all sectors of practice strive constantly to apply the principle in their various fields of endeavour. Academic psychologists do the same in relation to their teaching and the design and execution of their research, but none has brought Justice per se into a framework for critical appraisal and study. The aim of the present article is to describe a step taken recently towards that end.


To those whose daily work brings them into contact with the suffering brought about either by adverse circumstances or by malevolence, it might seem obvious to construe justice as a basic human need. Indeed the classical Greek philosophers regarded justice as one of the foremost virtues alongside courage, prudence, and temperance, and the early Christian fathers endorsed such virtues as being universally applicable (http:// www.deadly May 6, 2004).

The case has to be advanced, because justice behind laws and their enactments is sometimes difficult to discern. Beyond that. to the man in the street criminal justice seems to assume more importance than civil justice, while social justice--the third and youngest member of the judicial family--has to be seen and not heard. Yet the injustice of economic deprivation has been well documented with regard to a) the destructive effects of economic globalisation on community life (Korten, 1995), b) the onset of law-breaking (Weiss 1998),

and c) poor health and life expectancy (Howden-Chapman & Tobias, 2000: Marmot, 2005). In New Zealand, the zealous free-market policy adopted by successive governments since the mid-1980s has accentuated such adverse effects (cf. Gould, 2009, pp. 12-44).

To its credit, the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization (WCSDG) (2004, p.8) declared that a 'fairer and more prosperous world is the key to a more secure world. Terror often exploits poverty, injustice and desperation to gain public legitimacy. The existence of such conditions is an obstacle in the fight against terrorism'. Subsequently the United Nations General Assembly (2005) endorsed the WCSDG theme, and it urged member countries to redress their priorities to avoid further catastrophe. On the 10th August of the same year, Paul Hunt ( human rights centre/research/rth/docs/ Paul_Hunt_profile.pdf), a human rights legal advisor to the United Nations, addressed the School of Government at Victoria University on the abuse of economic, social and cultural rights, and he put it among the most important and challenging issues of the day. The very next week, at a National Counter Terrorism Capability Seminar in the same place, political analyst Kumar Ramakrishna (2005) of Nan Yang Technological University (http://www. Kumar.html) described the interaction of three main roots of terrorism as being a striving for political ascendancy, the elaboration of an ideology, and a pervasive discontent with the status quo reflecting social injustice

Overall, the indications are that justice is becoming recognised as a major concern of individuals, families, communities, and nations. Its presence gives satisfaction and security, and its absence quite the opposite. It goes beyond matters of achieving contractual rights and securing protection from criminality through the courts, to neutralising the aversive effects of sociopolitical policies through parliament and United Nations.

However, in recent years the intellectual analysis of justice has been left to academic lawyers, philosophers, and political scientists (cf. …

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