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The globalized society imposes new challenges on people and communities due to rapid changes in communication, economy and lifestyle. The new world questions traditional values, in which society functioned for centuries and makes philosophers and thinkers discuss future perspectives. The notion of justice can be discussed in this context as an indicator of main trends and directions of social changes. Philosophically, one can speak about three categories of justice, namely personal justice, supernatural justice and social justice. The current essay’s objective is to find out whether or not justice is possible in a global and multi-cultural society; therefore, the scope is mostly confined to the social dimension of justice. This essay states that justice is impossible in this type of society for the following reasons: firstly, no fair system of laws can be established in modern society; secondly, judgments are always biased, because they are made by people having different backgrounds; finally, unjust actions are necessary in order to maximize the collective welfare.
Justice is an impartial, fair relation to someone or something (Arrow 70). Ishida interprets the notion “justice” as the human relations, laws, orders, etc. corresponding to norms and requirements (135). The issue about multi-cultural global society is that it includes a whole range of values and visions, which are not always compatible with each other. The necessity for compromise is obvious, but one of the opposing parties is always stronger than others for various reasons. When a law is adopted, it can be an outcome of fierce debate, but it can rarely cover the needs of all involved participants. Cases can be different depending on the culture: majority can push their vision and oppress the minority, or the trend of tolerance and political correctness can result in giving privileges to the minority over the majority. Some cultures are more traditional, while others are more flexible and open for change and innovation. All these factors can affect the final result when laws are discussed and implemented on a state level.
The issue of translating values into laws is about the diversity that the world faces today. While in the past, cultures used to be more rigid and the problem would often be solved by extinguishing the opposite point of view in order to establish justice for the part of people, justice works in a more complex way in a global society. One can expect that higher level of tolerance and democracy should cause satisfying the needs of all people, but this is not exactly so. With the growth of democracy and multiculturalism, a variety of viewpoints has expanded immensely because mentality of people has been transformed significantly. Thus, the kind of justice that people need nowadays is far more complicated because standards are high and individuals are quite demanding.
Returning to discussion of impossibility of adequate translation of values into laws, the following example can be given. Michael Sandel discusses the situation that demonstrates how ideas fail to be transformed into rules. In the 1970’s, St. Anne’s college, which was a women college, had some policies against men guests staying overnight. Some traditionalists on the faculty thought it was morally wrong for a man staying overnight in an unmarried woman’s room. Nevertheless, since they were too embarrassed to reveal their own thoughts for the objection, they stated arguments differently. They claimed that if men stayed overnight, the cost for college would increase. A compromise came after some discussion. “Each woman could have a maximum of three overnight guests each week, provided each guest paid fifty pence per night to defray the costs to the college.” The following day, the headline of a newspaper read, “St. Anne’s Girls, Fifty Pence a Night” (Sandel 47). This example illustrates that moral values cannot be accurately translated into certain rules. The initial motivation was to uphold the reputation, but the legislation turned out to be nothing more than a funny joke.
The second reason why justice is impossible in a global multicultural society is closely related to the first one. The difference lies in the fact that previously described aspects work at the level of communities mostly, while the same issue exists at the level of individuals too.
Moreover, while dealing with social stratification of general levels, it is easier to classify people into groups having common values, and, thus, work out certain rules that would be fair for each group. In reality, however, things are even more complex. The point is that in terms of sociology, each person belongs to several social groups and, thus, can be treated from different angles. For instance, a person can be identified as a woman between thirty and forty, or like a working mother, or like a supporter of Democratic party, or as a Christian, or as the one having Irish origin, and so on. These multiple identifications can clash and prevent social institutions from classifying people in an accurate way. In fact, each person has hundreds of aspects that comprise their individuality and, as a paradox, lie in the way of justice. The same laws might not work as equally just for women below and over forty, or they may not be equally satisfying for working women and housewives. Naturally, law system in each society can be as simple and universal as possible, so it is unreasonable to introduce different laws for each of numerous social categories. Even if there is an attempt to do so, it still does not work properly. First of all, needs are more flexible and more changeable in a global society than they are used to be before. So, even if a law is perceived as just for several years, with the pace of today’s life it can stop being fair quickly due to external or internal transformations. Secondly, laws are made by people, so being biased is almost inevitable. It is quite difficult to view life with eyes of another person, let alone the situation when one has to deal with millions of eyes. For this reason, it is possible to state that absolute justice is impossible, because it is always subjective and because it is changeable.
Finally, though it may sound as a paradox, injustice is absolutely necessary sometimes, while justice can be harmful for the society. As has been mentioned before, today’s global multicultural society is characterized by its extreme diversity and dynamism. Having a dynamic system like this can be complicated in terms of ruling it. For this reason, keeping the society balanced and stable is more challenging and a more vital task today that it used to be in past decades. If people in power sacrifice stability for the sake of justice every time when it is necessary, the collapse of societies and states is inevitable. The system will sway from being just to one group of people to another one, and balance will never be established in this case. Besides, there are cases of double morals when justice for the sake of a state and individual justice are conflicting. For instance, secret services of different countries often have to be flexible in terms of morality and justice in order to secure state interests. So, agents can kill people, which cannot be treated as being just in a humane sense, while it can be reasonable to sacrifice lives of few people in order to save lives of millions. Naturally, such situation cannot be perceived as being just in relation to all parties, so global justice does not work. In other words, a global society is a battlefield. Notions of just and unjust are hard to distinct when it comes to war. The implementation of social justice is impossible because laws do not have full power on certain groups of people, such as foreigners and the social class. When a foreigner commits a crime, it becomes an international problem. The judge and jury, to a certain degree, cannot make fair judgments because they are under pressure of politics. It is not unusual to see countries exchange spies. A recent example is that in July 2010, Russia and the U.S. swapped spies at Vienna airport. Thus, injustice is sometimes necessary in order to secure the global stability or to keep international relationships positive between certain countries. Justice, on the contrary, can be a synonym of permanent fight, while it is often more crucial to be safe than to be right.
In conclusion, it is worth saying that the global world is a field where numerous interests and points of view intersect. Trying to satisfy all of them for the sake of justice is impossible if not insane because the multicultural society needs stability and compromise. So, absolute justice is impossible, since values are not easily translated into laws. Secondly, people are biased and have different backgrounds, so it is impossible for the society to be equally just to all individuals. Finally, injustice can be more prolific in many cases when stability is needed, so one has to sacrifice justice for the sake of security.