Is Social Justice an Empty Abstraction?
- Jean Bethke Elshtain
"Social justice" has become a mantra, an abstraction, even a litmus test separating the good guys from the bad. One hears the term "social justice" from pulpit and podium, in article and argument, in policy and propaganda. SO much so that its meaning – whatever that may be or may have been – is an out of focus picture, blurry; there's no there there, so to speak.
A backdrop to this confusion is the influence of the late John Rawls on discussions of justice. The Rawlsian imperative has dominated legal and academic discussion of 'justice' for decades. Perhaps it is time to move on. Given the highly abstract and hypothetical nature of Rawls' discourse, it tends to make the concrete steps taken to ameliorate distress and to respond to the immediate cry of justice, look rather small.
The Thomas International Center is preparing an online university project, which, over the next several years, as resources become available, will provide access to a liberal arts Online Core Curriculum.
The Core Curriculum will offer introductions to a variety of different disciplines, inspired – as a sound core curriculum should be – by an integrated vision of knowledge, rooted in the philosophy of the great theologian and philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas.
The program will eventually consist of over twenty full, university-level courses. Each course will be divided into about five online “short courses,” with each of the short courses divided into about fourteen half-hour classes.
The taping of the first course will begin this spring. “American Constitutional Principles” will be taught by Center Co-Director Christopher Wolfe. Dr. Wolfe taught this course at Marquette University for about thirty years, and it draws heavily on his expertise regarding the Constitution.
The pace and timing of our rollout of the core curriculum are entirely dependent on the generous contributions of our supporters. To facilitate our development of the Core Curriculum, please consider donating!
The Online Core Curriculum is an intermediate goal: it will be a “preview” of the university we hope to establish in a few years. Online university programs and courses can be a valuable resource, but – despite currently fashionable predictions – a genuine liberal arts education, which helps students achieve an integrated Christian view of life in all its varied aspects, will always require personal contact and discussion between students and excellent teacher-scholars.