Critically analyse the relationship between law and justice.

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Law and Justice

Critically analyse the relationship between law and justice (20)

In order to achieve justice, countries institute a legal system of some sort. However, sometimes those systems are flawed, and therefore, an injustice will occur, such as when innocent people are convicted of crimes they did not commit. The most common example used being the numbers cases.

Justice is an entirely subjective concept, largely depending on political affiliation, and previous experience of the legal system. Similarly to law, there is a vast amount of documentation providing different definitions and different theories of justice.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle was one of the earliest thinkers in relation to justice, and his theories are still influential today. Aristotelian justice is based upon the premise that a just law will allow citizens to fulfil their potential in society, and therefore developed the theory of distributive justice. As opposed to corrective justice, distributive justice is concerned with allocation of assets such as wealth and honour, and achieving proportion. However, Aristotle believed that individuals should receive benefits; however benefits should be given to individuals in proportion to their individual claim. On the other hand, corrective justice is an application of disturbed distributive justice, by a wrongdoing. A judge is supposed to find out what damage has been done, and then attempt to restore equality by both confiscation and compensation.

Similarly, Aquinas believed that laws should serve the “summum bonum” or “common good”, and that all laws are derived from a higher order, or a system of natural law, and this natural law is derived from God. Aquinas believed that there are two ways in which laws can be unjust. Firstly, a law, which is contrary to human good in any way, is not a true law at all, yet such laws should still be obeyed if failing to do so could cause social disorder. Secondly, according to Aquinas, a law that goes against God’s will, and therefore a breach of the natural law, should be disregarded.

Other, more modern, academics such as Mill and Bentham believed in a utilitarian movement. Utilitarianism is the theory that society should work towards the greatest happiness for the greatest number, regardless of whether some individuals lose out or not. A Utilitarian would assess whether a law was just or not by finding the consequences of the law, and deciding if said law maximised happiness, well-being, or any other desirable effect for the majority. Therefore, a law could be just, even if it created social inequalities.

Furthermore, the American jurist John Rawls published his “Theory of Justice” in 1971. He defined justice as that which prevailed in a just society, and a just society as one to which a group of rational but mutually disinterested people would unanimously choose to belong if such a choice were available. His theory was based upon a hypothesis of what a group of individuals placed in what he named “the original position” would agree upon. Rawls argues that traditional self interest would lead an individual to agree to a set of basic rights and principles which are best for all members of society, since nobody will be willing to disadvantage a section of society if they might find themselves a member of it.

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Law, on the other hand, is difficult to define. However, Sir John Salmon defined legal rules as “the body of principles recognised and applied by the state in the administration of justice”. In essence, Salmon’s sentence embodies the idea of the legal system of any culture or country. All legal systems have the desire to, as in justice, impose rules and fairness. Therefore, law is about the control and direction of society and it’s conduct, not only between members of society, but also between the state and it’s citizens.

According to John Austin, law is “being a ...

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