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Justice Inside Utopia? The Case of Intentional Communities in New Zealand

Sargisson, Lucy
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) Contemporary Justice Review. 7(3): 321-333.

This paper explores justice inside utopian communities, drawing on material gathered first-hand in a recent survey of intentional communities in New Zealand. This countrywide study yielded many examples of effectively working systems and processes as well as warnings of what happens when utopias are founded on unjust distributions of power. The paper pursues the idea of justice as the equitable distribution of power. It seeks to identify working examples of procedural justice in which fair and equitable processes yield fair and equitable distribution of power. To this end consensus decision-making and conflict resolution are examined in some detail. Consensus, it seems, is an effective way of enabling people to gain not only formal equality of power but also equal participation in making key decisions. Within the context of an egalitarian community, then, consensus is an example of procedural justice at its best. However, procedural justice on its own cannot ensure just outcomes. The article finishes by exploring this problem, calling for an approach that integrates procedural and substantive notions of justice. Author’s abstract.


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