We explain what justice is, its history and the types that exist. Also, what are its characteristics and why is it so important.

What is justice?

Justice represents a set of criteria and attitudes necessary for the relationships between people , institutions and human groups to be adequate and balanced. It is a social concept deeply rooted in moral philosophy and ethics , considered a common good of societies.

In this sense, justice is exercised by prohibiting, authorizing or regulating the various interactions between the elements of a society . It is carried out according to an accepted framework of norms and considered fair by the entirety of the same based on two foundations or reasons:

  • Cultural foundation. What society as a whole decides is good and bad, appropriate or not, and other aspects of interpersonal relationships and their mode of organization.
  • Formal foundation. That which the bodies in charge of justice of a society administer, based on the legal documents that the latter accepts, defends and values, and therefore obeys a type of procedure.

For this reason, justice is considered a value in itself and as an objective to be pursued, although deep down its limits are determined by historical and cultural factors. Every system of government is, among other things, a specific way of administering justice.

Origin of justice

Origin of justice

The word justice comes from several Latin words such as iure , iovis or iuramentum , all linked to the name of Jupiter, the highest god of the Greco-Roman pantheon. Hence it follows that the Romans understood justice and law as a divine gift .

However, in its legislation a distinction was made between ius and fas , that is, between the legal sphere and the religious sphere . The Roman law is predecessor in many ways of the contemporary law of the West .

Our idea of justice comes from ancient Rome . However, similar concepts can be found at the root of all the cultural traditions of the world, such as Chinese , Mesoamerican or Egyptian .

History of justice

History of justice

Justice has existed alongside human societies since the beginning of time . Since man decided to associate with his fellow men, he had to live according to specific ethical and moral codes. They were often reinforced by religion or legend , the purpose of which was to ensure the peaceful (or at least structured) survival of the community.

For example, there were laws regarding group leadership , food sharing, and dealing with illness or death. And on this basis, what was fair and what was not could be determined.

Formal justice in the West is born with Roman law. Then, in the Middle Ages , justice depended on the Christian religion and its institutions, which privileged above all faith and adherence to traditional religious precepts.

The enormous power of the Church was observed in institutions as terrifying as the Holy Inquisition , which could "prosecute" and punish (rather torture and execute) thousands of people throughout Europe and the Americas . They were accused of black magic, demonic pacts and other behaviors contrary to the faith. The funny thing is that, according to them, only God could judge the souls of men .

However, with the end of feudalism and the beginning of bourgeois societies , nation-states emerged . With them came the idea of the rule of law, that is, the resource of justice for all citizens equally, administered by an impartial institution that maintains the State .

Thus, the courts, tribunals and trials began to allow the defense of the accused and uphold the presumption of innocence. Thus the models of justice that the West supports today were arrived at. However, in other latitudes it is scarce, or it is exercised from Religion and sacred texts, as in Antiquity .

Types of justice

Four types of justice are recognized, each of which regulates certain areas of the life of societies:

  • Distributive justice. Also called economic justice, it is concerned with the fair distribution of goods in society, that is, ensuring the right of each person to have what is necessary for a dignified life. The problem in this is in what procedures or to what extent measures must be taken in this regard in a given society.
  • Procedural justice. It is one that ensures that all individuals receive the treatment they deserve based on their actions, reinforcing obedience to the rules in an impartial and objective manner, evaluating each case and in accordance with a stipulated procedure.
  • Retributive justice. It is governed by the principle that everyone should be treated the same way they treat others. Thus, it undertakes the punishment as the retroactive compensation for the damage inflicted on third parties, balancing the situations so that the aggressors do not obtain unfair advantages over their victims. In the same way, through punishment it seeks to dissuade society from committing acts of injustice.
  • Restorative justice. Similar to the previous one, but focused on the victim of mistreatment or injustice, it is proposed to compensate for the damage committed against them by restoring well-being and tranquility, to some extent, to specific individuals. Thus, it seeks to balance relationships within the community and heal the wounds.

Concepts of justice

Concepts of justice

Some concepts of justice are:

  • For Plato (5th century BC). Justice is a social harmony, and therefore it could only be imparted by the wisest individuals, in charge of the management of society in its republican model.
  • For Aristotle (4th century BC). Justice was a proportional equality, that is, giving each one his or her own or what corresponds to him, based on his contribution to society, his needs and his merits.
  • For Domicio Ulpiano (3rd century AD). Justice must be a constant and perpetual will to give each citizen his due.
  • For Thomas Aquinas (13th century AD). Justice is the natural law, the set of rights that God grants to man as soon as he is born. Here was founded what today are Human Rights .

Purpose of justice

The ultimate goal of justice is peace . If in a society each citizen receives what he deserves and is not a victim of others, he will feel protected and supported by society, without having to undertake any type of violence at his own hand. This state of social peace is unattainable without justice, since impunity promotes violence or revenge.

Importance of justice

Importance of justice

Justice is one of the key institutions for the development of human societies . Those that have achieved the best models of justice can offer their citizens the quality of life necessary to later sustain economic advancement and in other areas.

A society without justice will never be able to be at peace with itself . Its inhabitants will always be suspicious of each other. If they feel helpless, they are likely to take steps on their own to make amends or protect themselves from others.

Representation of justice

Representation of justice

Justice is traditionally represented as a woman, whose blindfolds symbolize fairness . In his hands a sword is usually wielded, a symbol of harsh punishment to the guilty, and a scale, a symbol of the judgment that will be made in each case.

social justice

Social justice is a concept not accepted by everyone. According to some it is included in distributive justice , but according to others it has to do with the fight for equal opportunities, the condemnation of social injustice and discrimination .

That is why it has been the flag of many political and social movements that aspire to social equality and the just distribution of wealth. On February 20 of each year, the World Day of Social Justice is celebrated, according to the UN calendar .

Justice bodies

Justice bodies

Each society has its own institutions in charge of exercising justice, such as tribunals, courts and tribunals , which specialize in the various branches of law and which reside in the hands of specialists, at least in the case of the liberal democracies of the West. In other regions a tribal or religious justice is applied, depending on the factors that control the society.

In principle, a democratic republic has a Supreme Court of Justice or Supreme Court of Justice, the highest authority in the country's legal decisions. It also has a hierarchical set of courts that descends in area of jurisdiction and powers, until reaching the parochial or municipal judges, or the justices of the peace.

Examples of justice

In principle, examples of justice are criminal trials in which a criminal is sentenced to prison . Other examples are those in which a person is compensated who has been a victim of the ineffectiveness of the State. Also those in which a couple is divorced fairly, or it is decided who of the divorced will obtain guardianship of their children.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


Veronica is a culture reporter at Collaborative Research Group, where she writes about food, fitness, weird stuff on the internet, and, well, just about anything else. She has also covered technology news and has a penchant for smartphone stories. .

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