Back to RJ Archive

Compassion, Suffering and the Self:A Moral Psychology of Social Justice.

Williams, Christopher R.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) Current Sociology. 56(1):5-24.

Concerns for social justice have figured prominently in much current sociological and criminological discourse. Often implicated by these critiques is the enduring presence of harm, suffering and injustice in contemporary western society — particularly as these are reinforced and perpetuated by organizational and institutional policies and practices. Less often considered are the moral-psychological foundations that give rise to these problems and pathologies. Opposing the struggle for social justice, it could be argued, is a generalized impoverishment of moral sensibilities that would forefront the good of the other, thereby giving rise to relationships, communities and institutional policies and practices conducive to widespread human flourishing. This article suggests that meaningful social transformation in pursuit of social justice requires significant alterations of our collective value framework. More specifically, what seems needed is an overcoming of habitual cognitive and affective obstacles to the embodiment of compassion. Two such impediments to compassion are explored: appraisals of desert and responsibility; and perceptions of likeness and difference. The underlying concern throughout is to affirm the importance of the virtue of compassion as a crucial component of the struggle for social justice and human flourishing.(author’s abstract)


Support the cause

We've Been Restoring Justice for More Than 40 Years

Your donation helps Prison Fellowship International repair the harm caused by crime by emphasizing accountability, forgiveness, and making amends for prisoners and those affected by their actions. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results are transformational.

Donate Now