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  • Cited by 7
  • Print publication year: 2002
  • Online publication date: September 2009

12 - Policies to Redress Social Injustice: Is the Concern for Justice a Cause Both of Support and of Opposition?


As documented by the research in the current volume, people are profoundly affected by social injustice. Fortunately, efforts to remedy many forms of social injustice have been undertaken by our legal and political institutions. Yet, despite many well-intentioned efforts to remedy injustice at the societal level, a paradox exists: Often the policies designed to redress injustice are themselves criticized as unfair and, in turn, are opposed. As a result, there is mounting polarization at the societal level in terms of support for, or opposition to, the policies designed to redress social injustice. There is also a rising divergence of opinion among researchers in the psychological literature, due to evidence demonstrating that there are both possible benefits (see Crosby & VanDeVeer, 2000) and burdens (e.g., Heilman, Block, & Lucus, 1992) associated with such policies. In the hope of closing the chasm, we believe that it is necessary to better understand the basis of this paradox. As society diversifies and people question what is or is not fair, research in this vein is especially relevant. In one line of research at the University of Waterloo, we have been investigating the basis of the paradox, following in the tradition of Mel Lerner, both theoretically and methodologically. Theoretically, our overarching approach derives from what is perhaps Lerner's central legacy: his firm conviction that people have a fundamental or core justice motive (Lerner, 1974; Lerner, 1977; Lerner, 1980; Lerner & Lerner, 1981; Lerner & Miller, 1978).