Politeia: Visions of the Just Society
Eric Carlton

About the Author :
Eric Carlton served with the Parachute Regiment before being ordained and serving as a minister for nine years. Having completed research at the London School of Economics and the University of Leeds, he is now a Research Fellow in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at the University of Durham, United Kingdom. Among his most recent books are Values and the Social Sciences; The Few and the Many: A Typology of Elites; The State Against the State; The Theory and Practice of the Coup d’Etat; Militarism: Rule Without Law; The Paranormal: Research and the Quest for Meaning, and Dancing in the Dark: Reflections on the Problem of Theodicy (FDUP).

This book examines various conceptions of the “just society” from Plato to Postmodernism; from what are regarded as utopian to rationality based systems.

There have been many theoretical treatments over the years of what is – or can be – meant by justice, most notably by such philosophers as John Rawls and the late Sir Karl Popper. The emphasis has been on such questions as: should justice be distributive or otherwise? Should it involve equal rights (and are rights “natural” or negotiated)? Is justice only to be effectively found in particular forms of political systems, particularly democratic and socialist systems? And does justice have to imply radical egalitartianism? And what do any of these terms mean anyway?

This text does not overtly follow any of these lines of argument, although to some extent they are subsumed in the ongoing discussion. Instead it traces various exemplifications of justice in a number of social contexts. In this way it will be looking at the practice as well as the various theoretical constructs of justice. The motto theme is that of belief, for belief – intellectualized as ideology – is institutionalized as social systems.

Different societies/systems could have been chosen, but those in the text have been selected partly because they are representative, and not least for their distinctive features. In a sense they can be seen as a series of case studies that illustrate human attempts to solve the ever-problematic issue of social order and social control.

The truth is that, contrary to what we may like to think, virtually any system can work providing there is the will to make it work. This can easily be demonstrated from our checkered past, and applies to both developed and undeveloped societies. But for how long can success be assured? The lesson of history – even for so-called civilized societies – would seem to be that in the long term nothing fails like success..

Justice is an elusive goal. How do we solve the dilemma of living together? The modern world is still in need of effective answers.

ISBN 0-8386-4102-4

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