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In defence of partisan justice - an ethical reflection on “the preferential option for the poor”

PJ Naude

Verbum et Ecclesia; Vol 28, No 1 (2007), 166-190. doi: 10.4102/ve.v28i1.102

Submitted: 17 September 2007
Published:  17 November 2007


Can one defend a form of partisan justice? This question is answered in the affirmative in the light of two broad arguments:  The theological argument arises from the preferential option for the poor from Latin America, and the philosophical argument is derived from John Rawls’  notion of the least  advantaged representative person and assistance due to burdened societies in a global context. In closing, a number of important implications of such a partisan notion of both distributive and cultural justice are explicated. This article is developed in three sections. The first section briefly sketches a profile of the different theological arguments underlying a preferential option for the poor as particularly developed by Latin American liberation theologians, and later accepted in wider ecumenical circles.  In the second section, philosophical arguments for a position of “prioritarianism” which seems to support such “preferential option” are outlined.  This is attempted via a discussion of two influential books by well-known  American political philosopher , John Rawls, namely his A theory of justice (1973), and The law of
peoples (1999).  Section three concludes the article by demonstrating the synergy between these theological and philosophical views, and by pointing out – in a provisional manner - the important consequences of such a “preferential” or “partisan” view for guiding ethical reflection on local and global socio-economic relations.

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Author affiliations

PJ Naude, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University



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ISSN: 1609-9982 (print) | ISSN: 2074-7705 (online)

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