The Discourse of Justice in Political, Legal and Moral Community

Book Chapter

Burgess, J. Peter (2013) The Discourse of Justice in Political, Legal and Moral Community, in Jean-Christophe Merle, ed., Spheres of Global Justice. Saarbrücken: Springer (501–514).

Publisher's website


​This chapter investigates the hypothesis of a correlation between two distinct crises in the human and social sciences. The one involves recent attempts to articulate the set of conditions adequate and necessary to the constitution of a just society; the other attempts to account for the rise and expansion of the notion of community. It argues that the evolution of these two discourses have always been intertwined, if not co-determinate, and that attention to this interrelation will cast light on our particular understanding of justice. Communities emerge, multiply and overlap. They produce criss-crossing identities and loyalties. By the same token, the predicates that determine communities are not stable and the political bodies that represent them to both community members and non-members are not fixed. This sense of crisis which emerges from the variability of the political community corresponds to the rise of the idea of ‘multiculturalism’ and the notion of a multi-layered amalgamation of cultural and social identities known as ‘glocalization’. By virtue of a variety of global factors, cultural identity becomes more intermingled, making community boundaries more porous. Global awareness has given force to local legitimacy and cultural sovereignty. The local is legitimated against a wider global by virtue of it being local. In order to reconstruct the relationship between community and justice, the chapter begins by carrying out brief analyses of three sub-discourses of community: political, legal and moral. It then turns to the recent debate around the concept of justice in order to map out its relation to the concept of community.

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