African Perspectives on Social Justice
AFRICAN PERSPECTIVES ON SOCIAL JUSTICE
- Furthering an African Perspective on Social Justice: East Africa Social Justice Group
- The Relevance of Theory to Perspective Building on Social Justice
- The Contextual Necessity of Engaging with Social Justice
- The African Debate on Social Justice
- Cross-country Experiences Diversity and Commonalities
- Furthering an African Perspective on Social Justice
- Moving Forward
- Social Justice: Reframing the “Social” in Critical Discourses in Africa
- The Context Demands an Engagement with Social Justice
- Debating Social Justice in Africa
- The Significance of Discourses on Social Justice
- Some Conclusions
- The Problem of Undemocratic Side Effects of Democracy Promotion
- Distribution-Oriented and Discourse-Theoretic Perspectives of Social Justice
- Two Cases of Undemocratic Side Effects of Democracy Promotion
All too often, however, the consequences of injustice take center stage in debates and decision-making rather than the concept of justice itself, the underlying reasons for continuing injustices, and a vision for the kind of society in which people desire to live.
“African Perspectives on Social Justice” represents the commitment of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung to foster critical and analytical debate on the central questions of justice, solidarity, and participation.
It is a collection of the reflections of a group of twenty critical thinkers, scholars, and civil society activists from East Africa that convened in Entebbe, Uganda, in October 2012 to engage in a comprehensive debate on the concepts, notions, and experiences of social justice in the region.
A summary of the key issues they raised is provided in “Furthering an African Perspective on Social Justice: East Africa Social Justice Group.” The summary also draws from background papers produced by various participants for the occasion, suggesting national perspectives on issues relevant to social justice.
Two scholars, Prof. Viviene Taylor (University of Cape Town, South Africa) and Dr. Julian Culp (University of Frankfurt, Germany) have reworked their conference keynote presentations into papers that have been reviewed by the editorial team and the participants in the conference.
In “Social Justice: Reframing the ‘Social’ in Critical Discourses in Africa,” Taylor, who teaches social policy, social and economic development, and development planning, discusses discourses and debates on social justice from a critical theoretical perspective while locating them in the contemporary realities of the African continent.
She points to the political dimension of social justice in the absence of democracy and calls for discourses that counter the dominant focus on economic growth by focusing more on “what ought to be” the societies that people desire.
In “The Problem of Undemocratic Side Effects of Democracy Promotion,” Culp, a political philosopher and theorist, makes the case for a discourse-theoretic, power-centered theory of justice that goes beyond distributive elements of justice and instead sheds light on relations of power in a society that enable or (dis-)enable people to play an active role in the political discourses that shape and justify their realities. He concludes by applying theoretical notions of justice to the dilemma of promoting democracy in non-ideal social and political realities.
As Amartya Sen observes in The Idea of Justice, “Open-minded engagement in public reasoning is quite central to the pursuit of justice.”1 This collection of thoughts and papers is intended to stimulate a broad engagement with questions of justice and hopes to be a starting point for those i sted in further exploring their contemporary relevance in eastern Africa.
This paper arises from a meeting of scholars and civil society activists held in Entebbe, Uganda, 25–26 October 2012, to debate notions and experiences pertinent to social justice in East Africa.1
The meeting was convened upon the recognition that far too often the consequences and the symptoms of social inequities are typically scrutinized, rather than the notion of social justice itself and therefore an exploration of the kind of society that is found to be desirable.
The gathering also highlighted the need for continued engagement, inspired by global debates on social justice and social development but placed in a local context.
This paper attempts to set out the various points made and to share the suggested way forward. It also draws from background papers produced by various participants for the occasion suggesting national perspectives on issues relevant to social justice.
It is also informed by pointers drawn from a review of the international literature on social development and social justice theory from a global and an African perspective.2
Section two of this paper briefly examines the relevance of theory to perspective building on social justice, and section three recalls the arguments presented for the necessity of engaging with social justice in the region and the main dimensions of the current debates on social justice on the African continent.
The Relevance of Theory to Perspective Building on Social Justice
Addressing the consequences of social inequities in the East African region, especially where civil society organizations are concerned, is frequently considered to require the most immediate form of action. As social deprivation in its different manifestations seems ever more pervasive, agendas and coalitions, projects and programs, strategies and advocacy occupy center stage.