Distributive justice

Guillermina Jasso, Kjell Y. Törnblom, Clara Sabbagh

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Humans form ideas of fairness, and they assess the fairness or unfairness of the rewards that they and others receive. These ideas and assessments set in motion a large train of behavioral and social consequences, at all levels of analysis, across farflung topical domains, and in groups of all sizes. This chapter provides an overview of the world of distributive justice, starting with the three key actors-Allocator, Observer, and Rewardee-and the three key terms-Actual Reward, Just Reward, Justice Evaluation, and Justice Consequences-and embedding them in four basic processes: 1. Actual Reward Process. The Allocator, guided by allocation rules, uses Rewardee characteristics and other inputs to generate the Actual Reward for the Rewardee. 2. Just Reward Process. The Observer, guided by justice principles, uses Rewardee characteristics and other inputs to generate the Just Reward for the Rewardee. 3. Justice Evaluation Process. The Observer compares the Actual Reward to the Just Reward, generating the Justice Evaluation. 4. Justice Consequences Process. The Justice Evaluation triggers a long train of Justice Consequences, possibly incorporating non-justice factors-stretching out to all domains of human behavior and the social life and giving distributive justice the character of a basic sociobehavioral force. These processes may vary by the configuration of Allocator, Observer, Rewardee, Reward, and features of the spatiotemporal context. The challenge is to accumulate reliable knowledge about their operation, and to that end the chapter briefly examines theoretical contributions and empirical research designs. Along the way, the chapter discusses (1) the link between inequality, poverty, and injustice, (2) the possibility that, given the Hatfield Principle whereby ideas of Just Rewards vary across Observers, voting rules that produce Actual Rewards by averaging Just Rewards may reduce inequality in the Actual Reward Distribution, and (3) the longstanding idea that distributive justice is a cornerstone of the emerging general theory of behavioral and social phenomena.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationHandbook of Social Justice Theory and Research
    PublisherSpringer New York
    Number of pages18
    ISBN (Electronic)9781493932160
    ISBN (Print)9781493932153
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


    • Actual reward process
    • Deductive and nondeductive theory
    • Just reward process
    • Justice consequences process
    • Justice evaluation process
    • Research designs

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Social Sciences


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