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Chapter 2

SOCIOL 2309 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Retributive Justice, Legal Realism, Distributive Justice

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Ryan King

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Soc 2309
Justice and the Law
Chapter 2
I. What is Justice?
A. Justice – “treating equals equally and unequals unequally according to relevant
differences” (Aristotle)
B. Distributive Justice
B.1. Distributive justice – form of justice concerned with how a
political entity such as a nation distributes its resources
B.2. About rightful, merited, deserved distribution; not about need
B.3. Just distribution depends on the individual’s contributions and
value to the community
B.4. Two people may have identical needs, but one of them may
deserve a much greater proportion because of his/her contributions to
B.5. There are times when some people get less than they deserve
because others have acquired more than their share
B.6. Only when accumulation of resources is exploitive that it becomes
C. Retributive Justice
C.1. Retributive justice – form of justice concerned with how a
society’s system of law goes about determining guilt or innocence, and
then how it goes about determining the proper sentence
C.2. Substantive retributive justice: involved people getting what they
rightly deserve according to their behavior
C.3. Criminal justice system: takes amount of harm done by criminal
act into account
C.4. Just punishment is about equality of the pain, not equality of the
C.4.a. When financially unequal offenders are fined equally, they
are not being punished equally and therefore not justly
C.5. Sentencing disparity among convicted criminals: sentencing
C.5.a. Assigns points according to statutory gravity of crime,
whether crime committed while defendant was on probation,
amount of monetary loss, series of aggravating/mitigating
II. Problems with Aristotle’s Definition of Justice
A. “Treating equals equally and unequals unequally according to relevant
B. Big problem defining what relevant differences are
C. Even if process of justice is identical for every person brought before courts, the
result in terms of equal treatment and probability of favorable outcome is
D. “Justice” is just another commodity
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