4th International conference of the

Group for Social Engagement Studies, Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory

Social Justice: New Perspectives, New Horizons

May 4-6, 2016

Social Justice poster

We envisage the conference as an attempt to deepen the dialogue between empirical research, political-theoretic conceptualizations and public discourses on social justice in the pursuit of a nuanced and empirically sensitive conception of a just society. The conference will reflect on the phenomenon of social justice in a comprehensive and interdisciplinary manner, encompassing a variety of political-theoretic perspectives and contemporary research that sheds light on the complex ways in which people experience injustice and articulate critique. We would like to examine the relation between the vocabularies of political theory and the ‘lay’ normativity of ordinary social actors (Andrew Sayer), as well as reflect on the role that publicly engaged social science might have in bringing about a more just society.

In their approaches to injustice, economists, sociologists and political theorists have for the most part focused on different dimensions of inequality and ways to measure them. The public discourse on social justice has thus revolved around a critique of inequalities and the demands for a more just distribution of resources – economic, but also organizational, cultural, societal, epistemic and symbolic. In addition to critically examining contemporary perspectives on distributive justice broadly defined, the conference will consider the possible limits of the distrubution-oriented (and justice-oriented in general) approaches to ordinary actors’ grievances, addressing, among other, the following questions: is the concept of justice and its opposite (injustice) the best conceptual tool in confronting the deficiencies of a particular social order, or is there any other concept that could better suit this purpose; what is the relation of the concept of justice to the concepts of equality, liberty and autonomy?

We are especially interested in exploring further the potential of the capabilities approach for conceptualizing social justice. Participants are also invited to reflect on the ever more prominent conception of ‘fair’ inequality.

Topics of interest include:

  • Theories of justice: ‘differences and commonalities’
  • Principles of a just society
  • Justice, critique and lay normativity
  • Distributive justice and people’s capabilities
  • Redistribution and/or recognition
  • Social justice and rising inequalities
  • Complexity of inequalities (class, age, gender, ethnicity, race, geographical area, disability, etc.)
  • Epistemic equality
  • (Un)just inequalities
  • Social justice and the (neoliberal) state
  • New work arrangements and justice
  • Challenges in the health care (biotechnologies, etc.)
  • Global justice
  • Environmental justice
  • Justice in the Cyberspace


Confirmed speakers

Hauke Brunkhorst, Universität Flensburg

Lisa Herzog, Institute for Social Research, Frankfurt am Main

Wolfgang Merkel, WZB, Berlin Social Science Centre

Roberto Frega, French National Centre for Scientific Research, CEMS-IMM

Tobias Reichardt, Universität Trier


The conference is free and open for attendance.