unjust dismissal


Injustice is a quality relating to unfairness or undeserved outcomes. The term may be applied in reference to a particular event or situation, or to a larger
status quo is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation wit ...
. In
Western philosophy Western philosophy encompasses the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality ...
jurisprudence Jurisprudence, or legal theory, is the theoretical study of the propriety of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whol ...
, injustice is very commonly—but not always—defined as either the absence or the opposite of
justice Justice, in its broadest sense, is the principle that people receive that which they deserve, with the interpretation of what then constitutes "deserving" being impacted upon by numerous fields, with many differing viewpoints and perspectives, ...

. The sense of injustice is a universal human feature, though the exact circumstances considered unjust can vary from culture to culture. While even acts of nature can sometimes arouse the sense of injustice, the sense is usually felt in relation to human action such as misuse,
abuse Abuse is the improper usage or treatment of a thing, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit. Abuse can come in many forms, such as: physical or verbal maltreatment, injury, assault An assault is the act of inflicting physical harm ...

, neglect, or malfeasance that is uncorrected or else sanctioned by a
legal system The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems A system is a group of interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and infl ...
or fellow human beings. The sense of injustice can be a powerless motivational condition, causing people to take action not just to defend themselves but also others who they perceive to be unfairly treated. Injustice within legal or societal standards are sometimes referred to as a ''two-tiered system''.

Relationship with justice

Judith Shklar Judith Nisse Shklar (September 24, 1928 – September 17, 1992) was a philosopher and political theorist {{unreferenced, date=June 2015 A political theorist is someone who engages in constructing or evaluating political theory, including politica ...
has written that Western philosophers tend to spend much more time discussing the concept of 'justice' rather than 'injustice'. On the other hand, she states both historical writing and fiction use instances of injustice as subject matter far more often than justice. In philosophy and jurisprudence, the dominant view has been that injustice and justice are two sides of the same coin—that injustice is simply a lack of justice. This view has been challenged by professors including Judith Shklar,
Thomas W Simon THOMAS was the first online database of United States Congress legislative information. A project of the Library of Congress, it was launched in January 1995 at the inception of the 104th Congress and retired on July 5, 2016; it has been supersed ...
Eric Heinze Eric Heinze is Professor of Law and Humanities at the School of Law Queen Mary, University of London Queen Mary University of London (QMUL, or informally QM) is a in , England, and a of the federal . It dates back to the foundation of in 1785. ...
, who consider that justice and injustice are independent qualities. So, in this minority view, you can increase the justice of a situation without reducing the injustice. Heinze has even gone as far as to argue that an increase in justice can actually cause an increase in injustice. A relatively common view among philosophers and other writers is that while justice and injustice may be interdependent, it is injustice that is the primary quality. Many writers have written that, while it is hard to directly define or even perceive justice, it is easy to demonstrate that injustice can be perceived by all. According to von Hayek, the earliest known thinker to state that injustice is the primary quality was
Heraclitus Heraclitus of Ephesus (; grc-gre, Ἡράκλειτος ; , ) was an Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), ...

, whose view was echoed by
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questio ...

and dozens of others down the centuries. Hayek said that writers often express the idea that injustice is the primary concept "as though it were a new discovery", suggesting the view is rarely directly expressed in theories on Justice. But Hayek went on to say that
legal positivism Legal positivism is a school of thought of analytical jurisprudence Analytical jurisprudence is a philosophical approach to law that draws on the resources of modern analytical philosophy Analytic philosophy is a branch and tradition of philosop ...
has proved that injustice, not justice, is the primary quality.

Sense of injustice

Scholars including Judith Shklar, Edmond Cahn and
Barrington Moore Jr. Barrington Moore Jr. (12 May 1913 – 16 October 2005) was an American political sociology, political sociologist, and the son of forester Barrington Moore, Sr., Barrington Moore. He is well-known for his ''Social Origins of Dictatorship and ...
have surveyed anthropological and historical work on injustice, concluding that the sense of injustice is found everywhere there are men and women; it is a
human universal A cultural universal (also called an anthropological universal or human universal) is an element, pattern, trait, or institution that is common to all known human culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior ...
. These writers, and others like
Simone Weil Simone Adolphine Weil ( , ; 3 February 1909 – 24 August 1943) was a French philosopher, Mysticism, mystic, and political activist. The mathematician André Weil was her brother. After her graduation from formal education, Weil became a teacher ...
, Elizabeth Wolgast and Thomas W Simon, hold that the sense of injustice is a powerful motivational condition — unlike the sense of justice which tends to be conceived in more abstract ways, and tends to inspire contemplation rather than action. Cahn held that, for , humans who witness others being subjected to injustice can respond as though it was an act of aggression towards themselves. There can be an immediate, visceral activation of the flight or fight system. As American
civil rights movement The 1954–1968 civil rights movement in the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North ...
leader Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, in 1963, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". Spinner-Halev spoke about enduring injustices where it will still persist to this day without any action to address them. A 2012 study published in Psychological Science found that even babies have a sense of injustice and dislike having it violated, even when they witness events that do not directly effect them. In the field of jurisprudence, Cahn has argued that it is an important skill for lawyers to know how to rouse a jury's sense of injustice — something best done by appeals to the particular, not by abstractions or Boilerplate (text), boilerplate type statements. Barrington Moore asserts that reasons why populations often submit to oppression for long periods of time is that they consider it inevitable and so their sense of injustice is not aroused. He says that a widely shared sense of injustice is an essential, though not sufficient, cause of rebellion. Writers including Simone Weil, Elizabeth Wolgast and Judith Shklar have said that an aroused sense of injustice can be an essential prerequisite to action needed for protecting the weak and afflicted.


A common cause of injustice is human selfishness. As Plato described at length in ''The Republic (Plato), The Republic'', people will often commit acts of injustice when they calculate it is in their interests to do so. Plato also adds that "The highest reach of injustice is to be deemed just when you are not". Human injustice is not always caused by attempt to gain unfair advantage or malice; it may be simply the result of the flawed human decision making. With the hungry judge effect for example, studies have found that judges sitting on review boards are less likely to reach decisions favorable to applicants depending on how long it is since the judges had their last food break.For more on the substantial difference in judges' decisions depending on time since last food break, see chpt 3 of Thinking, Fast and Slow. Misuse and abuse with regard to a particular case or context may represent a systemic failure to serve the cause of justice (cf. Non liquet, legal vacuum).


The Innocence Project provides a wealth of cases in which the U.S. justice system prosecuted and wrongful conviction, convicted the wrong person.

Popular culture

*''The Life of Emile Zola'' (1937), about the conviction of Émile Zola *''Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1982 film), Beyond Reasonable Doubt'' (1982), about the conviction of Arthur Allan Thomas *''The Great Gold Swindle'' (1984), about the conviction of Perth Mint Swindle, the Mickleberg brothers *''The Thin Blue Line (1988 film), The Thin Blue Line'' (1988), about the conviction of Randall Dale Adams *''In the Name of the Father (film), In the Name of the Father'' (1993), about the conviction of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford pub bombings *''The Fugitive (1993 film), The Fugitive'' (1993) *''The Crucible (1996 film), The Crucible'' (1996), about the Salem witchcraft trials *''The Hurricane (1999 film), The Hurricane'' (1999), about the conviction of Rubin Carter *''The Great Mint Swindle'' (2012), also about the conviction of the Mickleberg brothers *''Making a Murderer'' (2015), about the conviction of Steven Avery

See also

*Rule According to Higher Law *Rule of law

Notes and references

Further reading

* Barnett, Clive
''The Priority of Injustice: Locating Democracy in Critical Theory''
(Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2017). * McCoubrey, Hilaire and White, Nigel D. Textbook on Jurisprudence. Second Edition. Blackstone Press Limited. 1996. . Chapter 14 ("The Concept of Injustice"). * Roberts, Rodney C. (2005)
''Injustice and Rectification''
Peter Lang. * Jeff Spinner-Halev (2012)
''Enduring Injustice''
Cambridge University Press.

External links

Reasons For Injustice
{{Authority control Injustice, Philosophy of law Concepts in ethics Social concepts