Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 January 2010
Most injustices occur continuously within the framework of an established polity with an operative system of law, in normal times. Often, it is the very people who are supposed to prevent injustice who, in their official capacity, commit the gravest acts of injustice, without much protest from the citizenry.
Amartya Sen's alternative economics: a new methodology for a theory of justice
“Why then,” asks Judith Shklar, “do most philosophers refuse to think about injustice as deeply or as subtly as they do about justice?” Philosophers, she argues, generally construe injustice as a breach of justice, as a breakdown or transgression of the normal order of the world. Therefore, even when they do not agree with Hobbes that “Where there is no common power, there is no law; where no law, no injustice,” they spontaneously think of injustice against the background of a conception of justice, as if injustices were invisible and made no sense outside a shared ideal of justice.
In Amartya Sen's work the expression “against injustice” is inseparable from the idea of “patent injustice” and indicates that the perception of injustice comes first. “Against injustice” as it is understood by Sen constitutes a challenge to most theories of justice. One that says that the recognition of patent injustices is possible without reference to an explicit theory of justice, and that coming to a reasoned agreement about such injustices and the need to remedy them does not presuppose a shared conception of justice. How can this be possible?