Generative Justice versus Distributive Justice
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Generative Justice versus Distributive Justice : a crucial distinction for guiding engineering towards a more peaceful and democratic world. The term “justice” well accepted in the discourse of individual rights Criminal law violation – “lawbreaker was brought to justice”

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Generative Justice versus Distributive Justice: a crucial distinction for guiding engineering towards a more peaceful and democratic world


The term “justice” well accepted in the discourse of individual rights

Criminal law violation – “lawbreaker was brought to justice”

Civil rights violation – “this will deny their right to vote”

International human rights violations—“injustice by dictator X in arresting his political opponents”


The term “justice” is less accepted in cases of social justice

Define social justice as “Increasing equity of risk and resource distribution among different social groups”


  • The term “justice” is less easily accepted in cases of social justice

  • Examples:

  • Environmental degradation: low-income communities should not bear greater health risks than high-income communities

  • College admissions: black students should not be admitted at lower rates than white students

  • Health budgets: men’s disease should not be funded at a higher rate than women’s disease


  • Critics of social justice social justice

  • Individual responsibility: if more people in low-income communities choose to smoke, they should bear responsibility for that choice

  • Meritocracy: If my grades are high it is due to my talent and hard work; thus college admissions should reflect that and nothing else.

  • Reverse discrimination: prostate cancer and breast cancer occur at about the same rate, but funding for breast cancer is about double that of prostate cancer


Critics of social justice social justice

“Democrats want to fight over who gets the biggest slice of pie, but we Republicans want to bake a bigger pie for everyone”


Confusion over social justice social justice

in the case of Open Source Software

Kevin Kelly is wrong: Open source software does not fit the category of “socialism”

Yet it is relevant to “social justice” – how do we resolve this contradiction?


Socialism is based on social justicedistributive social justice

  • Money appears to be a self-generating source of value

  • Actually money disguises the true source of value: self-generating capacity of labor and nature

  • Capitalism extracts self-generated value, creating injustice and alienation

  • Capitalism raises profits by "externalizing" costs, damaging health and environment


Socialism is based on social justicedistributive social justice

  • Socialism attempts to return that surplus value by state ownership

  • Liberalism attempts to return that surplus value by taxes


But Open Source is a case of social justicegenerative social justice


Generative justice reconfigures the flow of value social justice

Before the software developers labor value can be privatized (extracted) Open Source ensures it is publically distributed



Why should small scale waste recycling be better than large scale industrial waste systems?

Because the small-scale case offers greater opportunity for Generative justice


Generative social justice scale industrial waste systems?Increasing the public capacity for self-generating practices and resources

Social entrepreneurship: capital at the service of social justice

Generative public spaces: Community gardens, murals

Generative technologies: DIY, Maker-faire, Arduino, fan fiction, citizen journalism

Generative educative practices: Recovering heritage, history, futures


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