Dizionario di Politica

Authors: Bobbio, Matteucci, Pasquino
Summary: The entry defines the term, classifies different kinds of justice, and contrasts the notion of justice with that of utility. Justice is a normative term that cannot be defined in purely descriptive terms. Just or unjust conduct may be understood as the acceptance or defiance of norms which distribute benefits or burdens to individuals; justice refers to the application and observance of these norms in particular cases.
Distributive justice refers to the distribution of prestige or material goods among members of the community. Retributive justice is involved when a person seeks reparation or amends for an injury inflicted by another.
Formal or abstract justice builds on the premise that laws and state actions are just if they accord with an existing system of positive law. Formal justice rejects arbitrariness in the exercise of political authority, aiming at a "government of laws, not men." Substantive justice is based on the principle that a specific benefit or burden be given to an individual regardless of whether he has particular characteristics. Some scholars have examined personal characteristics, whether physical (sex, age, race) or social (religion, inherited wealth), which individuals do not control, and the effect of these inequalities on substantive justice.
John Stuart Mill argued that justice and utility could be reconciled, but the entry ends by disagreeing with Mill: the concepts of justice and utility are often in conflict.